Posted Jeff Masilun on 11/18/2015 |Featured Columns & Series
As a parent, I will do anything for my children. As a dad with daughters, sometimes the opportunities can seem limited with what we’re able to do together.
When my girls were little, I played with Barbie dolls, dressed up in funky costumes, and discovered that I am an amazingly good dancer - especially to our girl, Taylor Swift. As my girls progressed through elementary school, we realized that I was not as cool as I once thought and my dance moves were not as acceptable as they once were. I also realized that my magical daddy/daughter bonds were fading… faster than I could wrap my head around. Where did my little girls go? I watched as they started to become drawn to other things, many of which I didn’t really understand and that naturally came to their mother. Over time, I started to accept the fact that in their eyes now, I was only “dad”.
As my oldest daughter moved to fourth grade, she decided to join Girls on the Run. In my youth, I was a runner so I was extremely excited to share this common interest. I was even more overwhelmed when I realized there was a 5K at the end of her season and she invited me to run with her! Over the next two years, I ran four GOTR 5Ks with P and we slowly rebuilt the bond that we once shared. Needless to say, I was hooked.
As she finished up her elementary school career and my youngest daughter graduated to third grade, I was hoping that she would follow her big sister’s lead and join GOTR. To my delight, she was all in!
Knowing that my daughter would be participating in GOTR, our school’s head coach asked if I would help her out. I thought, “It’s a ‘girls’ program. How can a male coach GIRLS on the Run? How can I be a positive influence for a girls’ running program?” Of course, I did what every dad would do- I asked my third grader. I figured if she wanted me as a coach, the other girls would be okay with it as well. To my surprise, my delightful third grader answered, “Why not?” I immediately accepted the role as Assistant Coach for Girls on the Run.
When I first started out as an assistant coach, I was genuinely concerned about being accepted by the girls and their parents. I was also worried about how the girls would react to having a male coach. Would they be disappointed? Would they want to be on another team because they had the male coach? I learned quickly that the girls really seemed to enjoy having a teammate’s dad as their assistant coach. Each season, my GOTR team truly welcomed me with open arms. They asked endless questions about me and about my daughter. Most of all, they wanted to know why I was a coach.
At our end of the year party this past season, our girls painted a picture frame and collected photos from the season. It was a keepsake item that they could take home. During the party, my daughter collected about 12 pictures of her teammates and coaches. I helped paint and complete their frames, plus did my usual trash pick-up duties along the way. When my daughter finished her frame, she asked me to help put her photo in the frame. However, she hid her photo from me, asking me not to look at it, and to only secure it in place. I opened her frame and let her put the photo in. After her final approval, she turned it and asked me if I liked it. Upon seeing it, I could not believe my eyes. It actually took my breath away. Out of all of her pictures of friends, teammates and other coaches, she selected the photo of her with her assistant coach, me.
If I ever need any confirmation that my time spent as a GOTR coach was worth every second, that was the moment I’ll always look back on. Any doubt that a man, a dad could be a GOTR coach was gone. Looking around the room, I realized that these girls didn’t care if I was a man or woman and they probably never did. They were just as excited as I was to be participating in GOTR. For me personally, I realized that being an assistant coach with GOTR was an opportunity for me to recreate a bond with my daughter that I thought was lost.
Sadly, spring 2016 will be my last season as a GOTR coach. I’m looking forward to seeing my daughter smile her way through another season, however I suspect that this male coach will miss GOTR a little more than she will.