As a father, I have learned to never underestimate my children, especially when it comes to athletic activities.
A good example of that occurred two weeks ago with my son Grant, who is 10. I also have a daughter, Shannon, who will be 13 next month.
Grant had been bugging me about taking him to the park so he could hit some baseballs and I finally agreed. So, we filled up a backpack with gear, got on our bikes and made our way to the local park.
It was really a quintessential father-and-son moment, something that I always imagined I would love to experience with my son or daughter. Along with Shannon, Grant has knocked around baseballs and tennis balls in our yard and on our cul-de-sac before, but it was only the second time that my son and I have gone to the park and played baseball.
Never having played organized baseball, I braced for the worst when we first set up and began to play. I figured I would have to teach Grant all the basic techniques of what is a correct batting stance, the right way to hold a bat and how to hit. I was ready for the disappointment, frustration and a lot of whiffing on pitches.
So, I took my place by the pitcher's mound and prepared for a trying experience.
Much to my surprise, Grant got into the batter's box, held his bat high and stared me down like a seasoned veteran. However, looking like a slugger and actually being a slugger are two different things. I can say that I was truly shocked when Grant started belting just about every ball I sent his way. He was spraying the ball all over the infield and jacking some into the outfield; and he was hitting the ball hard! He probably connected on 90% of the balls I pitched to him. It was an amazing display.
I had no idea Grant had that amount of baseball skill.
At one point, Grant rocketed a shot back at me with such velocity that I couldn't get my glove on it. The baseball smashed into my left thigh, leaving a sizable bruise. I showed Grant the bruise a few ways later when it was a nice shade of purple and he just smiled. Little did he know, I have worn that bruise like a badge of honor for two weeks.
After we finished, we rode our bikes to get some lunch. While we were munching, I asked Grant how he learned to play baseball like that and he responded, "Oh, I play at school."
Baseball has become Grant's new favorite sport, so I know there will be a lot more trips to the park in the future. He also wants to play organized ball and I think that will be something he will enjoy.
While baseball is a fairly new endeavor for Grant, he and Shannon have been playing a wide variety of sports since they were a few years old.
They recently discontinued swimming and they both still play organized tennis. Shannon became so proficient in swimming that she excelled in the backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke. But the next step would have been competitive swimming and Shannon wanted no part of that. She says she plays sports for the fun of it, not for the competition.
Shannon is a natural athlete and she has done well in just about every sporting endeavor she has ever tried. But I never saw her as a strong runner and I figured track and field was probably one sport in which she would struggle.
Oh, how I underestimated my daughter.
One day not long ago, Shannon came home from a long day at junior high. She approached me and said she had something to tell me. She informed me that the PE coaches made her take part in track and field tryouts during her class.
"I just did it because they made us do it," Shannon said.
She went on to tell me that she had to run the 400 meters and she thought she did pretty well. She ended up finishing second in her group and the PE teacher wrote down her name to be on the school's track and field team. She also ran the 100 and had a solid time, as well.
Being a former high school track and field standout, I was beyond impressed. I really didn't think she had it in her to be a runner. I had visions of Shannon embracing the sport, running for her junior high team, moving her way up and eventually competing in high school. However, those dreams were dashed when my daughter informed me she really didn't want to be on the school team and she would rather not take part in the competitive aspect of the sport.
The last thing I want to do is force my children into something they're not comfortable with, so I abided Shannon's wishes.
I had to do the same thing with Shannon with tennis. She has been playing the sport since she was 7 and she has gotten very good at it. Her coach has told her that with her abilities, even as a seventh-grader, she is better than some of the high school players the coach has trained recently.
But Shannon said she has no interest in competing in junior tennis events and she is still debating whether to go out for her high school tennis team.
Oh well, I guess I will have to deal with that possible disappointment when it comes. But who knows, maybe she'll change her mind?
Along with athletics, Grant and Shannon have also exceeded my expectations in other areas.
Grant recently started playing the piano and taking lessons. After only a few weeks of lessons, he proved to be a quick learner. One day while I was watching television, I heard Grant playing some familiar tunes on the piano. I could distinctly make out the refrains of the songs "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea and "All of me" by John Legend. When I went over to see what music sheets Grant was reading off of, there was nothing. He informed me that he just remembered the tunes and he could repeat them on the piano by memory.
That just blew me away. I was beyond proud. That was something that I could never do and I didn't even imagine he was capable of such a feat.
I could say the same about Shannon and art. She is just an amazing artist who specializes in digital art. She has a drawing tablet that is chalk full of art, entirely of animals. Some of her pieces are so remarkable and intricate that I often stare at them and wonder how she does it. Her artistic prowess is something I never had. Hey, I can barely draw stick figures.
I guess when it comes down to it, we always want our children to be better at things than we were. We want them to exceed our abilities and our expectations and go beyond what we're able to accomplish. And for me, there is nothing more rewarding as a father than to see my children wildly exceed my expectations. That is truly a joy.
As a father, I have discovered that I will never stop learning valuable lessons from my children. And one of those lessons is to never underestimate my son or daughter. Lesson learned.
To all the fathers, happy Father's Day.
Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.