In honor of Father’s Day, my wife Heather had me write this blog post, and I can’t think of any way to start to tell you about Z except to say: I love my daughter.  Even before seeing her, I knew in my heart how strongly I would fall, and at first glimpse of those brown eyes I was hooked.  Like most dads are, I imagine.
At the time Izzy was born, I coached at a local high school — specifically 9th grade girls’ basketball and softball.  Being a girl’s coach had never been in my plans, but God placed me there in preparation of my most precious gift.  From the beginning, I wanted Z to be an athlete — like her dad.  I was not looking to relive the glory days vicariously through her;  it was bigger than for me. I knew, and had personally experienced, that girls in sports had greater confidence and were better equipped to handle the junk that life would surely throw their way.  I wanted for her her to have strength and determination and work ethic — I needed, as a dad, to raise my daughter to be strong.  Plus, I was certain it would be our best shot at connecting.
At a young age she seemed to lose interest in “girl” things.  Z was my princess, but I had no problem when she chose to be Luke Skywalker instead of Cinderella for Halloween.  She also showed some athletic ability early on.  I always promised Heather that I would never push Z to start playing sports, but, if she freely chose to participate, I HAD to be her coach.  It wasn’t my ego speaking – I just didn’t trust anybody else to do it right (ok well maybe it was a little bit my ego speaking). But as a dad I knew what was best for my daughter.  I had spent too many hours at Freshman practice trying to break athletes of the habits they had developed from all the years they had “played” before getting to high school and I was not about to let that happen to her.
More importantly, very few of my former students knew how to win,  how to lose and the honor in being a good sport who always gives it their best.  Many never understood that you don’t have to have talent to play hard.  These were traits I had to make sure she gained and I could accomplish that through coaching.
And so it began.  Z’s first sport was T-ball and then coach pitch softball.  She enjoyed softball but it was basketball that won her heart and passion.  Starting in 2nd grade, we hit the hardwood. For five years I coached and watched her grow into a talented player.  Over the countless trips to and from practice and games and the many hours spent on the court or in the driveway, our daddy/daughter bond grew strong.  We shared in triumph and heartache and taught each other a little about life.  Once she reached 7th grade I was forced to step out of that role.  It was tough.  For the past two years of middle school I’ve had to be Dad the Fan instead of Dad the Coach — and that’s OK.  I have come to enjoy just watching the games, and Z still asks me about what she can do to keep improving.
Even if I’m not her official coach,  we still get out in the driveway to work or for a quick game of Horse. I am very proud of her.  My greatest pride, however, does not come from her jump shot.  I feel it when she’s hustling and scrapping for a loose ball. I feel it even more when she reaches down to pick the other girl up and pats her on the back.  Her love of sports gave me an avenue to teach her, but more importantly it helped me connect with her, and for that I am grateful.