My First Coach: A Father’s Day Post

I’ve written before about how a big part of my running inspiration is my mom. She was the marathoner, the mountain climber, the skier and the outdoors woman who brought me along on her adventures so that I would learn an appreciation for the things she loved. She taught me a lot about endurance and finding that  little bit extra deep down to keep going.

My mom played a big role in my development as an athlete, but I didn’t realize most of it until I was an adult.
Dad 1But this post is actually about my dad. Father’s Day is this weekend, and it seemed like a perfect time to reflect on everything he has taught me.

He was my first coach – putting  a basketball in my hands for the first time. Buying me a hoop so I could practice lay-ups and free throws in my driveway. Volunteering to coach every team I played on until I was 12.
FullSizeRender (1)Each high school game I played, I knew where I could find him: sitting in the top row of the bleachers, watching, taking it all in. After the game, he’d have feedback – and even when I was upset with myself or didn’t want to hear his critique, he was patient with me. I always knew he was right, I just didn’t always like admitting it.
dad 3
Before every game, he would give me a tip of the day. Anything from “block out” to “drive the lane” – his one tip was always something I did well to remember as I took the court. For an away tournament, he gave me a note card with tips of the day on it so that I could have his advice with me even when he couldn’t be there to watch.

When I went to play basketball in college, that notecard came with me, and lived in my gym bag. It traveled to every game even though my dad couldn’t. My dad would call or text those tips of the day before each game, too, so that I was never without my first coach.

I still have this notecard... it lives in my desk at work and it's still useful. "Head up" is just good life advice.

I still have this notecard… it lives in my desk at work and it’s still useful. “Head up” is just good life advice.

Playing basketball taught me more lessons than I could enumerate. About leadership, about working as a team, about repetition and working hard and not giving in. All practical on the court, but even more applicable to life. Lessons I wouldn’t have learned as well if my dad hadn’t fostered my growth as an athlete for all those years.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

His guiding hand has always been there for me, helping me navigate sticky situations, like teaching me how to deal with my 401K. My dad is the king of planning and lists and I absolutely picked that trait up from him, too. He’s goofy (see Exhibit A), he’s funny, he knows more sports trivia than anyone I know. But more importantly, my dad CARES. He cares for his family and for his friends. His heart is big and he goes miles beyond for someone in need. Literal miles. He has traveled halfway across the country on multiple occasions to help family through heavy and trying times. My dad has taught me more about what it means to be a good and kind human being than anyone else, because he lives it. Every day.

I know many people for whom Father’s Day is not a day of celebration – their fathers have been lost to them for some reason or another. On this day, I wish them peace and send them love – I can’t take away the pain or sadness they feel.
image1 (3)
But I’m extraordinarily grateful to be able to celebrate my dad, because I’m extraordinarily grateful that my life has him in it. He is one of the best things about who I am. And he’s still giving me tips of the day.

Here’s What I Know About Leadership

This post might feel a little preach-y. It’s not supposed to. Or maybe it is. I don’t know. What I do know is that the idea of Leadership is one that’s been on my mind lately. Or for the last year. Or really, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, for forever. Recently, a few things have made me think about what makes a good leader and how we can all exhibit those qualities in our day to day actions. 

vball circle

“The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” ― Colin Powell

When I was in high school, I thought a lot what it meant to be a “good” leader. Typically, I was thinking about sports and I was usually concerned with what a team captain was expected to do. I was given the responsibility of being captain of two teams – I was named Varsity Captain as a junior of both the volleyball and basketball teams, and maintained that role as a senior. Every team I played on had a different dynamic and vastly different personalities, which meant having to learn how to communicate differently. Learning what each of my teammates would best respond to and understanding that not everyone is motivated by the same thing.


I’m not sure that I was ever wholly successful as a team captain, but I did learn a lot, and since then, I’ve also come to realize that the teams I played on served as microcosms of real life.

The skills I learned on the court have found their way into my life on more than one occasion, but as of late, it is those leadership skills I’ve come to value most. So, I came up with a list that I think illustrates my point:


Lead by example: If you work hard, leave it all on the court and keep the bullshit out of the gym, the team can, too.

Respect: For your teammates and your coach – a team can’t function cohesively if there isn’t mutual respect for everyone’s abilities and differences. You don’t always have to agree, but you should always treat each other with respect.

Take the high road: Sometimes, you end up with a team that just can’t get along. Sometimes, people are real poop-nuggets. They can make everything the worst. A good leader doesn’t let their teammates’ negativity dictate their own actions. They choose optimism.

vball team

Listen: To the coach and to the team. If things aren’t going well, take the water temperature – not only does it give you the chance to find the root issues, it also shows your teammates that you care about their concerns. As I heard recently: “God gave me two ears and one mouth, and I should use them proportionally.”

Be proactive, not reactive: During a game, things don’t always go the way you plan – someone could get injured or foul out and suddenly your team looks different. The best way to move forward and win? Regroup, assess, and keep doing your jobs. A reactionary response is almost always shortsighted and rarely serves the good of the team. Keep playing to win, don’t play not to lose.

b.a. mirror pic

Recognize your team’s talent, and let them use it: The team captain isn’t always the best player. An effective captain not only knows this, but also isn’t bothered by letting their teammates shine. They are assets – allow them to utilize their skill sets and foster their confidence. Empower them to push the envelope and develop as players. Everyone benefits when we’re all allowed the room to do our best.

Talk to your teammates, not at them: This goes back to the “listen” thing – you have to learn how to engage in a productive dialogue with your team. Know your audience and tailor your message to them. Some people don’t respond to certain things. Honor that, and them, and do a little extra work to find what does work for the both of you.

bball in sandiego

Be honest, kind, courageous and fair: You might be the captain, but that doesn’t put you above your teammates on a human level. Remember that. Be decent, always.

We find ourselves on “teams” all the time – we live in community with one another, pretending that we exist outside of that is to deny our place in the world. To lead is to take on responsibility and to lead well is to care, immensely, for the well-being and success of the team and to recognize the responsibility to ensure that success.

“It’s time to care; it’s time to take responsibility; it’s time to lead; it’s time for a change; it’s time to be true to our greatest self; it’s time to stop blaming others.” – Steve Maraboli