To my daughters, Makenzie and Kayla,
I started coaching volleyball before both of you were born. In 1991, Brunswick High School lost their boys’ coach in the middle of the season. So, the girls’ coach was running both teams but he needed help. He asked me to sit on the bench for games he couldn’t attend. I agreed and right away, I fell in love with the sport.
By the time I had each of you five and seven years later, I knew I wanted to introduce you to volleyball. As a coach, I watched many girls who played for me become confident, strong and committed young women. I wanted each of you to develop the same traits.
As soon as each of you were potty trained, I began bringing you to games. At four years old, I let you, Makenzie, sit on the bench. When someone said only players and coaches could be on the bench, I formally added you to the roster. Some people were quite intrigued when they saw a player’s height listed at 3’2”.
By age seven, I took each of you to the Junior Olympics and a few years later I decided to coach your under-11 team. On your under-11 team, we won a tournament at Brunswick High School. As champions, the tournament awarded you t-shirts that went down to your shins. You two sported your shirts proudly and couldn’t take enough pictures. You wore your medals to bed that night. And all week, you kept talking about volleyball. That was when I knew both of you were lifers.
Throughout the next decade, the sport gave me the blessing of spending a lot of time with both of you. We practiced three days a week for two-and-a-half hours. We spent time together driving to and from practices and tournaments. Many of your tournaments were in other cities for two, three, or four days at a time. In 2008, we spent five days together at the USA Nationals in Miami.
As someone who was constantly by your side, I knew how you were doing in school, who you hung out with and what boys you liked. I knew if you were sick, injured, or whether or not you were eating well. On a deeper level, I also knew how hard each of you worked, how passionate you were and how focused you could be.
Makenzie, right after you got pulled up from JV your sophomore year of high school, you rolled your ankle. You iced it all night. When you woke up in the morning, the swelling was down to about the size of a golf ball. That night you had a game against your school’s rival. The trainer told you not to play, but you told the coach you were okay. You wanted that spot. And not only did you get it, but you kept it for three years.
Similarly, Kayla, you sprained your ankle right before your first college tournament in Virginia Beach. When all the other players were exploring and having fun on the boardwalk, you stayed in the hotel room and iced and elevated your ankle before convincing the trainers you were good to go.
Both of you excelled in college. Makenzie, during your tenure at Washington and Jefferson, you led the NCAA in digs per set and got a big old plaque for it. Kayla, you are currently a junior at Geneva College, where I am an assistant coach. Every day, you show up as a leader. At five feet, you take charge and run that crew. Because of both of you, I have had so many proud dad moments.
Now, as you each begin to look toward the next chapter of your lives – a chapter where I won’t see you at practices or drive you to games, I want you to know how incredibly confident I am in not only who you have become as athletes, but who you have grown to be as young women. Makenzie, you are pursuing a career in business and Kayla, you want to work in sports in some capacity. Whatever you both do, I know you will excel. You followed the same path as the women I coached throughout the years, becoming determined, competitive, hardworking and independent young adults.
Time and time again, you both have exceeded my expectations. And while soon neither of you will be on the court, as you continue to achieve, grow and add to your list accomplishments, I will still be cheering you on from the sidelines.
Just remember, you both are capable of greatness – I know that not because I believe it, but because both of you have already proven it.
I am so proud to be your father. I love you.