When I think about memories of my dad from childhood, I think about basketball. I started playing basketball in a pee-wee league in 2nd grade. From that point through high school, year round, my dad would take me out to practice. We’d play in 90-degree heat and humidity, we’d play in a light rain, and a little snow wouldn’t stop us either. I’d be hanging around the house on a Saturday (remember when kids used to do that?), he’d notice I wasn’t up to much, and soon I’d hear, “Come on, let’s play some b-ball.” We’d play for a half hour or so at a local park, with Dad mostly rebounding so I could practice my outside shot. He'd always make sure I made one last shot before we left the park, for good luck. Sometimes it took a while for that to happen, but he never gave up on me.
In addition to practicing with me, Dad was at all of my games. He was easy to spot because his hair was prematurely grey. The only white-haired dad in the stands, paired with his deep baritone voice encouraging me (and my teammates) from the sidelines, he was hard to miss. He always had a supportive word for after the game too, regardless of whether I played my best game. He made time for me, provided just the right amount of encouragement, and most importantly, gave me the unconditional love and support that every child desires from their parents.
Now that my own son is 5 years old and starting to play organized sports, I can hear my dad’s voice in my head when I cheer for him from the sidelines. I’m normally a more reserved type of person, but it feels natural to offer support for the kids. Having experienced it first hand, I know what a difference it makes for a child to know they’ve got at least one person rooting for them, on the basketball court and in life.