Column: Showing up for your kids before too late

BOB DeSTEFANO

BOB DeSTEFANO

It’s the middle of January and on Shelter Island my idea of fun is watching high school sports even if I have to do a little traveling. Last Friday night I journeyed to Southold to watch our Shelter Island Indians junior varsity and varsity play basketball against the Southold Settlers.

To my amazement I discovered that I wasn’t the only person that had their fun watching basketball. The gym was overflowing with sports fans from both the Island and Southold. They all seemed to know their seating place, with the Islanders on one side and Southold on the other.

Although the games were great that particular night my attention was on the people in the bleachers. As I looked around I couldn’t help but notice how many parents, grandparents and family members of the players were sitting in the stands. Even our cheerleaders thought it was important enough to come over to Southold and support their team. They were not allowed to cheer on the floor; but believe me they made their presence known in the bleachers.

For those of you under 50, you won’t remember what I’m going to say but my age group doesn’t recall seeing family, parents and especially not grandparents at any of our games. As a kid I played all sports and regrettably my parents never saw me even once hit a baseball, shoot a basketball, kick a soccer ball or hit a golf shot. I was not alone because all my friend’s family members never saw them play a game, either.

It was an interesting time of life when we played without any adult supervision; we made up our own games and called penalties on ourselves. I don’t recall any real fights we had concerning the rules of the games. If you were an outstanding player you didn’t have to say a word, every kid knew it. Being a good player made you either become a captain or you were first picked every time. Unfortunately if you were the last picked you also knew how well you played, but you were a kid and that was the way things were done. Later in life you discovered that you were much better at many other things and you found your happiness and success.

We, of course were in the post-war era and our parents were picking up the pieces of their lives after World War II. They had important priorities; working hard just to give their families a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Still, I wished my parents could have seen me play. Sometimes I would see my Dad walking from his car and wish that he would just look over and see me hit a ball. I wish I could have played catch with him, even once, but it never happened. I so wanted him to be proud of me. Dad died at 49. I was already a golf professional and won my share of golf tournaments, but still missing for me was to never have played golf with him.

After Dad died, I went to his place of employment. He ran a fishing pier in Long Branch, New Jersey. On his bulletin board was every clipping from the local papers on my sports accomplishments. Although he was gone, these clippings along with talking to his fellow workers convinced me that all this time I had made my father pleased. They said he talked about me all the time and knew everything I was doing. I had no idea.

So when I go to a game and I see all the players’ family in the stands I can’t help but think of how much I would have loved it. I hope the kids of today still want to make their parents proud of them and realize how lucky they are to have them watching their games. I also applaud the parents of today for making time with your children your priority in life.

Keep it going!

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