Fall Football and My Dad

Fall is here and that means football season in the South.  This also marks the time of year when I spend a lot of quality time with my dad.  Most fall Saturday’s, you can be certain we have fun and learn a little from each other.

Football has always been a common bond between my dad and I.  My dad was a high school teacher and  football coach before he took a supervisor position at a manufacturing plant.  After he stopped coaching, we were always going to high school games.  The first games I remember were at the high school where he coached.  I got to run around on the field a little and get a behind the scenes feel.  Later in life we went to games where I would attend high school.

We lived in an area with quality high school football.  There was a strong rivalry between the two big schools in our town and both programs were competitive on the state level.  We didn’t miss too many games in my youth.  Friday night, we would be at the high school game and Saturday morning, I was playing youth football.

My dad worked the 11pm to 7am shift at Phillip Morris, so he was in bed until dinner time during the work week.  However, during football season, he was always up early to take me to football practice.  I rarely missed a practice and he was always there.  While I’m sure it was a grind for him to get me to practice Monday through Thursday, he enjoyed watching practice and talking with the other dads that stayed for practice.  Even though he had a coaching background, he never interfered with my coaches and never pressured me to play.

I ended up playing through my Sophomore year of high school, but gave up the sport before my Junior year.  I had lost my interest in playing.  I was pretty miserable, but I was a productive player for the team and felt a pressure to continue.  My biggest problem was I had simply lost my love for playing the game.  I still loved the game, but I hated the grind and pressure I felt.  Quitting was difficult, but my dad supported me.  He did not question my decision and after the decision was made, I never looked back.

My choice in Universities was directly influenced by football.  We’re from Virginia, and my sister chose to go to the University of South Carolina when she graduated high school two years prior to me.  USC is in the Southeastern Conference for most athletics.  The SEC is one of the most storied football conferences in the nation.  It didn’t take long for my dad to join the Gamecock Club and get season tickets.

While South Carolina was not the best football program in the SEC, they played all of the best teams.  With season tickets, we were able to see some of the best teams in the nation come to Columbia.  We would pack up Friday after school and make the six hour ride to Columbia.  We would tailgate on Saturday, watch the game and then head back home on Sunday morning.

The view from the seats we've been in for the past 10+ years.

The view from the seats we’ve been in for the past 10+ years.

Needless to say, I followed my sister to USC after my graduation.  We continued to attend football games even though the team got worse during my four years.  Following my graduation and a short stay in Virginia, I ended up back in South Carolina with my wife to start our family.  My dad held on to his season tickets.  He and my mom would stay the weekend with my family and we continued to go to football games.

All of this was quality time that I hadn’t had with my dad growing up.  He no longer had the pressure of supporting us and was able to retire early.  I started to get to know a relaxed and fun side of my dad that I never really saw growing up.  While the entire family doesn’t always go to games, my dad and I are at almost all.  We leave a few hours prior to the game, drink a few beers, eat some food and enjoy the time together.

During our time together at games, I think we’ve learned a lot about each other and from each other.  While my wife deserves the majority of credit for my transformation as a dad, my time with my dad has had a major influence.  He’s a different person now that he’s retired.  His change has helped me realize that you’re much happier putting family first.  My sister and I had everything growing up.  If I had realized the pressure he was under to support us, I would have sacrificed material items so he could relax and enjoy.

A big thanks to my dad for showing me how to be a man and helping to influence me to be a better dad.

What kind of events/traditions do you have with your dad?  Post in the comments below.