As I thought about what to write about this week, I found it hard to ignore Father’s Day. Father’s Day is special to me for so many reasons as I know I am both lucky and grateful to have my dad here to celebrate it with. I have always been very close to my dad and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. As you go through life, your dad plays different roles in your life and as I have become more aware of that, I have grown even more appreciative of the man I call dad.
I know this blog is based on the role sports and activity have played in my life since I was little, but the truth is if Bruce Nicholas was not my dad, I can’t say those would have ever played such a huge role in my life. When you see the quote “Everything I am, I am because of you,” well, that’s my dad. I look back on my childhood with such nostalgia and happiness. There is not one thing I would have changed, not even my parents’ divorce. I loved my childhood. I love who it made me. I love what it taught me. I love that I can look back and know I was a lucky one. I don’t remember getting in trouble that much growing up and not because I was perfect, but because I remember the good experiences I had so much more. I remember doing so many things and my dad always being a part of them, if not leading them.
Some people inherently believe that being healthy and fit is difficult. That it takes so much effort, planning, energy and time. This is a deeper topic for another blog, but for now, know that this is ok but this can also be challenged and changed. I have been working on examining my beliefs and attempting to change ones that aren’t serving me, however, this is one belief that I do not share with others. And this is why.
This afternoon, my dad came over and we watched some of the college baseball world series on this rainy day. He talked with my fiancé, who also coaches baseball, about his coaching philosophy on this or that and all I could do was think back to when he coached my softball team. Some kids would never want their parent to coach them. Me? Well, to this day, having my dad coach me is one of my favorite memories. He taught me how to play. He taught me how to win. He taught me how to lose. He taught me how to teach, to coach, to lead by example. He taught me that hustle can beat talent but that he can bring out everyone’s talent in some way. He taught me that body language speaks volumes and aggressive base running wins games. He taught me that anyone can win any game, to never hang your head, to never let them see you down, and that runs and points are scored in bursts. He taught me momentum, perseverance, and sportsmanship. He was the best teacher. He ran practices like a well oiled machine. Look around at a baseball practice next time you get a chance. You might see one parent pitching, one kid hitting, and a dozen others standing around all vying for one ball. Not my dad’s practices. He had so many parent helpers that we had several stations going at once, even during batting practice it wasn’t just hit one ball field one ball. He taught me how to plan a lesson. He taught me to make the most of our time. He taught me efficiency and what true practice is. Most kids might be nervous to have their best friends coached by their dad. But, not me. I was proud. I respected my dad and his coaching style and so did my friends. My dad didn’t teach us by yelling at us. He had us out on the field in March learning lead-offs and cut-offs. He had us on the field on a warm rainy day teaching us how to slide. Picture a dozen ten year old girls covered in mud and loving it, all the while learning. He had us on the field over two hours before the game for batting practice not because he made us, but because we couldn’t get enough. We had many winning records throughout the six years he coached me but my memories of wins stops there. I was able to share my dad with my friends. I was able to share my softball career with my dad. And I wouldn’t have traded one second of cold practices or hot games and the memories of playing for my dad for anything. To this day, when I see a baseball diamond, I think of dad.
When I think of how much thought we put into our fitness these days, I get so overwhelmed. I know we all want to be healthy. We all want our kids and our family to be healthy. We don’t need anymore research. We don’t even need any more meal plans. We need activity. I have thought about this issue forever. What really is the issue? Is it the food we eat? Is it the busier lifestyle? Is it less time with our kids? I hear the argument that eating healthy is expensive. And I won’t even argue that because it certainly can be cheaper to buy Cheetos and pop-tarts. But you know what is even cheaper? MOVING.
I grew up in a family of six. Pizza nights were few and far between, if we ordered Chinese food I would beg to get chicken and broccoli instead of lo mien. If we went to Dairy Queen, a blizzard was a huge treat. And going out to eat? That pretty much only existed for special occasions. We weren’t poor. My parents spent their money on our activities. My sister and I were competitive gymnasts and looking back now, I see the cost of that. But, we always had home cooked meals. After 6 hours at softball I would come home to a meal my mom had already made and I’d sit down with my dad and eat rice, chicken and corn on the cob. These days we get shunned if we eat white rice and corn is too starchy to be a veggie! My mom made white pasta with her amazing sauce probably once a week. Was I fat? No. And this is my point…
If you drove by our house you would see us outside at 8pm playing running bases with my dad. We would have the neighborhood kids at the track near our house running relay races…FOR FUN. I would bike with my dad while he ran. I would jump on the trampoline with my sister and die laughing at my dad who jumped with his bow legs! I would shoot hoops with my dad while he boxed me out. We would bike to the playground. Bike to get ice cream. We would go sledding. We would play snow football. We would go swimming, day or night. We would play Simon Says (my dad is a killer Simon), we played red light, green light and spud. My dad was there to play with us. I know not everyone is so lucky. My dad had a job that did offer pretty good flexibility which I know not everyone has. But this stuff didn’t cost money. It was his time. His energy. His effort. It was his role as our dad and I know each of us are filled with love for him because he always made the time for us.
Now, not everything was about playing outside. We played inside too, lol. We played bingo, cards, board games. My sister and I would make up dance routines and we would write out programs and invite my mom and dad up to the attic to watch us. And they came. And my dad filmed us. He would interview us on camera too, asking us our favorite food, sports, best friends, etc. My brother’s friends used to call him Eye Witness Nicholas because he always had a camera. Guess how much we love watching our home videos now???? Thank you, dad.
I remember laying with him watching TV too. Before school in the morning or before bed, I would watch ESPN with him. At night, he would tell us bedtime stories, but not made up stories, stories from his childhood. Sometimes they were about his parents, or a sporting event, or a lesson he was taught or a mistake he made. Stories like the ones I will be able to tell my children because of my memories with him. When we asked him to lay with us, he did. One of my greatest memories with my dad was right after my parents got divorced. They were amicable, thankfully, and for some reason I don’t remember he was at the house when I was getting ready for bed. I had the Cardinals baseball game on. Mark McGuire was on the quest to break the homerun record and he was up to bat. And that at bat was the one. I got to see him break the record, with my dad, before bed, even after he had moved out. There was a reason he was there, if for nothing more than this memory.
To this day, he is one of my best friends. It is one of our favorite things to just take an hour and go for a walk. On those walks we catch up, I pick his brain on any decisions that I might be facing or just tell him things I’m excited about. He still says his famous one liners that always make me laugh and sometimes even get repeated when he isn’t around. His effect on me is unexplainable. He is a go-to dad for anything and if a couple days happen to pass without talking, we at least send a goodnight text. To know he’s there means everything. I still go watch him coach and admire his rapport with kids who never knew him before they got drafted to his team. This man is a life changer to everyone who plays for him but I’m the lucky one who can call him more than just “coach.”
So yes, my “Life in a Sports Bra” blogs are about how sports and activity has shaped me. And because of how I grew up I believe being active isn’t difficult because I find it enjoyable. But somewhere along the way, being active got complicated. Today, hanging out with my dad while watching baseball, I went back to where it began. The memories remind me that it isn’t difficult, it’s who I am, and that’s because of my dad.