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One Game At A Time

A belated Father’s Day wish for sporting dads

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THE Inquirer went all out yesterday to celebrate Father’s Day. There were delightful pieces from Randy David’s column on the joy of fatherly giving to Marvin Agustin’s brush with storytelling of a tale that was close to his heart.

The sporting world is also filled with tales of fathers sharing games with their children.  Yankee great Mickey Mantle learned from his father how to be a switch-hitter who could blast homers batting left- or right-handed. Tiger Woods’ dad Earl introduced him to golf and became the multititled golfer’s guide in his rise to superstardom.

Here at home, there are tons of fathers who taught their sons or daughters how to run, catch and hurl a ball or shoot a basketball. Filipino baseball great Filomeno “Boy” Codiñera had his sons play both baseball and basketball but I remember Boy telling me that it was vital in sports that children first learn “how to run properly.”

The late Francisco “Tatang” de Vega, father of former Asian sprint queen Lydia, taught his daughter the fundamentals and even stayed on to see her outrun everyone else in the region in the century dash. Their story was even made into a movie with all its dramatic ups and downs both off and on the track.

Not all sons or daughters will become legends or sports greats but it’s important in raising well-rounded kids to introduce them to sports. Learning how to play games will teach them a sport for life and the values of sportsmanship and fair competition.

It’s perfectly all right to bring them to basketball, volleyball or golf camps during summer or weekends. So is introducing them to the discipline that can be taught by the martial arts.

But sport must primarily be play first because if the element of fun disappears, the child will refuse to participate in any game.  It’s quite all right also if they don’t like a sport you introduce them to because they must like the game on their own and not just to please a parent.

While my own three sons were growing up and did our rounds of basketball and football summer camps, I saw doting fathers (and grandfathers) who rose early during weekends to drive their kids to the training sessions. Many would bring their own chairs and coffee to enjoy the morning while occasionally peeking at the progress their kids were making.

Most kids just want to know you are around and don’t really like you overanalyzing each of their struggles or moves as they learn a sport with endless side comments.

I have also seen overzealous fathers who don’t get it when the kiddie camps are through and when senior coaches take over.  Kids who do show potential in a sport must be given parental encouragement but space must be provided by parents when seasoned coaches are in charge.

Unfortunately, many overenthusiastic parents are in the individual pursuits like tennis, swimming, badminton or golf.

Years ago, while covering a tennis tournament at Rizal Memorial, I saw this father loudly berate his son under the bleacher seats for messing up his second serve and went on to be booted out of the matches. I wonder if the boy continued to play tennis or went on to teach his own kids the sport.

There is no manual on sporting fatherhood that can guarantee that our children will become Olympic medal winners, world champions or weekend sporting phenoms.

The best thing we can do as fathers is to open the doors to the joyful world of games and competition. We should stay on the sidelines, ready to welcome our kids home, regardless if they scored a basket or not or simply kicked the football with sheer delight.


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