I caught the heart of a father this past weekend and I am a better man because of the encounter. I was signing books, (A book I penned titled “Finish Strong”) at the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier in Frisco Texas. A dad, wearing a bright red shirt with a Maple Leaf on it, asked if I could sign a book for his daughter. He said, “My girl is going to qualify for the Olympic Games today.” His words boomed with no reservation of doubt his daughter would “finish strong.” He paused to reflect on the significance of the words he just boldly stated out loud. Then his voice softened. His heart visibly uncovered. His eyes suddenly wet with emotion. He began to share the dream for his girl.
I beheld a father that was not ashamed to express his love for a daughter. John Gallays would make us all fans of his girl that day. His bold and heartfelt confidence was contagious. How could you root against John’s girl? Mr. Gallays downplayed any role he had in this champion’s quest. He recognized Jillian’s mother with imparting great encouragement when the battles in the sport seemed to overwhelm this aspiring athlete.
It would be twenty-nine birthdays dad has watched her mature, but her determination he noted started young. Dad eagerly remembered the time they were on vacation in Manitoba, “Jillian was three and a boy forgot to open the door for her as she entered the hotel. She set him straight! She has always been feisty since she was a little girl.” Her dad recalled her childhood strength with pronounced affection and pride.
1986 would be the first time dad held his daughter in his hands. The moment she was born, he loved her. Little did he know, his beautiful girl Jillian, would one day be an Olympic wrestler and would train to become one of the toughest girls to walk the planet. How could he have known this would be her future? It was not his dream. In fact, he was quick to credit his daughter and her dream, hard work and perseverance. Four years earlier Jillian committed during disappointing results, “I am not done with wrestling!” She proved on this day that those words were true. Jillian followed through with the commitment, grind and effort necessary to become a champion.
We all celebrated later that day, as Jillian Gallays from team Canada stood on the top of the podium. But no one reveled the achievement greater than Jillian’s Dad. When the Pan Am weight class of 53 kilograms was called to the award stand, Dad jumped the guardrail and promptly ran past security to get closer to his champion. His daughter is Rio-bound. He was up close when they hung the victor’s medal around her collar. No one dared stop this delighted dad. He was on a mission to document the occasion. Dad snapped several pictures and his face blazed with pride.
Canadian Olympic wrestler Jillian Gallays would try to articulate her sentiments, “I am just so overwhelmed with happiness; I don’t know how to describe it. This last year has been so hard in so many ways that I just can’t believe my dream is coming true.”
Jillian will soon test herself against the best in the world on the largest stage in the sport of wrestling. The Olympics are months away. Her dad will no doubt be somewhere in the crowd cheering, “That’s my girl!” He will for certain be present applauding Jillian Gallays to another win.
My takeaway from meeting John Gallays.
1. Don’t hide your feelings
2. Be out loud proud of your child.
3. Voice your love
4. Promote your child’s dream.
5. Speak hope for a great future
6. Recognize the work
7. Be present for the big and little successes and failures
8. Recognize the significant role others contribute
9. Mark the moment
10. Celebrate the win
A father’s role matters.
The home doesn’t need a man in the house, it needs a father!
Being a dad can be difficult. No dad fails on purpose. Dads do not always get it right. I am sure that there are things in the past that John Gallays wished he could have done better. BUT I know that on this day in Frisco Texas I caught a dad doing something right. Thank you John Gallays for championing your daughter with the heart of a father in Frisco. Well done!