Family Man Joins Life of Dad for Dads Doing Good Video

I had an amazing time working once again with director David Guest from Life of Dad for an installment of their Dads Doing Good video series, sponsored by Honda. In this video, we transported a bunch of materials and equipment in two spiffy Honda Odysseys to a baseball field in Hawthorne, California. There, David, contractor Ken Pepper, and a bunch of dedicated coaches/dads went to work improving a Little League Baseball field. Along with help from the kids at the Holly Park Little League and a film crew (including my own 15 year old son), we spent the day refurbishing a backstop, painting and putting up safety boards along the bottom of the fences, and installing a new pitching mound and pitcher’s rubber. We also presented the hard-working kids with new bats, balls, and helmets. What was especially impactful was getting to know the number of league coaches, who talked about giving back to their community as fathers and role models as they teach the kids to pitch, hit, throw, catch, and run. The video below tells the rest of the story in ways words just can’t convey. Special thanks for Tom Riles and his crew at Life of Dad for including me on this project.

Posted in Activities With Kids, Blog, Family Man Recommends, Film,, Sports, Video | Leave a comment

Spectator Sports

By Gregory Keer

RaismanParentsAmidst all the splashing, dribbling, and leaping of this summer’s Olympics, one of the most memorable spectator sports involved Aly Raisman’s parents bobbing and weaving with every move their daughter made in her high-flying gymnastic pursuits. As a kid, I imagined what it might be like to flip and run like Olympians did, but as a (much less physically adept) adult, I identified with those parents. I felt the tension as they watched their daughters’ years of training be put to the test and I channeled their emotions with each result.

I also ran a script in my mind of the conflicting thoughts they must have had:

“Is my child feeling too nervous? Is she proud of what she’s accomplishing?”


“All that damn money and years of support had better have been worth it.”

There really is no way around this double-edged sword of a parent’s perspective. Try as we might to separate ourselves from our child’s endeavors, to be selfless, we have a lot invested. As such, it’s easy to get caught between what’s in it for our kids and what’s in it for us.

For parents, having children involved in sports — or any other extra-curricular endeavor that sucks up time like an industrial sponge — means serious parental sacrifice. You must shuttle them everywhere, sit there while they practice, and make sure it all works within the family’s schedule.

Somehow, my wife and I have navigated through a multitude of after-school athletics for our three boys. It’s often worn us out, but we’ve wanted them to try everything, to love sports and know how to play them for the benefit of their bodies, minds, and sociability. And, for me, I’ve enjoyed seeing my flesh and blood achieve on the playing fields.

But my perspective took on a new level of clarity a year ago, when our nine year old was recommended to join a competitive gymnastics team. For his part, Jacob was happy to be recognized for his accomplishment after months of hard work and we were pleased for him. Who wouldn’t be proud of their kid’s achievement?

Well, there was something else. There were our own feelings of how an ambitious team commitment would affect Jacob’s daily life and, yes, our lives. As two parents with full-time jobs and two other children to care for, this would have a domino effect on everyone.

So we went to a team orientation where more experienced parents explained that practices included two three-hour practices on weekdays and full-Saturday workouts. For meets, the time chunk would balloon and there would be travel throughout the year to places all over the region and, depending on how the team fared, to various parts of the country. If Jacob were to do well enough, he was looking at an even more rigorous regime in the years to come.

Wendy and I went home from that meeting with a sinking feeling. We just couldn’t imagine managing that kind of schedule. Also, we weren’t sure we wanted our son to endure so much competitive pressure in the pursuit of medals and the dim possibility of collegiate or Olympic glory. Further research revealed that the pounding his body would take often results in injuries, some of which could permanently affect him.

We went to our son and asked him, “Do you really want this?”

“I don’t know,” he said, a little anxiously.

We then explained our concerns, though we pledged that if it was something he strongly desired, we would find a way to make it work.

“Would I still be able to have dinner and go on vacations with the family?” he asked.

We were honest: “Probably not as often as we do now.”

“You’re my mom and dad,” he said. “I want you to decide what’s best for me.”

I have to admit I was tempted to sign him up, not just for him but for my dream of seeing my kid win medals. But the decision came down to the meaning behind our son’s primary questions.

Jacob has since gone on to play soccer, flag football, and run track. He says, now, he’d like to do gymnastics sometime, but not with a team. He wants to do it for fun.

Oh, yeah, fun.

No matter what we parents want for our children when they engage in sports, it has to be about enjoyment, above all else. Sure, one day, these athletic experiences may help our children compete better in all aspects of life and it may aid them in being excellent teammates and co-workers. But, unless it’s something a child has a singular passion for, no sport is worth giving up a balanced life of family, friends, school, and other hobbies. And it certainly isn’t worth it for the sake of a parent’s own sense of self worth.

Focusing on the kids’ joy and balance. Now those are things really worth cheering about.

Posted in Columns by Family Man, Sports | 2 Comments

Monster on Board

By Gregory Keer

For years, my 13 year old looked the part of a skateboarder. Benjamin rocked the latest Vans shoes (is it me or do they have a shelf life of three weeks?) and RVCA shirts (can we work on catchier acronyms, people?). He could also spout specifics about longboards versus short ones and explain why certain wheels were better for tricks than others.

Funny thing is, he wouldn’t actually step on a piece of rolling wood. Not even to go across the back patio.

But recently, after his long stretch of feeling too clumsy to look cool on a board, Benjamin found friends willing to show him patience as he learned to wheel around the neighborhood on plywood and pituitary power. As long as Benjamin demonstrated caution and good judgment, we allowed him to travel everywhere from his friends’ houses to the mall.

My wife and I delighted in the exercise and confidence he gained in his jaunts around town. He was never much of a cyclist, so this was a real advancement for him. And there was the added benefit of not having to drive him everywhere. Yay for us, we thought. We were shedding our overprotective nature to allow our son to spread his wings.

Then came the scrapes and bruises from minor tumbles on concrete.

“You should wear your helmet the next time you ride,” I suggested to my son, following his longest skateboard trek yet.

Whatever goodwill I had built up for giving him his four-wheel freedom rolled away.

“No one’s parents make them wear a helmet,” he shot back.

I thought about this for a moment. He was right. I never saw kids wearing protective skull gear out on the streets.

“Helmets look ridiculous,” he pointed out.

“Accidents look worse,” I scored.

“Only people doing tricks at skate parks have to wear them,” he added.

Another point for the 13 year old.

I relented. I know, I know, it was the wrong decision, but there’s still time for me to redeem myself.

Another week went by. Wendy and I discussed it ad nauseum and decided to put our collective foot down.

“I’ll buy you the coolest helmet on the market if you’ll wear it,” I offered.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he replied.

Still, I brought him to the skate shop nearby where I asked the sales guy to convince Benjamin about helmets.

“Uh, most kids don’t wear ‘em,” he droned. Well, that wasn’t much help.

Walking out of the store without a new helmet, Benjamin threatened us.

“I won’t skateboard ever again if you make me wear one.”

I have to hand it to the kid. He knew we might cave if we thought he’d return to his traditional couch potato lifestyle.

We stuck to our guns. Benjamin stuck to his — for two days before asking me to bring the board to the park, where he was helping younger kids in after-school groups. He was hoping I’d forget about the helmet so he could skate to his friend’s house after work.

I brought the board and helmet to him at the end of the day.

“I’m not wearing this thing,” he groused.

“Do you know how many parents we’ve talked to who have given us horror stories of kids they know with brain injuries?”

“Not from riding on the sidewalk,” he snarled.

“Even from riding on the sidewalk,” I said. “One boy hit a stupid pebble, landed on his head, and is still in a coma.”

“Well, it’s your problem for talking to other parents,” he reasoned.

We argued back and forth with me finally throwing up my hands and leaving him in the parking lot, the helmet hanging limply from his hand.

Seconds later, I received a text: “I hate you! I’m not going 2 talk u 4 the rest of the week.”

As ridiculous as that sounds now, it stung when I read it at the time.

“I don’t hate you, though,” I texted back. “I just want you to be safe.”

“But I hate u,” was all I got in response.

I stewed in self-pity and anger until my wife got home.

“He said what to you?” she fumed. “That’s it. Play date’s over.”

We picked up Benjamin from his friend’s house and told him he was grounded until further notice.

Now for my redemption. Benjamin didn’t complain about being embarrassed in front of his buddy. He apologized for his rudeness to me. At home, he hugged me a lot.

This is not to say that our son hasn’t tried to raise the helmet issue again, but he has made wearing it a habit. He’s also been a nicer kid to us than he has been since adolescence kicked in.

I’d like to think that it’s because we set boundaries for him. While it’s often painful to bicker with our beloved child and uncomfortable to curb his burgeoning independence, my wife and I are doing our own growing up as parents. We’ve learned that however monstrous our son may seem in fighting against us, we’d rather avoid the scarier consequences of not drawing the line on safety.

Posted in Adolescence, Columns by Family Man, Holidays, Sports, Teens | 1 Comment

What Dads Need to Know: Five Ways to Raise an Athlete

By Terri Orbuch, PhD

When I was younger, I played competitive tennis in the fall on my high school tennis team, played on the badminton team in the winter, ran for track and field in the spring, and taught tennis in the summers to young children.

As a result of being an athlete, I learned coordination, leadership, team spirit, physical strength, and interpersonal skills. I learned how to cope with loss, frustration, and sheer exhaustion. I was taught to respect my coaches, support my team members, and challenge myself. In fact, sports taught me lessons and skills I would not have easily learned elsewhere. Besides, being an athlete was fun.

That’s why I was saddened to read that, according to the National Alliance for Sports, 20 million kids register each year for youth hockey, football, baseball, soccer, and other competitive sports, but about 70 percent of these kids quit playing these league sports by age 13 — and never play them again. The number one reason they quit, says Michael Pfahl, executive director of the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, “is that it stopped being fun.”

That’s a shame, because the benefits for kids of staying active are many. How can we as parents help our children have fun being athletic? Here are some guidelines.

Get to the root of the issue.

If your child announces that she’s quitting the team, gets anxious before practice, or decides not to try out, find out why. Is she getting harassed by older or better players? Does she routinely get benched or yelled at by the overzealous coach? Is she feeling pressure to perform — either from her teammates or possibly even from you? Some questions to ask: How do you feel about the other kids on the team? How’s the coach treating you? How do you feel about your skills and how you’re doing on the team? Is it fun? If not, why not?

Become more involved.

If you suspect bullying by peers or unfair treatment by the coach, consider attending some practices to see if you can observe the problem firsthand. Another strategy is to get involved with the team, by manning the snack bar, hosting a team party, or being a volunteer scorekeeper, team photographer, or equipment manager. Coaches and teammates appreciate involved parents, and it’s great for your child’s morale.

Keep an upbeat attitude.Your child’s participation in sports is strongly affected by your attitude, so be aware of your words and behavior toward the sport, the coach, the referee or ump, and his teammates. If you’re overly concerned with winning, it sends a negative message to your child. But when you have a positive attitude about his participation (even if he loses, sits on the bench, plays people who are way out of his league, or fails miserably), he’ll imitate your behavior. Don’t be the parent who yells at the coach or refs. And be proud of your child for giving it “his best,” even when he loses.

Find a “sport” your child loves.Not all kids perceive themselves as athletic or oriented toward “sports.” The key is to identify an activity that resonates for your child. For example, does you child love to sketch? Then maybe hiking and birdwatching with a portable easel is the ticket. Is your child noncompetitive? How about biking or skateboarding for him? Is your child theatrical? Sign her up for hip-hop dance studio. From pep squad and marching band to archery and rock climbing, there are so many “sports” for kids that you and your child should be able to come up with something your child loves that develops physical skills. As for competitive team sports, think creatively: ping-pong, badminton, ultimate Frisbee, and bowling are some examples. If it’s not offered at school, find a community organization that sponsors one of these teams.

Keep them engaged with support.Don’t forget that children who are happy in their chosen sport need support too. You can encourage them to stay on course by taking an interest. Just like anything else your child does, your involvement is key to their success in that activity. You don’t have to be the coach, but try to go to their games, practice with them at home, help them pick out the right equipment or clothes, and make sure they get to practices. Even though they may love to play, they want you to feel proud of them too.

Keeping your child connected to sports they enjoy and helping them become passionate about physical activities they love is a gift from you that keeps on giving. Just as kids who grow up eating healthfully eventually adopt these good habits later in life once they’re on their own, being physically active and having positive associations with sports during youth encourages children to remain physically active as adults.

Terri Orbuch PhD, known as The Love Doctor, has been a practicing marriage and relationship therapist for more than 20 years, and is a popular love advisor on radio, TV, Huffington Post, and, most recently seen on NBC’s Today. A research professor at the Institute for Social Research at University of Michigan, and a professor at Oakland University, she is author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great (Random House), as well as a forthcoming book on finding love again after divorce. Find out more at

Posted in Activities With Kids, Featured Moms & Dads, Sports | 1 Comment

Kids Bowl Free This Summer

Go to and sign up for 2 free games of bowling all summer long. Parents may choose to upgrade (completely optional) to a family pass for around $30. Then, the family can bowl 2-games for free all summer long! Most bowling centers will offer this program till the end of August, but check with them for the specific end date.

Posted in Blog, Free Stuff, Sports | 1 Comment

Baseball Smells

By Gregory Keer

For many fans of baseball, the game smells like mitt leather, infield dirt, and roasted peanuts. For me, it smells like my dad. A combination of deodorant soap, the faint whiff of a workday’s sweat, and the pumpkin seeds he loves to munch.

While I don’t make a habit out of recalling how my dad smells, that paternal scent comes through because we hug a lot at the game, whether it’s singing with our arms around each other’s shoulders during the seventh-inning stretch or embracing after a winning hit.

The baseball milieu is a kind of center for my father and me. Outside of the celebratory hugging, it’s a catalyst for our communication. We talk endlessly about the match at hand, the players, and the history of various teams. While others note that watching baseball is akin to waiting for dial-up service to deliver a YouTube video, the slowness of it allows us to warm up to more complex topics. In between pitches and line drives, my old man has taught me how to be a student, a worker, a son, a husband, and a father.

Dating back to 1970, I can trace most of my relationship with my dad with the pencil of the grand old game. I was a four year old, standing in the kitchen of our Northridge, California, home when I asked my father where I was born.

“In Cincinnati, Ohio,” he said. “They have a good baseball club there called the Reds.”

“That’s going to be my team,” I announced.

From then on, my dad and I had baseball in common, even though he rooted for his hometown White Sox and adopted city’s Dodgers while I cheered for the Big Red Machine.

Over the years, bats swung and balls flew through so many key moments. There was the night we watched Carlton Fisk break my heart with a towering home run to beat the Reds in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. My dad taught me about keeping the faith, which made even more sense when my team won the final game of the series.

That lesson of hope deepened for me following my parents’ divorce in ‘77. My dad struggled to sort through both of our emotions back then, so he reached into baseball and wrote me a poem called “The Cincinnati Kid.” In it, he told me to never lose my sense of wonder and belief in the positive. The poem helped give me strength that my real team, my family, would be all right in the long run.

In the ‘80s, my dad’s baseball wisdom permeated my years of high school and college. I wrestled with fluctuating grades and a rollercoaster dating life, but my father was always there to take me to a ballgame or just watch one on TV. It didn’t matter that our teams stank in those years or that we sometimes fell out of sync with each other while I stressed over my direction in life. We had the ballpark and telecasts to reconnect us.

During the 1990s, I concentrated on building a marriage and the more acute concerns of making a living. I often felt more distanced from my father, who, like a steady hitter, never lunged at a pitch or offered unsolicited advice. He let me figure things out, preferring to show trust that my strikeouts would dwindle as I found my own approach to handling life’s curveballs.

These days, we’ve added fantasy baseball, a consuming preoccupation of statistics and strategy that keeps my dad and I talking more than ever. To others, especially our wives, it sounds frivolous, but to my dad and me, it’s a level playing field on which we compete as equals. Occasionally, my dad takes my advice on players to put in his fantasy lineup, a reversal from the years when he was the one imparting all the insight to me.

But we still go to the ballpark. It’s a place where, now, my own sons frequently join us. My dad and I continue our traditions and our talks, even as my kids tug at our elbows for more Cracker Jacks or explanations of why the Dodgers don’t hit more home runs. And the smells of the game remain, too. They’re as comforting as the first time I hugged my father.

Posted in Columns by Family Man, Sports | Leave a comment

One-Armed Coaching

By Gregory Keer

Game 8 of the Little Jammers basketball season is due to tip off in 20 minutes. Already exhausted after a full-court game of “catch the screaming toddler” at home, I herd my team of 4- to 6-year-old Bruins for warm-ups on the grass outside the gym. Because Jacob (age 2) wants to escape to the sandbox to eat a granular breakfast, I have to hold him while leading a series of jumping jacks, stretches, and defensive drills. My son Benjamin (5) clowns around, giddily clashing with my authority. Help is nowhere in sight, since my wife Wendy is at a conference and my talented co-coach Lee is moonlighting at Little League.

Inside, the claustrophobic gym is deafeningly loud. Players’ family members crowd the skimpy sidelines like fans at a U2 concert, camcorders at the ready. As the kids shoot lay-ups, my friend Ronnie takes Jacob off my hands and two dads, Rick and Brian, jump in to help direct our rag-tag team of hoopsters.

The whistle blows and we’re off. Our team is skilled for their age, but the other squad looks as if they’ve taken steroids. They shoot and rebound over our smaller guys, and I’m not helping much as I run up and down the court, shouting directions to my kids as if they’re NCAA champs. I get so involved in the coaching that I find myself in the free-throw lane, coaxing our center, Grant, to box out for a rebound. While Grant stares at me as if I’m speaking Greek, the referee has to ask me to go to my corner of the court, where Jacob runs to me for attention. Preoccupied by the game, I hurry him back to Ronnie.

Five minutes elapse and a fresh unit comes in. I set them up in their numbered positions (the court is marked off in boxes for each player’s area). Benjamin is in this group, which adds more pressure because, well, he’s my son. As the action kicks in, he keeps his hands up in perfect defensive stance   — while he’s playing offense. Benjamin watches a pass go right by him, but man, he looks great as a rebound bounces off his well-positioned hands and into the more aggressive arms of the opponent. Benjamin runs down, with NBA style and a world-class smile, but he just can’t hear me as I yell for him to “play the ball!” Perhaps it’s because Jacob is yelling, “Benjamin! Benjamin!” before scrambling into the middle of the fray, crying for me to hold him.

With Jacob on one arm, I continue coaching my gutty little Bruins, which doesn’t get much easier. At various stages of the game, David dribbles in circles around the court, ignoring the calls of teammates and parents, let alone me. Elizabeth seems frozen in one spot as the game rushes by. Charlie plays scared after I threaten to send him to the bench for shooting from half-court three times in a row. Olivia gets slammed in the face by an errant pass. And Nicky, trying to make sense of my directions, makes a textbook pass — to me.

When the game finally ends, I am proud of our team. They eventually adjusted to the larger opponents and played them about even. Best of all, no one cried because of my crazy coaching.

Still, as I walk out of the gym with my sons, I can’t resist asking Benjamin, “Why didn’t you shoot the ball, today?”

He says, “I don’t want to shoot the ball, Daddy. I’m not going to make it anyway.

This hits me hard. The last thing I want is for my kid to feel he can’t at least try to do something. But I recognize that we’ve had this conversation before, about soccer, after he would play a whole game without a shot on goal. The reality is that Benjamin doesn’t have the motivation to dive for a ball when someone else wants it more. He doesn’t burn to score when he can make a teammate happy to get the shot. My son is a lover, not a fighter and, as a coach, this drives me nuts.

Despite my efforts to be a compassionate parent, once I step on the court, I want my kid to be the best competitor. But this is my problem. I need to help my 5-year-old son be the best athlete he wants to be. In this way, coaching is a concentrated lesson in parenting, an experiment in learning patience with my child’s progress and a reminder to find joy in small victories.

The victories do come. During the ensuing games, I manage to lessen my need to push my son (and other kids on the team) and enjoy the improvements he makes in his skills. After all, it’s the father-child bond that got me into coaching in the first place.

After the final game, I tell Benjamin, “I’m sad the season is over.”

“That’s OK,” he says. “You can still coach me at home.”

With these words, no amount of baskets or goals can make me happier.

Posted in Columns by Family Man, Sports | Leave a comment