Fields of Dreams
The kick went up. The football sailed through the uprights. “It’s good!”
What made this kick special? My fourth-grade daughter, Jessie, and I had just witnessed a field goal kicked by the first female varsity football player in her school’s history. I used the opportunity to make two important points to Jessie: “If you set a goal and work hard, you can achieve it” and “follow your dreams.”
I must admit, though, to having told friends and family members, “I’m glad I have a girl because football is such a rough sport.” It hadn’t occurred to me that my daughter might play football. I’d worry every second Jessie played, even if she had pads on her shoulders and a mouthpiece to protect her teeth. Lucky for me, at least so far, Jessie hasn’t expressed interest in football, except for cheering on her favorite high school and college teams with Dad by her side.
Speed ahead a few weeks. Our field goal kicker began the game by kicking off to the opposing team. Their player caught the ball, took a few steps left and then reversed course. He found a seam and down the field he ran to what looked like a sure touchdown. But at the 30-yard line, our field goal kicker tackled him. The home crowd’s exuberance over the tackle was short-lived, though, as a few seconds later she limped off the field with a leg injury.
The trainer looked at our kicker’s left knee as she stretched out her leg on the sideline. The kicker stood up and walked gingerly, bending over several times to inspect her knee. She didn’t return to the action.
As the game continued, I noticed a man — I’m confident the girl’s father — walk up to her on the sideline. Though I couldn’t hear the conversation, my guess is it went something like this:
“Hi, kiddo. How are you doing?”
“Dad, I injured my left knee. It really hurts.”
“We’ll get it checked out and go from there. Hang tough. For tonight, support your team from the sideline.”
Before he walked away, I saw the dad bend over and tap his daughter’s thigh pad with the back of his right hand. “By the way, nice tackle.”
The dad appeared calm, and the tap was a touching gesture. If Jessie had been the one lying on the sideline, the scene probably would have played out more like this:
I jump from the aluminum bleachers and bump into the spectator sitting next to me, knocking his hot dog from its roll. I run across the track and accidentally take out the trainer as I speed to Jessie’s side. “My baby! My baby!” I pick her up in my arms and race the 50 yards to where the ambulance is parked during each game, all the while screaming, “To the hospital!”
OK, I don’t think I’d make a good father to a football-playing daughter. Would I learn to adjust, like I’ve had to during all of Jessie’s life stages? Probably so.
Obviously, I want Jessie to follow her dreams. She’s a determined young lady, and will make her mark in this world in the fields of her choice. Like the ball kicked high at the start of this story, I know there’ll be things going up in Jessie’s future, like her hand in the classroom and her legs when she dances. Before long, she’ll be lifting her tassel at her high school graduation.
In the meantime, Jessie will know that her parents love her and are filled with pride when she excels at whatever she decides to do, whether she makes a touchdown-saving tackle or hoists a tennis trophy. I’m pulling for the latter — in doubles — with me as her partner. Hey, a dad can dream, too.
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of a monthly column titled “moMENts.” Follow Hempfing at facebook.com/patricklhempfing and twitter.com/patrickhempfing.