Fathering and Physical & Athletic Development
"The most important...work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes."-Harold B. LeeContent
OverviewThe involved father is likely to have significant influence on his child's body image, fitness, and interest in athletics because of the time spent playing sports with his children (Biller, 1993, p. 153). These activities may range from helping a child learn to walk to helping train them in the hurdles. No matter how diverse these activities may be, they all seem to have the ability to develop cherished memories that last a lifetime.
StoriesBiller (1993, p. 162) suggests that when fathers support their daughter's physical competence, it enhances her self confidence, assertiveness, and potential for success in athletics. In the following example of Ethical work, this daughter shares an experience of how her father's support during an annual school race helped her.
"Each year, the physical education department of my junior high school sponsored a 3 mile fun run, named the 'Cougar Challenge.' Students and parents were encouraged to enter the race. As members of the basketball team, my coach told us that we were required to run the race, which was to be held early on a Saturday morning. I decided to ask my father, who is a seasoned runner, to participate in the race. Since my father was always looking for a race to run in, he naturally accepted the invitation. We ran a couple of times before the race and he gave me pointers. We even went to the junior high and ran the course we would run for the race. The day of the Cougar Challenge arrived. We got to the school and stretched and warmed up together. Many people were there, including many of my friends and their fathers and/or mothers. Since many of these people were also our neighbors, my father knew them and acknowledged their presence. My dad joked around with them about placing bets on which one of them would win their division. The race began. We got a good start and established a pace that was faster than what I was used to running. We pulled ahead of my friends quickly. I expected my father to eventually pass me up and I even challenged him before the race to run hard and beat my physical education teachers. As we ran, though, he never left my side. My pace started to slow as the race progressed, which slowed him down a great deal. But he never pulled ahead, though it would have been so easy for him to do so. Gradually, my friends' fathers started to pass us up -- the same ones that my father had jokingly challenged before the race. They had passed up their daughters, and they were competing fiercely among themselves. My dad kept by my side, though, encouraging me to push harder. As a result, I placed third out of all the girls in the school who ran it. My father didn't place. It was the hardest race I have ever ran, and I would not have done so well if he hadn't stayed by my side, prodding and encouraging me to do my best. Given the competitive nature of my father, what he did was an extremely unselfish act and typifies his character."
Fathers play an important role in nurturing their child's sense of bodily adequacy and self-esteem (Biller, 1993, p. 153). This father shares the joy both he and his son felt when he was able to teach his handicapped son how to make hand gestures to a song.This story illustrates Develpment work.
"When he (a son with Down Syndrome) was about two years old and we were living in Pittsburgh I was home babysitting. It must have been Saturday. Pam and our other child were off somewhere and he and I were playing. I taught him and he learned the hand expressions to the song 'Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree.' He and I sat and sang and played that all afternoon on that day. It took all afternoon but he did learn, and by the time his Mom got home he knew it. It was pretty amazing. He has no recollection of that at all, but for me that is the most enjoyable experience that I can think of with him."
A father's positive involvement in encouraging his children's interest in athletic activities can contribute in significant ways to the child's personal and social adjustment (Biller, 1993, p. 163). In the following story illustrating Relationship work, a son expresses gratitude for his father's undeviating support both in and out of athletics.
"The one that sticks out was when I was wrestling in high school. I was going for the state championship. He and all my brothers were there -- there are six boys in the family, so there were five boys there with Dad. You wrestle with all these other guys all year round, but he was there when I won. I didn't care about everybody else -- Dad was there. That's the way he's always been. Every football game I ever played he was always there. He's always been there. I'll just always remember him there, no matter what. We were in a state championship game in football and it came down to a last-second field goal. I was the field goal kicker and I missed it. I went home and was going to go with some friends somewhere. Dad was out cutting wood and feeding the horses, and I went and talked to him. He just said, Well, sometimes you do and sometimes you don't.' But I could always talk to Dad and tell him anything, no matter what I did, whether it was wrong or right. You could always tell Dad, and he always stood behind you."
In the following experience a father learns the fleeting and irreplaceable nature of developmental events.
"He had something like a book and asked me to sit down with him. I didn't have the time. I don't know if it was something he was doing or something he said, but something let me know that was the moment he needed to practice his verbal skills or his interaction skills. I said to myself, 'I'll never let a moment like that pass again,' and I haven't . . . It has kind of been my stimulus to never let it happen again. I had a similar experience at the other place we lived. One of the kids was out trying to ride a bicycle and I came home. One of the kids asked me to come out and help them learn to ride or watch them, and I went out there in pain. I thought, 'I don't know why I'm doing this,' but something forced me to go out and suffer some more. But she learned to ride the bike that day. I just held her up for a second and ran along by her and next thing I knew she was riding the bike . . . You do learn things almost instantaneously when they do happen, and if you miss that moment then you've missed the moment. There is nothing else you can say . . . You have to do them or you miss them forever, and I mean forever . . . I don't want those moments to pass with me and my children."
A father's positive acceptance of his child's gender and bodily appearance has a great impact on the child's concept of a healthy body image (Biller, 1993, p. 168). Although the child in this story is only three months old, the father's expressed appreciation and wonder in his growing son's physical development may also encourage later development of his son's healthy body image.
"When Stan was three months old I laid him in the bottom of the tub and put in a washcloth so he wouldn't slide around. I put him in the bottom of the tub and slowly filled it with water until it was at his ear level, so that I knew if he turned one way or the other he could at least be safe. He didn't have very good motor movement at the time as a baby and was sort of jerky, but once he got into the water like that almost immediately his motor coordination began. I don't know how to explain it, but he started kicking and moving his arms, he brightened up and there was something almost transcendental about the moment of looking into his eyes while he was there in the water and he was making a moment of progression in his body. Somehow he was on his own. It's very difficult to explain it, but you could see the water, his eyes and the sky in all that one moment. It was just an important moment for me. . . . It may just be because you have moments when you look at people and there is a connection there which is inexplicable. I can't explain it. I looked into his eyes and said something. It was just a tie between father and child."
A father, through Development work, levels the playing field only to be out done by his son.
*"My son Jeffrey is just getting to the age where he is proficient athletically. A few weeks back we were playing racquetball and I was being generous to keep the game close. After one particularly obvious feigned miss he turned to me and said, 'Dad, why do you keep giving me points? Why don't you just play your best?' Apparently he didn't like my patronizing play. Then a thought came to me. Jeffrey is a Southpaw. I said, 'OK, but we both have to play with our left hands.' He smiled and I switched hands with the racquet. Then we both played our hearts out. He won two games to one and we were both enthusiastic about playing again. The competition was exhilarating but it didn't really matter who won."
*These stories are taken from the DAD/S newsletter with permission by its editor Jeff Hill.
ConclusionFatherWork is being involved in the lives of one's children. As a father becomes involved in the physical or athletic development of his children he assumes the position of coach, and a good coach is much like a good father. Good coaches have a great influence on their players both on and off the court. This off-court influence is derived from the great amount of time they have spent working with their players on the court, growing close to them, learning of their strengths, weaknesses, and needs, encouraging them when they struggle, and always believing in them; likewise is the stewardshipof the father. Whether he is running alongside a wobbling bike, playing his child in a match of one-on-one, or patching up a child's confidence after a bad game, a father's hand of encouragement will stay with the child far beond the court upon which they play. Fathers, as you coach your children in their physical development and athletics, you will find that they will develop confidence and learn to be a team player. With you as their coach, your children will know that they can succeed both in the arena of sports and on the field life.More metaphors about fathering
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