Even as a second grader I had the eye roll and groan down pat, I accredit that to having a dad who also served as my rec soccer coach. “D, run faster. I know you can move. Go. Keep the ball on the outside. Speed. Speed. Speed,” he shouted from the sideline. It sounded like he yelled at me—or maybe it was supposed to be encouragement?—a little more than any of the other seven year olds. One time I went so far as to pause by the side line and tell him I was running fast enough.
To this day dad shares a ritualistic, romantic relationship with soccer, or futbol as our family often refers to it. Some of my earliest memories of our old houses include Chelsea Futbol Fan Club memorabilia hanging around where mom tolerated it. There was the Chelsea logo mouse pad in the office. The Chelsea scarf and poster in the basement. The Chelsea key chain dangling from the keys of dad’s old SAAB. That yellow lion with the royal blue background swinging back and forth as we drove off to school, always creeping up in my memory in various forms. My soccer teams always wore royal blue jerseys and ever since kindergarten I knew the difference between light, navy and royal blue.
Dad played soccer from pick up games as a kid, through high school and now on Monday night teams where other die-hard fans come together to balance their passion and thrill with 9.00-5.00 jobs and family obligations. Sunday mornings spent sitting on a blanket, eating bagels in the crisp fall air as dad trotted up and down the field, or pitch, with his teammates are a constant in my memory. It is on these sidelines where I learned the nuances between Scottish, British and Irish accents and picked up on a vibrant, broad vocabulary that I am sure my dad would rather I not share. I usually thought he could have run faster.
I often came home to him steaming matches on his computer, settling for Premiere League games hosted by commentators speaking Japanese and no subtitles. His interest ran so deep that he understood the language without the words. He needed soccer and supported it in anyway possible. Loud burst of cheers stemming from deep within the heart of the belly permeated through our house. Chelsea had scored or won. The family became conditioned to these outbursts and stopped flinching years ago.
Long before dad met mom and they had me and later my brother and sister, soccer took the place of dad’s first love. Although soccer may not have been my main focus or inspiration, dad’s unhindered excitement and dedication showed me what passion, drive and commitment looked like and how to share, express and follow through with it.
I learned what it looked like and felt like to love something so purely and entirely, to crave being immersed and consumed in it. For me dance unleashed that current of buzzing emotion. I put on ballet slippers when I was two years old and have continued with dance in some form ever since then, nearly two decades. Although I loved dance, being on stage, imagining bodies moving in choreographed yet fluid unison whenever a song played, I felt a twinge of doubt. The thought never fully consumed my thoughts and kept me up at night but there was awareness that perhaps I disappointed my dad for failing to follow through with soccer the way that my brother and sister did. I sometimes worried that perhaps my dad and I might not be as close as my siblings who shared the same interest and hung out at the fields with him. Still, I went to dance, moving from classes to competitions and summer intensives in New York City and fifteen hour a week rehearsals and eventually choreographing my own pieces and testing out new studios in new cities.
And even though dance and soccer differ in so many ways, dad was always there and I was there for him. Dad worked out of the house, meaning he was home when I needed help with my hair or rides to and from the studio. Dad learned how to do a ballet bun before mom or I. He stood with me before the hallway mirror as tears stung my face out of frustration for my inability to do my hair and my nervousness to be late to the ballet barre. But dad was there, wrapping my ponytail around and adding some of his gel and pinning in my bobby pins. Then we hopped in the car blasting WFNX when the radio still granted stations their independence. “Who sings this?” Dad quizzed me nearly every day two and from dance during the fifteen minute ride. I usually guessed ACDC, The Clash, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Killers and so on. My ear got pretty good and my appreciation for music even better.
When springtime came, Dad joined some of the other fathers of dancers for the Fun Father’s dance that performed right before the recital finales. Dad never told us anything about the dance, his costume, the steps. He would ask how I memorized movements or kept in time without out counting aloud. One year he and the fathers joined us at our summer competition, dressed as various versions of Elvis and moving around the stage to a medley of his hits. They managed to win and seemed to understand the feeling that capturing people’s attention, bringing them joy, moving in relation to others and to a rhythm or a melody brought me.
Now I no longer wonder if I let Dad down for breaking away from soccer. Soccer, the outlet for his passion is not the point. The point is the emotions a genuine, personal intrigue and interest emit. Without realizing it, Dad taught me how to care about something and give in to the way it makes you feel. Being introduced to that energy at a young age, helped me find my way to dance and many other things, leading to a stronger bond with my dad had I stayed with soccer simply to please him.
I might not play soccer but I am still a fan. Last summer I watched the World Cup with my dad and recorded games we had to miss. I will ask him how Chelsea is doing and what is going on with the FIFA controversies. When I meet a Man U fan I am sure to look disdainful and hold the honor of dad’s team.
Because we both know and explore our own passions, we are filled with a general excitement for discovering things we love and things that feed into our curiosity and knowledge of the feeling of thrill. From those rides to dance I learned that music inspires me and strikes me in a myriad of ways. My dad and I always share songs and burn CDs. We talk about Portugal. The Man and search YouTube for Coldplay videos to “Fix You.” We may not always agree but we always want to hear and listen. His excitement convinced me to pick up surfing and retrace his post-grad school travels to Bali and Thailand. When I started running in high school and made good times at our meets he was there watching me run around circles and through tree lined trails. He smiled the same dimpled smile we share because he always knew I had it in me to run faster, I just needed to find my source to find my speed and adrenaline in.
Passions take many forms for everyone, that it what makes it a passion—it is personal and individualized and hits us in a unique and electrifying way. Within a lifetime passions find new outlets but trusting your own and admiring that of others helps feed the curiosity, creativity and exploration.
Dad could have forced me to keep up with his favorite game but he knew what soccer did for him and understood that something was out there for me. It’s not easy for parents to let their kids wander and try something new. It is intimidating and scary but when it clicks it is risk that brings the deepest pride and bond.