Basketball Court Dad

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

-Proverbs 22: 6 (NIV)

I went to the gym recently and was mesmerized by a dad I saw on the basketball court. He was with his son. They weren’t just “hanging out” and shooting hoops. This dad was TeachingTraining  Coaching and Equipping his son.

I don’t know much about basketball. But I am a student of fatherhood. And this dad intrigued me. His intentionality was remarkable. I watched them as I circled the track around the court. In one drill, dad grabbed a pair of empty shoes and set them out in front of the boy, who I assume was about 12 years old. From what I could tell, the son had to dribble up, approach the imaginary opponent (represented by the empty shoes) and then figure out how to navigate around the opponent to get to the net and score.

The son would try one approach, and dad would show the boy the pros and cons of that choice. Then, the son would try another approach. And Dad would step in and teach once again. Drill after drill. I was there an hour. They had started before I arrived, and they were still there when I left. And it wasn’t a one-time thing. The next Saturday, they were there again.

It was clear to me that dad loved at least two things: His son and basketball. It also clear to me that the son treasured the time that dad was investing in him. He had a smile on his face and appeared gentle and patient. And from what I could tell, the boy never seemed resentful (I’m guessing dad dragged him out of bed early). The boy always seemed thirsty for what dad was providing.

As I watched, I told myself a story that when this boy grows up to be a man, he’ll always remember the time that dad spent with him on the court. And, I’ll also bet that that boy will always have a positive connection to the game of basketball. Because of dad.

Looking Back

The whole scene made me tender for my own childhood. I loved my Dad (he passed away six years ago this month). He was a good man and did his very best. But, my dad’s own childhood story is marked by sadness. My dad grew up with an absent father. I doubt my grandfather ever taught my dad how to fish, tie a windsor knot, fix a car or shoot a basket. I doubt my grandfather ever put his arm around my dad and said  “Jerry, this is who you are” or “Son, this is what I love about you. This is the gold I see in you.”

As a result, I also believe that my dad didn’t know how to give those teaching moments — or the blessings — to me. Fortunately, I’ve had help as I move through my own journey of fatherhood so I can give something better to my daughter. I thank God for connecting me with The Crucible Project. For the last eight years, this global community of Christian men has been helping me make up for lost time. First and foremost, they inspire me to be more Christlike. And from there, they encourage me to be a God-honoring husband, father, brother and son. These brothers motivate me to be a man who will bless my family with my love, my time and my teaching.

Dads Camp

The basketball court dynamic got me to thinking … What do I teach my daughter? Am I an ordinary dad? Or am I like basketball court dad?

Sadly, the answer for me is ordinary. Most of the time. To be clear, I’m not being hard on myself. Sure … I teach my little girl lots of things. I’m not a slug. But do I have the same level of intentionality as I witnessed from basketball court dad? The truth is … not as much as I’d like.

The good news is that my daughter (Claire) has made it easy for me. A few years ago, we made our first trip to a wonderful Dads Camp that our church runs. The camp is designed to get dads away from the everyday distractions of life so that we can invest intentionally in our kids. One-on-one. 12 hours away and deep in the woods of Northern Michigan.

The core values of the Dads Camp jive pretty well with what The Crucible Project teaches us:

  1. Say yes to your child
  2. Encourage each other
  3. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself
  4. Listen to God
  5. Go at your own pace

The part of Dads Camp that Claire and I treasure most is our one-on-one time. We’ve modeled those values during our one-on-one time. As a result, we’ve had our best conversations ever up at camp.

In our first year, one of the teachings was on Deuteronomy 6:7. And, for our one-on-one time we were encouraged to ask our girls a couple of questions such as: What do you think is one thing that I have tried to teach you?

Claire came up with a few things. But, what she spent more time on were the other things that she hadn’t learned from me yet. It was a much longer list. She was thirsty. I’m thumbing through that journal now. Here’s a few of the things I wrote down as fast as she was rattling them off to me. “Dad, teach me:”

  • How to pitch and hit a baseball
  • How to ride a bike
  • Play soccer
  • About birds, horses and spiders
  • Electricity, energy and magnets
  • How to drive (a little early for that one, Claire!)
  • More about the Bible and God

She was 8 when she came up with these. She’s 12 now. I’ve done OK on that list. But, if I’m honest, not all of them are checked. And, if I’m brutally honest, I was probably “present” when I was teaching her those things, but  I wasn’t “engaged” like basketball court dad. To say that I was equipping her during those times would be a stretch. That’s why watching basketball court dad was such a wake-up call for me.

A Different Kind Of Christmas Gift

This Christmas, I’ve decided to give Claire a different kind of gift. One you can’t buy, wrap or stuff in a bag:

  • First, I’ll give her a blessing. I’ll put my arm around her and tell her what I love about her. I’ll describe to her the gold I see in her character and unique wiring.
  • Next, I’ll promise to give her more of my time. I’m talking about basketball court dad kind-of-time. Intentional. Engaged. All in.
  • And finally, I’ll teach her rest of the things she wants to learn, as well as the new things that she needs to learn from me.

All inspired by basketball court dad. I don’t know who he was, but I’m so thankful that I got to watch him for a few Saturday mornings.

Our kids are thirsty for us, men. They are craving our love, time and teaching.  It just may be the best gift we could ever give.

By Jeff Madsen

Jeff completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2008 and graduated from our two-year transformational program. His mission is to build a legacy of surrender, simplicity and significance. Jeff is the owner of Legacy Nation LLC, an independent corporate communications practice based in suburban Chicago. He is passionate about equipping men with a LifePlan so they can discover their God-given legacies.

Photo Credit: Stock photo – Google Images