Success Leaves Footprints

Dad, we’ve said it here before and it’s worth saying again: when it comes to raising a son, no example will be more powerful than your example. No one will have the influence you do in developing your boy into a champion athlete and man. Of course, all of us – including your son – will eventually have our own decisions to make about what we choose to make important in life.  But if you show him the way, chances are he’ll follow after it.

The idea is that success leaves footprints. First, you walk the path of a champion. Then, the footprints you leave help to guide your son forward on the journey towards his very best. You model for him how to do it right, so he can do it right, too.

But just like your son needs your example to follow after, sometimes as dads we need examples ourselves. We need to follow after the footprints of guys who’ve been there and done it – who’ve raised champion athletes and men. They model for us how to do it right, so we can do it right, too. 

The Players’ Tribune website recently published an article written by former Duke basketball player and current assistant coach Jeff Capel III about his dad, Jeff Capel, Jr. You can click here to read the full article – it’s well worth your time and I’d encourage you to stop here and read it now. Jeff Capel, Jr., a long-time coach himself, was recently diagnosed with ALS, the degenerative nerve disease that is steadily dismantling his body. The article chronicles the challenging news of the diagnosis. More importantly, though, it highlights the powerful influence a dad has in the life of his son – from childhood through today – even as his physical health deteriorates.

It’s evident that Jeff Capel III believes the reason he became the athlete he became, and the reason he is the man he is today, centers around the powerful influence of his father. No person in his life had a greater impact. He talks about the power of his dad’s intentional presence. About witnessing his dad’s genuine sacrifice. About the tough love that stung at the time, but that ultimately led to some of this son’s greatest achievements in sports and in life. And about the strong legacy of a committed father – a legacy that will live on forever despite a disease like ALS. I especially love this passage:

“So when I think about the lessons my dad has taught me over the years, all of those lessons that I wouldn’t be the man I am today without, of course I think of the big ones. Show up. Keep your promises. Appreciate what you’ve got. No excuses. But I find myself just as often thinking of the little ones — those specific lessons that I can tie to a single memory, or even a single day.”     -Jeff Capel III

Now you or I may not do things exactly like Jeff Capel, Jr. did them. But I do hope you’re encouraged to press on with the important work you do as a dad, and to understand that your presence, your sacrifice, and your love (sometimes tough love) do matter. In fact, they matter more than anything in determining who your son becomes. 

I also hope this article validates your belief in the powerful influence a father has in the life of his son, and in the opportunities that exist to use the experiences in his life today to teach and develop him for tomorrow. Jeff Capel, Jr. has done, in many ways, what each of us are working to do – he has raised champion athletes and men. He’s walked the walk, and now we can use his footprints as a guide for our own journey. So if we want for our sons what he’s developed in his, then let’s learn from him what it takes. Let’s be present. Let’s make the sacrifices and eliminate the excuses. Let’s walk the path of a champion, and leave footprints for our sons to follow.

I can’t say what’s in store for my future or yours. I can’t say whether or not any of us will ever have to deal with the challenging news of a diagnosis like ALS. I can’t say whether our sons will ever play major college sports  at a place like Duke or end up on a coaching staff at that level. And I can’t say whether a major media outlet like the Players’ Tribune will ever ask our boys to write an article about who we were in their lives, and then publish it for the whole world to see.

But I can tell you this: just like Jeff Capel III does, each of our sons will have stories to tell. Good or bad, our example will have taught them something. One day your son and mine will say, “My dad showed me that this was important by the way he lived.” Jeff Capel III’s dad taught him about showing up, about keeping his promises, about appreciating what he’s got, and about eliminating excuses. What will your son say he learned from you?


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