You guys have shared stories of your fathers with me, and it often leaves me with a hope – a hope that someday, someone will think of me this way as a dad, too.
Sara Letourneau managed to meld tales of her father the soccer coach with her own realizations as a writer. In molecular science, experts refer to this type of phenomenon as … well, they don’t have a term for it as yet. I love her insight, though.
Sara’s closing in on completion of a YA novel, The Keeper’s Curse (not a tale of Elise’s travails in goal, although that could happen someday.)
Sara writes a remarkable feature called 5 on the Fifth that you just have to check out.
When I visited Coach Daddy for the first time, Eli’s two primary themes (fatherhood and soccer) reminded me of my own dad. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, too. Last month, Dad retired from the engineering firm where he worked for more than 40 years. It’s an amazing and restful time in his life right now, and he’s truly earned it.
One thing won’t change during Dad’s transition to retirement, though. He’s an avid soccer fan; and while I wasn’t responsible for bringing the sport to his attention (I was the dancer in the family), my respect and appreciation for soccer sprung around the same time as Dad’s.
It was the fall of 1998. My younger brother Greg was 8 years old and had enrolled in his first season of recreational youth soccer. At the time, my family had heard of soccer but hadn’t paid much attention to it. That changed with my brother’s first game. Of course, kids tend to chase after the ball in one big flock rather than play by actual rules at that age. Dad, however, must have seen something that day that captivated him.
Within a year, Dad began watching televised soccer matches, from U.S. Major League Soccer to the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics. By the fall of 2000, he was coaching one of the town’s recreational youth teams – a volunteer position he held for 8 years and 16 seasons (fall and spring). Soccer was no longer his hobby. It had become a passion, mined in his quiet, thoughtful manner yet fueled by a motivation to understand the sport as fully as he could.
In hindsight, what amazes me most about Dad’s coaching career is not the depth of his love for soccer, but an unexpected coincidence: I see connections I’ve never noticed before between his passion and my own for writing. The more I consider those connections, the more I realize that these aren’t mere parallels that I share with my father, but similarities among people who follow their heart’s desires.
1. Passion inspires you to study the topic with intensity
Just as I’ve studied the craft of writing by reading, attending workshops, and applying relevant tips to my work, Dad studied the game of soccer by watching tutorial videos and televised matches. When he started commenting on players’ techniques and (*ahem*) yelling at referees over botched calls, it was clear he understood how the game worked.
2. Passion inspires you to work toward your goals
Writers have to write in order to improve their skills or be published. Finding that motivation can be challenging, but learning to listen to the muse and prioritizing our work is the only way we’ll achieve those goals. The same goes for coaching. More than anything, Dad wanted to help kids become better soccer players. That meant increasing his own skills by playing soccer with Greg in our backyard and practicing techniques he learned from the tutorial videos so he could share them with his players.
3. Passion drives you to teach others about the topic
My writing “career” includes a column at DIY MFA on literary themes and offering writing worksheets for free download at my blog. It wasn’t until I posted my first worksheet that I recalled Dad’s soccer brochures. He’d create pamphlets with soccer tips and diagrams of plays, then distribute the printed products to his players. And by sharing lessons and discoveries about the subject of your passion, you become a sort of a teacher, whether you realize it or not. (Of course, coaches are already teachers to begin with. *wink*)
4. Pursuing one’s passion can be fun!
Everyone deserves a reward for a job well done or hitting a milestone. It boosts motivation, and it feels good too. I like to treat myself to a nice dinner or a Cape Cod day trip when I finish a draft of my novel; and I did the same for a friend recently to celebrate her passion (yoga teaching certification). As for Dad, he ended each soccer season with a pizza party for his players and their families. Everyone agreed this was always the season highlight, regardless of the team’s final record.
5. Persistence and diligence in your passion pursuits can lead to success
During his 16 seasons of coaching, Dad took his teams to the local youth soccer championship six times (and won five times). However, it took several seasons of studying and experience before he reached that level of success. And with my poetry, I submitted and revised pieces to literary journals for almost 5 years before receiving my first acceptance letter. It was a long road, but one I never strayed from thanks to encouragement from others and belief in my abilities.
6. People will show their gratitude when your passion pursuits impact them
We all remember giving thank-you notes or gifts to teachers, mentors, and others whose dedication to their life purpose – or a favorite hobby – affected us in positive ways. But when you’re the recipient instead of the giver, it’s a whole other story. At the end-of-season pizza parties, Dad’s players would give him cards, gift certificates, or a verbal “thanks” for everything he did for them. Dad’s not the kind to share his feelings, but I could tell he was flattered and humbled by their appreciation.
7. When a loved one shows genuine interest in your passions, it brings the two of you closer together
Soccer has become an important part of my relationship with Dad. Every June, for Father’s Day or his birthday, I buy him tickets for a New England Revolution game. Whether the whole family tags along or it’s just the two of us, these games are more than live soccer matches. They’re chances for “Daddy’s little girl” to spend time with the man who pushed her on the swings, built her a dollhouse for Christmas, and taught her how to drive. It’s my way of saying, “Hey Dad, I may be an adult now, but I love you.”
I can’t think of a better way to close this post than with an anecdote from Dad’s final game as a coach. His team reached the 2008 spring championship – and it was one of the most exciting soccer matches I’ve ever attended. Despite going up against a statistically better team, Dad’s players ran, kicked, and passed harder than they had all season. So, guess which side scored the winning goal with less than 2 minutes left in regulation? 🙂 I still remember the buoyant pride I felt when he gave the trophy to his team for the last time. In fact, I feel that way again now that Dad has reached the “golden age” of his life; and I hope he gets to enjoy this period for many, many years.
How about you? Do you notice any of the mentioned parallels in your passion pursuits?
What shared interests have helped you bond closer with your parents or children?
Sara Letourneau is a Massachusetts-based writer who practices joy and versatility in her work. In addition to revising a YA fantasy novel, she reviews tea at A Bibliophile’s Reverie and contributes to the writing resource site DIY MFA. Her poetry has been published in The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, The Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and two anthologies. Learn more about Sara at her website / blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.