When I was a little girl, my dad coached nearly all of my softball teams. As I got older, he continued to coach me beyond little league and onto travel summer ball. We traveled the state and played tournaments nearly every summer weekend.
I remember one tournament particularly well.
We were in Santa Cruz playing against one of the best teams in the league. We were ahead by four runs and incredibly thrilled. We were heading into the 5th inning and my dad turned to two of the players who had been on the bench all game.
“Carly, I’m putting you in as short stop. Melanie, you take left field.”
I forfeited my spot in left field and my teammate, Alex, gave up her spot as short stop so the other girls could go in. As someone who was never particularly talented at softball, I wasn’t worried about it. I spent a lot of time on the bench and never minded; I was there for the comradery more than the game. Alex wasn’t as used to the bench, but she didn’t seem to mind too much either. Her parents, however, were furious.
Our team took the field and Alex’ dad stormed over to the dugout.
“Why isn’t my daughter in?” He asked. He then continued to berate my dad with questions and fuming statements. Alex hadn’t done anything wrong, he insisted, so why was she being punished with the bench?
After a few tense minutes, my dad asked his co-coach to watch the game and pulled the raging father aside. I could hear my dad’s voice as he explained to the father, “These girls are thirteen. Their families are paying to play in the league and the girls are dedicating their summer to practices and games. As I explained when this team started, it is my personal mission to ensure that every player gets an opportunity to take the field in every tournament we play. Alex did nothing wrong; she’s a great player who played five solid innings and will play more this weekend. But at this age, it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about enjoying the game and working as a team. I would rather these girls learn to be good team players then stop an extra run from getting scored.”
In that moment, I was proud of my dad, but thought little more about it as I was quickly distracted by the play happening on field. But as I’ve gotten older, I find myself thinking about it more and more. Because that moment is how I would define my dad.
He is a team player. He believes in equal treatment and giving everyone an opportunity to shine. And he always values the experiences and lessons that come from our actions far more than whether or not we “succeed”.
It’s been nearly 10 years since I last stepped foot on a softball field. My ability to catch a fly ball is long lost and rarely serves me in my current life. But the lessons I learned from years of watching my dad coach my teams with kindness, integrity, and equanimity have forever shaped the way I choose to carry myself in the world.
So thank you, Dad, for being the best example of composure and compassion a daughter could ask for. I love you and am wishing you a very happy Father’s Day.