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Confessions of a Youth Sports Dad

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Basketball Player I really wanted another boy, not a girl.

As we awaited the birth of our third child, my wife and I picked out two names. We had one for a boy and one for a girl, but we were both convinced that our new baby was going to be another athletic boy.

After a thorough search of baby names, my wife suggested the name Derrick Phillip. That name sounded great to me after my wife agreed to spell “Derrick” like Derek Jeter, the great Yankee shortstop, spells his name. Two reasons: 1) I’m a huge baseball / Yankee fan and 2) the other spelling reminded me of a bully I knew in junior high. I also liked the name Phillip for a middle name and not because it’s my wife’s dad’s name. I liked it because another Yankee shortstop was named Phil too, Hall of Famer, Phil Rizzuto. Derek Phillip would be the perfect name for my future baseball-playing boy.

Twenty weeks into the pregnancy, the ultrasound confirmed we were not having a boy after all. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed. You see in the world where I grew up in New Jersey in the 70’s and 80’s, girls didn’t seem to play sports. My mom was a singer / dancer. She actually sang on American Bandstand. My two sisters showed no interest in sports beyond cheerleading for boy’s teams. And I cannot think of even one girl who I knew / dated when I was growing up who played sports. In short, outside of Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs in the battle of the sexes, I was never exposed to women’s sports.

My wife grew up a world away in Iowa and was a multi-sport athlete. She played basketball, volleyball, boy’s baseball, softball and golf. She also participated in track and field (she held her HS high jump record at one time). She eventually played softball in college. My wife was, heck is, a more accomplished athlete than I ever was.

In the early years of our marriage, my wife and I played softball and / or volleyball in co-ed leagues three nights per week. We won many league championships together. Admittedly, we won because my wife and her athletic girl friends were the difference makers. So after the initial disappointment of hearing we were having a girl, I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe my little girl would be an athlete someday too.

Well as it turned out, my daughter, now 10 years old, loves to dance, sing and act. And she is an absolute card. She is constantly making us, and others laugh. And I could not love her any more than I do.

soccer goalie She also happens to be a terrific athlete. She has excelled in sports since she was five. This year she is the star goalie for a soccer team that just finished 4th in the Ohio State Cup. She also happens to play point guard for a 4th grade AAU basketball team that has a very serious chance to win a National title. They already won the AAU Ohio Super Regional and Ohio District.

Ironically, she is a better athlete than her two brothers and that’s saying something. She has talent, but more importantly, she is self-motivated and has boundless confidence. These traits make her a better athlete than I ever was. There I said it. A 10-year-old girl is a better athlete than I ever was.

I am in awe of my little girl and my wife and I thank them for opening my ignorant eyes to all the great women athletes in this world. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with a little girl and an athletic one at that.

Fran Dicari, Stats Dad

Editor’s Note: This was a guest post by Fran Dicari of Stats Dad – a dad blog that covers the drama, comedy and competition of youth sports in America. You can also follow Fran on Twitter at Stats_Dad.

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I have to say I am really loving this series of profiles on athletes’ Moms on the Gatorade Moms site. A glimpse into the journey, challenges and proud moments the Moms of some of today’s most successful athletes is very inspiring! In the case of Stephanie Hamm, the Mom to soccer star Mia Hamm, she was sure Mia would be a ballerina and when Mia fell in love with soccer, Stephanie had lots to learn. Stephanie’s background was in dance – a big difference from the outdoor intensity of soccer. Watch Stephanie Hamm on raising Mia Hamm on YouTube or click below to watch.

Mia Hamm is retired from soccer and is now raising two daughters of her own. Additionally, Mia has a foundation for raising funds and awareness for families needing marrow or cord blood transplants and continuing the growth in opportunities for young women in sports.

Categories : Athlete Profiles, Soccer
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Jordyn Wieber 2011

Jordyn Wieber at the 2011 WOGA Classic - photo by Scott Hults

Seventeen months out from the 2012 Olympic Games in London and USA National Team Member Jordyn Wieber is looking more and more like USA Gymnastics’ “It Girl” much like Shawn Johnson and Carly Patterson have been in years past. Jordyn Wieber is not a new name in the gymnastics world – she has been wowing us with her gymnastics ability for the past 5 years – on the Junior International scene. Finally, Jordyn can compete as a senior and start building that international gymnastics resume that is going to be so important going into the 2012 games.

At the recent Tyson’s American Cup competition, Jordyn was a last minute addition. Having just come off ankle injuries and being up against the reigning World Champion Aliya Mustafina of Russia, Jordyn entered the meet with conservative expectations. Even with a fall on bars and some missteps on floor, Jordyn was able to capture the all around title (her second Tyson’s American Cup title)- a huge vault and nearly flawless beam routine certainly helped.

Earlier this week, Jordyn and six other members of the senior team including Bridgette Caquatto, Gabriella Douglas, Amanda Jetter, McKayla Maroney, Alexandra Raisman and Sabrina Vega competed in the 2011 City of Jesolo (Italy) Trophy competition. The US team swept the All Around awards but a mistake on floor prevented Wieber from taking the gold – it went instead to teammate McKayla Maroney. Wieber placed second and Alexandra Raisman placed third.

The international experience will be so valuable to Wieber and her teammates coming into this year’s World Championships and next year’s Olympic Games. Additionally, the secret to Wieber’s success is going to be staying injury free. If she can stay healthy, I really do believe that Jordyn Wieber will be a major force for the US team and possibly the “it girl” in 2012.

While I think Wieber, Rebecca Bross and Alexandra Raisman are the leading contenders for spots on the team now, we can’t forget that former Olympic team members Alicia Sacramone, Shawn Johnson and Bridget Sloan are all listed on the US National Team roster at this point. Seventeen months seems like an eternity in one way and I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises along the way!!

Who do you think the next USA Gymnastics “it girl” is going to be?

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