You know me. I am not the kind of dad to express my feelings. It’s not my style.
But thankfully, we have basketball…
It all started when you were four and your brother was nine. I trained your brother in the backyard. We had cones, parachutes and all sorts of stuff. You’d come outside to watch and sometimes beg to join. At first, I thought it was cute but it didn’t take long for you to prove you had some serious athletic talent, which definitely did not come from me.
You started to come to all of your brother’s basketball games and practices. So, I signed you up for the local boys recreational league. You were one of the only girls and you were better than the boys your age. Even when you went one-on-one with your older brother, he couldn’t take it easy on you.
Now, you’re only 14 years old and in 8th grade. Already, you are one of the best players in the country. Eight division one schools have offered you scholarships. You have played in higher age brackets against top competition. At 13, you tried out for the under 16 U.S. National Team. Trophies overwhelm our basement, as letters from colleges continue to fill up our mailbox.
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This is a journey we are on together. We spend hours alone in cars and plane rides. Trips allow us the opportunity to go shopping and eat meals – just you and me. Sometimes we talk basketball. Sometimes we do not.
I try to go to every single game, but on occasion I have to miss one because of your brother’s football schedule. You know as soon as the game is over you have to call me and give me a play-by-play of what happened. We have similar builds, so I try to teach you tricks that I used to do when I was growing up.
At games, I notice every detail. If the last person on the bench scores, you are usually the loudest one cheering. I tell you to be more selfish sometimes, but you like to pass to your teammates and get everyone involved. You get more joy from watching your teammates score than you do yourself. Tournament and MVP trophies usually end up in my hands, because you are that humble. You are growing into a leader. You are a good teammate and a good person.
During a game you hear my coaching tips from the stands. I know you pay attention and don’t mind the feedback. That is good because I can’t help myself, Zoe. I live and die with each made or missed shot. When you play well, I am in a good mood. If you play poorly or just don’t give your best effort, I am in a bad mood. It probably shouldn’t be that way, but I know firsthand all the work you put in and I want to see you be successful.
And I am putting in the work with you.
Whether it is a Saturday or a Tuesday, if you ask me to go to the park to practice, I am always willing to go. You shoot and I chase your rebounds.
Before a big game or a top opponent, I do research and show you film. I just want to make sure you always feel prepared. There are times that I have been hard on you. I am working on making sure I highlight your good plays as opposed to only criticizing your mistakes. Either way, you seem to respect and appreciate my honesty. That’s probably because you are so competitive and open to learning how to better your game.
You still have so much ahead of you, and while you are putting in the time in the gym, I hope you are also enjoying the journey. And just so you know, if your journey takes you to California for college or Oregon for a tournament, I am coming, too.
Zoe, I do love that you play basketball because it provides me a familiar way to show you what I struggle to say.
When I drive for hours on end to a tournament, I am cherishing the time I spend with you. When I come to your games, I am giving you my support. When I get moody over a loss, I am feeling your disappointment even more than you do. When I make you give me a play-by-play reenactment of your game, I am trying to avoid missing a moment of your life. When I post your highlights on my social media, I am showing the world how proud I am to be your dad. And Zoe, every single time I tell you, “good game,” it is my way of saying I love you.