To young boys who don’t have a father,
For years, I was bitter and resentful. But I am not anymore.
When I was a child, Father’s Day was always the toughest day of the year for me. I was the oldest of nine. When all my other siblings would spend the day with their fathers, I would stay home with my mother and cry.
In sports, I remember other kids would run out of the locker room after a big win and go straight to their dads, who would say to them, “Great job, son!”
I didn’t have that. Senior night, I didn’t have a dad walk with me on the field and when I won prom king, my dad wasn’t there to take pictures with me.
Growing up, I was hurt that I didn’t have a father around. I was angry at my mother because she couldn’t tell me the name of my father. For years, it was a mystery.
As a result, I felt like I could not trust women. And through the years, I made excuses for myself. I felt like I could have gone further and done more in life if I had a father to guide me or put me in my place when needed.
When I realized I was a sports phenom as a teenager, I had this attitude like “I am the man.”
After I beat my wrestling coaches on the mat, I would not let them coach me anymore. I was arrogant and stubborn. Looking back, I always felt like if I had a father around to control me, I would have played sports beyond college.
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Luckily, I stopped making excuses when I had my son at 20 years old. I needed to pay child support and I could have dropped out of school and worked at McDonald’s to pay the bills. But I wanted more for my future and my son’s future. So, I finished school and worked. Now, I am an accountant.
As I entered adulthood, I was determined to make sure I was a father to my son and that no other child in my community felt the same hole that I once did. Nearly every day (when there is no pandemic), I coach sports: football, baseball and wrestling. I try to be a father figure for kids like you, kids who don’t have a dad in their lives. Sometimes it’s as simple as walking over to a child and putting my arm around him when I can see he is having a bad day. Other times, when a child comes to practice with his head down, I will sit and talk to him about life. We don’t talk about football. We can talk about anything.
One time, a mother came to me crying, explaining her house flooded. It was right before the beginning of school and her son didn’t have any clothes for the first day. So, I decided to take him shopping and collect donations. In two days, he had a full closet of new clothes and brand new shoes. The child was so happy.
He kept saying, ‘Thank you, Coach Knight. I really appreciate you.”
Before that situation, he was always a knucklehead on the team, getting in arguments with coaches and threatening to quit. But that season, he played lights out and he’s been an all-star ever since.
I am proud to be a part of helping boys like you become young men, as I let them know there is a man in their lives who loves and cares for them. But I understand that a mentor doesn’t replace the absence of a father. Even so, I don’t want you to be bitter like I was for a very long time.
In December of 2020, when I was 32 years old, I finally found my dad. I decided to go on Ancestry.com and send in my DNA. Four weeks later, it came back with a woman who they said was likely my sibling. I found her on Facebook, which led me to my dad.
When I showed my mom his picture, she remembered him. She said he was in the army. He left shortly after they were together and she simply forgot about him. I reached out to him and we both took DNA tests. It was a 99.9% match.
My father did not leave me. He didn’t abandon me. He simply never knew I existed. Even so, he told me he was so sorry and that he wanted a relationship with me.
While your situation may be different from mine, finding my father made me realize that sometimes life happens in a way that’s difficult for a child to understand. But I wasted a lot of energy being bitter.
If you are hurt, talk to someone about it. Please don’t hold it in and don’t carry it with you. I know it’s hard, but don’t blame anyone for the mistakes they made even if they hurt you, because it won’t benefit you. No matter your situation, you have to be committed to yourself and your happiness and success.
Pick yourself up and use the resources and people around you to do better. Always look at the bigger picture. In life, no one cares if you have a father or not. When you’re trying to get that scholarship for college or trying to be a professional in any sport or whatever it is that you want to do, no one will ask in your interview if your father is in your life.
Don’t let what you may not know or understand become an excuse for why you didn’t achieve your dreams.
A lot of kids are like you and don’t have both parents in their house. True greatness is not all about who is in your life, but rather the determination you have inside yourself.
You can choose happiness and success and I will help you along the way.
I am always here for you.