All too often I hear people tell tales of their tough Dads. I hear them boast about how they have NEVER seen their father cry. When I think of all of the generic things a dad teaches his son, I don’t think you can check too many off when it comes to my pops. I don’t know how to fish, and I couldn’t hunt if it was going to save my life. I don’t know how to change the oil in my car or fix a flat tire without AAA. I can’t golf and I can’t dock a boat. It’s funny though, I don’t much care about any of those things, and I certainly don’t understand how that makes you a good dad.
I joke around that he probably passed along the worst genetics possible to me. I’m fat, soft, weak, slow, short, pale, bald. The DNA pool he gave me was pretty sub optimal if you ask me. I usually tell him it’s a miracle I was able to do anything with his genes in me. But I do know that no amount of fast twitch muscle fibers could outweigh the impact of the lessons he taught me.
Here are a few..
I came home in eighth grade from the first day of lacrosse practice and was ready to kill someone. Cuts were made, and I was put down on the seventh grade team. I was FURIOUS. I couldn’t understand. When he came home from work he asked if I knew why I was moved down. Well, the coach had told me that I was very skilled, but was too slow and weak to play with the kids my age, and that I could earn my way back up to the eighth grade team by improving my speed and strength. My dad didn’t even give me a chance to complain, he almost made it into a fun challenge. “You want to be on the 8th grade team right? So let’s get fast, grab my keys!” We drove around the block and measured out how far a lap was. 1/3 of a mile… I will remember that distance for the rest of my life. I’ve ran around that block thousands of times since that day. Damn, that was over 15 years ago. He’d stand outside with his stopwatch and time me when I ran. The idea of calling the coach to complain or reason with him NEVER entered his mind. There was a problem, and there was a way to fix it. We found a way. I never got called up to the eighth grade team that year, but I learned how to problem solve. I learned how to handle adversity. And I never, ever stopped running.
It’s ok to show emotion.
Being from a big Italian family, you can imagine what holidays are like. Show up late, and you’ve got a room full of 4o people to kiss hello. Leave early, and you’ll be making rounds for 15 minutes to find everyone to kiss goodbye. Dad would drop me off at lacrosse practice in the ninth grade at the high school. Every time he would make me lean over and give him a kiss on the cheek before I left. I HATED IT. I always felt embarrassed when the older girls where hanging out by the car. I laugh when I think about how mad I used to get. Now I know, it’s ok to show emotion.
My dad would wake up at 4 o’clock everyday and head into the basement to lift weights. He still does it to this day. I find it funny when people say they don’t have time to workout. That idea has never occurred to me because for as far back as I can remember my dad was training well before the sun came up. It’s just something he did. It wasn’t a big deal. When I got to tenth grade, I was left off the varsity roster and was put on the JV. Again, I was told that this whole speed/strength thing was the reason. When I told pops, he said, “I have an idea”…. I was already running extra, so this time he took me into the basement and taught me to lift. We had a barbell, so I learned to squat, deadlift, press, and row. He emphasized form and technique. I used to wake up before high school and get my training in. If you want anything good in this life, you’re going to have to work.
It’s ok to cry.
I hear people always say, “I’ve never seen my dad cry!” Well, I can tell you one thing is for sure, I’ve seen my dad cry more times than I can count. During Top Gun when Goose dies? Dad cried. During Angles In The Outfield? Dad cried. Old Yellow? Dad cried. These are just a few funny movie references, but still, you get the idea, dad’s a crier. After my last college lacrosse game, he met me at the gate of the stadium. We hugged. I was crying the second the final whistle blew. He knew how much it meant to me, and when I saw tears in his eyes, I knew how much it meant to him. It wasn’t that we lost. It was that it meant it was over. The point is this; life is emotional, it’s ok to live with emotion. IT’S OK TO CRY. It doesn’t make you weak, IT MAKES YOU STRONG.
My dad used to have a huge poster hanging on the inside of his closet with weekly weigh-in scores. In the basement he used to keep his training log hanging up next to the squat rack. I used to sit down there and read it before I even knew what any of it meant. Now, I get made fun of all the time for my detailed log books and to do lists. I have training journals that go back all the way to high school. I have lists all over my apartment. Detailed notes of morning waking body weight, hours of sleep, reps, sets, exercises, rest periods, things to do, etc. Every detail matters. It might get you that one percent. Life is won and lost in the details. In the inches.
My dad always supported me in anything I did. He let me decide what I wanted and then supported me in any way he could. In high school, he’d post a quote on my bathroom mirror before every game. In college it was a text on every game day. Something to get me pumped up. To let me know he was there with me. After I graduated college I was fortunate enough to play in the MLL for a few years. As I got dressed for my last game with the Lizards, some 20 years after he taught me to catch and throw in the back yard and 10 years after he taught me to squat and deadlift, there was a note in my cleat that I found when I was getting dressed in the locker room. We both kind of knew it was going to be my last game ever. We took it about as far as we could. He thanked me for the journey and all of the experiences. After all he did to help me get to that day, HE was the one thanking ME.
Well, now it’s my turn to say thank you to him, Thanks Dad.