Editors Note: This blog is part of a special series on dads which originally ran in 2012. Because it is timeless we are sharing it again.
Being the father of an athlete is a challenging yet rewarding role. At MomsTEAM we think sports dads deserve to be honored, not just on the third Sunday in June, but for an entire month. So we have designated June as National Sports Dads Month and invited some veteran sports dads to share their wisdom by responding to a series of questions (the same ones we asked sports moms in May).
So far this month we have heard from a fascinating array of fathers, from a former Major League Baseball general manager, to a Minnesota hockey coach and safety advocate, from a sociologist with an expertise in gender and sports to a pediatric sports medicine doctor.
Today, with Father's Day in the rear view mirror (MomsTEAM hopes it was a great one for all you sports dads), we hear from certified athletic trainer, youth sports coach, and father of four sports-active children, Brad Morgan:
MomsTEAM: Were you an athlete and what sports did you play as a youth?
Morgan: While growing up, I was involved in many different sports that included both team and individual competition. My experiences ranged from playing in youth football and baseball to high school varsity in cross country and wrestling. During that time, I had my fair share of disappointments, such as holding a batting average of .000 when I was in my first year of minor league baseball at 9 years old, being part of a varsity cross country program in my senior year which lost the conference championship for the first time in 13 years, and never being able to break the 5:00 barrier in the mile. (At one point I even asked the timer at the finish line to just "lie to me and tell me I crossed at 4:59").
Certainly, I have had my share of personal successes that helped to maintain my interest in athletics as well. However, I have tried to explain to my kids that the lessons I learned in my struggles were much more valuable than the temporary elation and ongoing pride I had in my successes. Simply stated, as difficult as these experiences may have been at the time, I would never shy away from the lessons I learned from them since they have only served to strengthen my personality today.
MomsTEAM: What is the most important lesson your children are learning from their sports?
Morgan: One of the most important lessons that I learned from these struggles is how to work together as a team and to rely on and trust others. I often struggle with the fact that I can't be the one that does the entire project that I volunteer for or get assigned to. Delegating responsibilities to each member of a group, according to their talents, is a concept that team sports have taught me. To this day, I question if I would have learned this anywhere else. I learned this lesson in sports when I first understood that, because I was left-handed, I would really struggle to play short stop or second base. However, being a wrestler and cross country letterman meant that I had the arm strength and mobility that our first baseman lacked and made me a solid outfielder.
This was only a first step in being a team leader that would help me to be a coach of my kids' athletic teams. The next step was to be able to recognize the talents and limitations of others and helping them to understand them as well. This talent has become one of the most valuable assets that I have found in most team leaders.
The lessons about using everyone's talents to their potential are now what I try to impress upon my children as they play in their athletics. I have found it to be extremely rewarding watching my kids slowly master the basic skills at their own pace. Along the way, they have also discovered that they can't be in all places at all times and have to rely on teammates to accomplish the goal of winning the game. My 10- year-old learned this lesson playing football this past year as a defensive end. For much of the practice, he didn't understand that his role on the team was to "contain" the play and not let anything get outside of him. He was often found chasing after a faked handoff to the far side of the field when the actual ball carrier was running around him for the sideline.
It wasn't until after many frustrating failures that he tried to do as he was coached and the proverbial "light bulb" came on. Since that time, he has seen his playing time increase dramatically and he has found a new love for the game of football and competition in general.
One of the most rewarding factors is that during the time that my son was struggling to figure out the "contain" concept, he was also facing some minor issues in school. My wife and I found the best way of describing the struggles he faced in the classroom were to use what he was dealing with on the football field as a metaphor. (Of course, I had to help my wife to understand some basic football terminology first so that my son wasn't totally confused.) It was amazing to see the improvement in both his school work and on the field when he finally overcame the problem on the field. We attributed the increased performance to a dramatic increase in his self-confidence.
MomsTEAM: What lesson have my active children taught me?
Morgan: My wife and I have discovered that we have been able to draw comparisons to many other issues in rearing our children and athletics. The common experiences that my kids have and those that I experienced as a child have been invaluable to opening up lines of communication between us and our children.
While my wife was initially resistant to our kids participating in athletics, it has demonstrated its value in raising children on far too many occasions to stop them from playing. I believe that she has seen the value of being a sports mom and has begun to enjoy watching our kids play as much as I have.
Brad Morgan is a certified athletic trainer for Perry High School and Lake Health in northeast Ohio, a husband and father of four. The boys are 9 and 10 and are busy with baseball in the spring and football in the fall, while his first daughter (5) is in her first year of t-ball and looking forward to cheerleading for her brothers again this fall. Brad's youngest daughter, at 4 years old, will get her first chance with cheerleading for her brothers this fall and can't wait for her turn at t-ball next year. His 9-year-old son is also exploring an interest in distance running with him whenever he finds the time to get a mile or two in. You can follow Brad on Twitter @pirateatc.