Sunday, 20 June 2010

Thanks, Dad!

Today is a big day for dads. Father's Day is always special as we take time to honour and celebrate our father or father figure for the influence and guidance he has provided us over the years. Hockey dads are a part of hockey culture around the globe, especially when families are large and a number of children are playing the sport. As much as mom drives the family foundation by being a provider for kids, dads share an equal responsibility in helping his children and his children's friends become better people. Most often, we see a lot of fathers as coaches.

My father had the same role as I grew up. He often coached at both the amateur and high school levels in the one sport he knew best: soccer. He recently called it quits after coaching for over twenty years, but the one thing he always stressed was fair-play and respect for both his opponents and the officials on the field. Yes, disagreements will occur, but he was always the first one to shake hands with the officials after the game despite their differing opinions on calls.

Today, I would like to look at the men who are making kids' sporting lives a little better by teaching them the importance of being good people. This includes teaching sportsmanship, respect, fairness, and how to be part of a team, and there are a lot of dads out there who do this regularly through coaching. The linked article below probably didn't get a lot of fanfare from hockey bloggers and reporters over the last year, but I think these men deserve to have their stories told.

  • Bruce Ferguson, a Fort McMurray, Alberta father, has been coaching for over twenty years, including his two sons. The most important thing he teaches his team is the importance of equality. Ferguson's sons never got preferential treatment on any of his teams. Everything that came with it - respect, communication, sportsmanship - came with his lesson.
  • Jay Greco, an Ottawa, Ontario father, has coached his daughters through various levels of hockey, and now sees his daughters coaching younger players in the Ottawa area. He credits the bond through hockey he has with his daughters of making him a better dad. And his daughters agree. The best part? Mr. Greco's philosophy in coaching came from a man who coached him in North Bay when he was a youngster. Highly recommended read!
  • Ben Hoger talks of the late Art Missias, a coach in Kalamazoo, Michigan, who became a second father to a lot of the players he coached. Missias showed a tough exterior on the ice, but he was a true softie underneath his gruff exterior. Because of his love of the game, he inspired players to greater heights, and had a number of players and people follow in his coaching footsteps. Rest in peace, Art. Your lessons will live on throughout time because of the life lessons you taught your players.
  • We can't forget the lessons taught to society by Leafs general manager Brian Burke after his son announced that he was gay. John Buccigross penned an exceptional piece on how the gruff Brian Burke supported his late son, Brendan, when he first came out as a gay man to his family and then the world. Burke showed the kind of unconditional love that you'd expect from a true father, and Burke's support of his son, who passed away in an auto accident last winter, continues today. As much as Burke may not be liked by some in the hockey circles, Burke is the kind of father all sons and daughters should want.
  • A great story comes from Manhattenville College where Michelle Witz has benefitted greatly from her father's humbleness about his daughter's ability as a hockey player. While Michelle Witz was getting better as a hockey player under her father's tutelage, Ed Witz was always the last person to suggest his daughter should be elevated to better teams. In fact, most coaches had to force Ed Witz to speak about his daughter. Ed's lessons in humility has allowed Michelle to grow without the pressures that some children in sports feel. That is a very important lesson being taught.
Now, there are probably hundreds of other stories out there about coaches who have done amazing jobs in shaping children to be better people as they move through the stages of their lives. I simply selected these stories because they show exactly what kind of lessons I learned from dad as he coached me: respect, fairness, and sportsmanship like Mr. Ferguson; give back and help other like Mr. Greco; inspire and teach, but don't be a jerk like Mr. Massias; love unconditionally like Mr. Burke; and, be humble while being supportive like Mr. Witz.

To all dads today, I want to say thank you for the time and effort you put in while coaching and making today's tykes into the great coaches of tomorrow. More importantly, I want to say thank for molding these young people into great adults by teaching them lessons they need to know in life.

Thanks, Dad!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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