As we celebrate Father's Day there is no denying the close bond that exists between Father's and their sons when it comes to sports. It's a great way to learn, share and gain life lessons that extend well beyond the field or court. On this Father's Day I would like to share a few memorable lessons I learned from my Dad that helped me in sports and in life.
Lesson #1 The Science Project:
Pop Warner Football was a great experience for me, I can remember it like it was yesterday. The first day when they line you up to see how fast you are, the first time you learn to put on your uniform on in less than 30 minutes, boiling your mouth piece so it fits just right. All these moments were special rites of passage. Once the games came, I was a natural running and easily surpassing 100 yards game after game. Football was so much fun, for me it was just like playing in the back yard with my brothers and friends. Somewhere along the lines I started enjoying my new found celebrity status a little too much. I decided I was destined for greatness at a very early age and decided to wait until the last minute to complete a science project for the school science fair. Needless to say I flunked my science project, a phone call went home and I was in big trouble. No more football practice, no more football games and no more adulation from my peers. Upon discovering my crime and punishment, my caring Pop Warner Coach decided to ring the door bell and plea with my father to change his mind about punishing me. "We have a big game coming up", "This town has never had an undefeated team", "We need him to play so that we can win and go to Florida". To which my father responds..."if you can guarantee that he will be a first round NFL Draft Pick, then he can play. If you can't you need to get back in your car and go where you came from." To add insult to injury I was allowed to attend the next game....in street clothes. As I walked in I could hear the other team whispering and pointing as if they were saying he's not playing, this game will be easy. As I sat in the bleachers on the home side, the stares weren't nearly as polite. I could sense the anger from other parents who thought it was selfish to penalize the team by not playing. They wouldn't get to experience an undefeated team, and the chances of competing in Florida were out the window. I barely remember the game because my eyes were filled with tears so I couldn't see a thing. Lesson learned, school and responsibility comes first.
Lesson #2 Tuesdays and Thursdays:
Depending on what town you live in your garbage probably gets picked up twice a week. In my second lesson from Dad I learned that these are days you never want to forget. It's funny how success can sometimes make us forget the important responsibilities and commitments we agree to, but it's always good to have someone close to you remind you where you come from in order to maintain your humility. If you know me at all, you know basketball has done many wonderful things for me and afforded me many opportunities that I otherwise might not have gotten. Picture me as a teenager playing basketball at a very high level. Unlike today, there were no glorified AAU Teams or travel teams so I had to earn my reputation through the newspaper and word of mouth by beating the older players and grown men. Word spread around town quickly that I was that guy, and the point was reinforced every time someone approached my dad and said "oh you're Daryl Smith's Dad" your son is a one helluva ball-player! What they failed to realize was that my Dad played professional football and was actually drafted pro in football, baseball and basketball from a Division III School! He wasn't impressed by some 14 year old kid, his son or anyone else's. Boy I could only imagine how it feels to have someone approach you as a parent only recognizable through your child's accomplishments. Fast forward to July I'm home from Five-Star Basketball Camp competing against the best competition in America and holding my own. Big Time College Coaches know my name and are asking about me, I'm scoring 30 points a game in summer league you couldn't tell me anything. Well actually you could, and my Dad did. One day I came home after one of those great 30 point games feeling on top of the world and forgot that it was Thursday and the trash needed to go out that morning. As I walked into my room there were no college letters and packages only the trash that I had forgotten to take out earlier that morning.
Lesson # 3 Wake-Up Early and Prepare:
What time do you wake up every morning and what's the first thing you do? For many, it's wake up get coffee, turn on the television and eat the least nutritious thing you can possibly find. In my house dad woke up very early, ran a few miles, lifted weights and then managed to get the rest of us up in time for work or school. Needless to say that leaves a pretty indelible image in your young mind. I can remember one summer watching my older brother join my dad as he prepared to become a Division 1 defensive back. They would wake up hit the track, do all kinds of drills and then lift weights. I wanted no parts of that, after all I was cool and besides I already was the talk of the town. Why should I get up early and do extra things to make myself better? One day I reluctantly joined in on one of the early shifts, except me being the defiant independent one decided I was going to bring my basketball and do my own thing. I began to participate, but not really I was going through the motions. Eventually my brother's hard work paid off and he became a starting safety at an Ivy League School. My dad was still in great shape and every now and then he and my brother would get on the court and try to ruff me up and expose the weaker parts of my game in front of others. "He can't shoot from the corner, he doesn't like to go left" they would say. Now what would normally be my own personal highlight reel game was being undermined by my own blood! There was only one way to get even, I got up early worked on my left hand and my shot from the corner became deadly. These lessons would come in handy when I got to college and didn't play a lot my freshman year. I quickly remembered those early morning sessions and extra preparation. I can still remember to this day being up early running without an IPOD, but rather a very heavy Portable Cassette Player. There is something very peaceful about being up before your competition and knowing that you are preparing to beat them while they are home sleeping. Once I was finished running I would go to the park and start shooting from the corner and dribbling with my left hand going back to turn my weaknesses into strengths. My hard work paid off and I became a 3 year starter and captain of the team. I was always the best conditioned player on the team and I will always attribute that to Dad teaching me to wake up early and prepare. More important than that, those who really know me know that I still wake up early to workout, collect my thoughts and do some of my best thinking and preparation while others are turning on the TV and reaching for the least nutritious thing they can find.
Happy Father's Day to all the Dad's out there, especially mine for teaching me that responsibility comes before sports, you should always remain humble despite your success, and you have to wake up early and prepare if you want to succeed in life!