A Tribute To Dads

I write this article to share a very personal experience, but before I start, I want to wish all the fathers out there a “Happy Fathers Day.” This story is about you and the impact you have on your kids.

As I look back on my sports dad and coaching career and realizing my son is almost at the end of his youth sports journey, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the hundreds and hundreds of dad’s I’ve met over the years.

I’ve had kids on my teams whose dads were Fortune 500 CEOs, teachers, electricians, politicians, coaches, and all manner of professions.

The universal truth in each one of them is that they love their kids and would do anything to help them succeed in their goals.  How they each went about it was different but the underling truth was “I want what’s best for my kid.”  We had the complainer, yeller, the negotiator, the positive zen master, the psycho analyzer, etc.  20 years of this and I’ve met and seen them all.

My own experience of being both a coach AND a dad brought these two worlds together.  Looking back, how I looked at dads and parents before I had kids. changed completely after I had my own. It was a positive revelation. I learned it from my father.  I played youth soccer for my dad growing up, and then when I played in high school, and eventually college, our dynamic changed.

When I played for my father, he was really hard on me. Harder than the other kids. I guess it was a need to help him set an example for the other players. Looking back he was pushing me because he saw my potential and he opened doors for me but he never let on that was his plan and as a young boy, I didn’t understand nor appreciate being treated harder than the others. In hindsight, for me, it was what I needed to get to where I wanted to go.

However, when I played in college, something happened that would forever redefine my relationship with my father.  As a college freshman we were playing a college about 45 minutes away from where my hometown was. It was smack dab in the middle of nowhere.  During the game, a forward came in (I was a goalie) slid into me and broke my leg in multiple places.  I was transported by a ambulance to a local hospital which in today’s standards would be considered an urgent care clinic and they did not have adequate facilities to fix the damage to my leg.  I had to be moved and they couldn’t spare an ambulance to drive an hour to Buffalo.  So they called my father and he drove an hour to the clinic and picked me up and drove me to a hospital near Buffalo where they had a surgeon that specialized in the type of break I had. How my parents found this specialist, I will never know, but I am grateful they did.

Riding in the back of his car to the new hospital, in pain, and in a daze, I remember him telling me how proud he was of me, how much he loved me, and how everything was going to be ok. He knew as a college freshman, in a new environment, starting for his college team, being in Air Force ROTC, that my mind was spinning on how I was going to manage life. He calmed me down, made sure I got the care I needed and “coached” me back to health.  My mom was critical to al of this, but he did  the “dad” coaching, not “coach” coaching and it made all the difference

I returned to play the following season in full health and he made sure that went to every single home game and most away games I played the rest of my college career. That was over 60 games in a school that was an hour and half way. I’ll never forget it. It meant so much.

I took this time in my life and I incorporated those lessons into how I treated my son. I wasn’t perfect but I’ve tried to be there at every game, no matter how much or how little he plays. Just to let him know I’m there. I’ve not been perfect but I think I found the balance between coach and dad. Because of mine.

All the dads out there…I’m sure there are hundreds of stories like the one I told, and it all leads back to that universal truth..there’s nothing we wouldn’t do to help our kids get ahead and make it in life. And that’s ok.

We give them the tools so that when they are standing on their own, they take a little of what we did, and apply it to themselves and pass it down to their kids.  A nice legacy for them to have; that little piece of you.

Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there who work hard and help their kids succeed. They may not realize or appreciate it now, but they will.  I promise.

Above: Co-owner Dennis Franczak with his father, son (right), and brother (left)