There’s a degree of mystery surrounding my father’s life that will forever remain unsolved. I remember listening to Dad as he shared stories about his younger days playing baseball. Of particular interest were the stories he told from the year he played with the Detroit Tigers.
I can’t prove that he actually did play pro-ball with that team for several reasons: he’s dead, which complicates asking any follow-up questions. And, as I described in my first book, Finding Home, there’s a lingering issue regarding our real last name. There’s evidence that my parents changed their last name somewhere along the way so it’s impossible to verify his claim that he once wore a Detroit Tigers jersey.
My dad was very good at baseball, that much is true. He did coach Little League for years and even taught my brothers Mike and Dave how to play. Sadly, my father didn’t take the same interest with me. If he, like many Dads that I know, had dreams for me to follow in his footsteps, I am unaware of them.
And while Dad didn’t invest his coaching skills into me, I, nevertheless, fell in love with baseball and football. In fact, I worked hard to become the starting quarterback in high school and had high aspirations of playing college ball.
Unlike my dad, there’s no mystery about the fact that I’d like for my boys to develop a love for sports—especially for football. Even before I was married, I always dreamed of one day having boys with whom I could throw the ball. I looked forward to the day when I could go to their games and maybe even coach their teams.
That said, when Trent, our oldest, was a toddler, Jean asked me a difficult question: “Jim, what if our sons want to play the violin instead of football?” Talk about being ambushed by an idea I had never considered.
After weighing that possibility, I resolved myself to be “Okay” with, and supportive of, the personality and interests that God gave them. As the boys grew older, we signed them up to play T-ball in the local baseball league and then football. We made a point of asking them first whether or not they’d like to play a sport and tried hard not to push them into a particular direction.
A year ago the boys agreed to try playing flag football. I was excited. Perhaps my dreams for them would be realized. At first I sensed real enthusiasm on their part. Trent hung in there and played the season, but I could see he wasn’t terribly excited about going to the practices or games. Troy, however, ended up playing on the nearby playground rather than in the game on Saturdays. Surprisingly, Jean struggled with this more than I did. I figured that Troy would play football when—and if—he was ready.
Several months ago we received an email from their coach asking whether the boys wanted to play football again this spring. As before, we put the question to the boys. While the thought of them playing football is my dream, it might not be their dream. I was mentally prepared for them to decline after last year’s mixed reviews. Much to my surprise, both enthusiastically said they wanted to play this year.
So far, they’ve been doing great. Troy is having fun while Trent is especially excited about the season. If down the road, however, one or both of them decide football isn’t their game, I’ll support them. Of course, this requires me to set aside my aspirations for them and allow them to discover their likes and dislikes, and their skills and particular gifting for themselves. I’m okay with that.
By the way, they both declined violin lessons.