Rich Tobin works in sales for our Workplace Solutions team. He has two daughters who he wanted to connect with more. I love this post because it has a "Lean In" message too – how can we raise confident, female leaders? Rich has some ideas.
My daughter used to be attached at my side. She would sit in my lap, eat from my plate, cuddle with me on the couch. All she wanted to do was spend time with me. Now, at age 9, we had a great relationship but I realized that there was an entire side of her life that I knew very little about. Everyday she went off to school and had a life all her own that I did not get to see. How did she respond to her friends? What was she like on the playground and in class?
She was growing up so fast.
So when the town needed a lacrosse coach for her team, I decided this was my chance. I would coach my daughter and her friends in a game I played 20 years ago. I also saw this as a chance to build her competitive spirit. As someone in business, and a father of two girls, I want to make sure I’m raising strong leaders. Women who won’t back down to a more aggressive classmate, or colleague. Women who will stand up for their ideas and figure out ways to work with teams. I wanted to help build this next generation of working women – one girls’ lax team at a time.
So there they stood. The girls’ third and fourth grade lacrosse team. Some with tags still on their sticks. All looking at me as if I knew what I was doing. My only hope was that my daughter was proud of her new team’s coach.
Now, my background is in sales. I can talk to anyone and genuinely enjoy people. But forget managing teams or dealing with fussy customers -- getting 25, eight and nine year old girls to learn a new sport should be a requirement for every MBA program.
My goal: Get each one to love being part of a team and playing lacrosse. Forget about winning. Work together, but challenge each other. Have no fear of being aggressive. Have no qualms about leading I wanted to find a way each one of these ladies could take charge of a single moment – forget who they are trying to be – and just be. Yes, I wanted to see my daughter shine. But I realized I wanted to see all of these girls take off in some way.
When we started, these 25 girls barely knew how to throw a ball, let alone pick one up with their sticks. Some didn’t look me in the eyes. Some took charge when I wished they wouldn’t. But I had to keep in mind: This wasn’t about a game, it was about them. So two days a week we would spend time at practice together. We ran sprints. We did drills. We talked and shared game plans. Over and over again. Some days they glared at me. But most days they rallied. I loved seeing kids who did not hang out together at school come together on the field. And as the weeks progressed, I saw real skills develop. And I saw the timid became stronger and more confident.
But the biggest changes I could see were with my daughter. On the way home she’d talk about the game. She strategized with me. Discussing her day was no longer pulling teeth. It was fascinating to hear her thoughts. See the team in her eyes. We’d share what the team did right and what needed to be fixed. We discussed line changes and improvements we saw.
I was connecting with my amazing little girl again. And she really understood how much her opinion mattered to me.
In the end, we had some wins and some losses. I’ll never forget the first time our team won a face-off, completed three passes without dropping the ball and scored a goal. That day, I came home thinking I was the world’s best coach. But the truth was, it was never about the games, it was about getting to know my daughter at this new age. Knowing her friends, seeing her interact, learning that her world is way more complex than I knew, watching her fall in love with a sport, and bonding with her on a new level. And I could only hope the parents of the other kids were seeing something new in their daughters' eyes. I hoped they were seeing their daughters take charge of more at home, being more confident in their decisions, opening up to them as a team – and I hoped they were encouraging it.
One coach and one season isn’t going to make a world of difference. But it’s a start. I saw my daughter grow from kid to budding leader, from silliness to decision maker. And for her, I know she sees that I made an effort. An effort to get to know her and to grow closer to her. But it was even more than that. She and I became our own team. And that was the only win I needed.