#GirlDad: Read Their Stories, Feel Their Love

A few weeks ago in the wake of the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter GiGi and others in the helicopter accident, we’ve learned and grown as a country, as families, as communities. Bryant was celebrated for many of his accomplishments on the court and after his professional basketball career, but he became a new icon for being a dad of girls; a #GirlDad. I am one of three girls so my dad is a #GirlDad not for simply having only daughters, but because we knew how much he loved having girls.

My dad was (is!) big into sports and has been a basketball coach for as long as I’ve been alive. He tells us how refreshing it was when we were little for him to come home after yelling at the “knuckle-headed” boys on his team to his three little girls who wanted to play with his hair. That turned into us wanting to shoot hoops in the front yard with him, ask him to take us to practice, or toss all sorts of sports balls for us. Our relationship grew through sports, but if it wasn’t athletics, I know he would have found other ways to connect like he does today. My own #GirlDad still sends me Valentine’s cards and handwritten notes for each holiday.

I did a social media “all-call,” asking for people – dads of daughters – to send me an email about what it means to them to be a #GirlDad.  My intention was to organize it into an article for my job, but as I read each one, sometimes with tears in my eyes, I sat with these emails in my inbox for weeks. Instead of paying for this article, I thought I’d distribute them here, for free, forever.

The last names have been removed and the girls’ names have been abbreviated. I’ve omitted any personal information that might cause a safety concern (it’s the internet, after all, and not my business to share!). Otherwise, these are their stories, in their words, of being proud #GirlDads. Read their stories and feel their love.

Rusty D.: I’m much more of a people-watcher on social media and rarely am I compelled to comment but something about your Twitter post about #GirlDad and your request resonated with me and moved me to respond as you requested.

A little background- I’m a normal guy, as normal as guys can be and I have been married to the same gal and had her fooled for 23 years. We have lived in Texas all of our lives, my wife is a school teacher and I served on the school board for six years in the past serving as president for four of those years and we have two incredible daughters.

M.D. is 19 and played school ball and club ball from sixth grade on, among many other things from dance to raising pigs in Ag, to National Honor Society. She got an offer to play volleyball and decided to hang it up and go to school elsewhere.

R.D. is 16 and she is where the trouble started- unlike her older sister who is just a fun-loving peaceful soul, R.D. is one of the most tenacious, hard-headed, over-the-top driven, yet funny, talented, and passionate humans I have encountered. Like her older sister, she is in Honor Society and added Spanish Honor Society not to be out done, plus Grand Champion steer raising and too many other things to mention. Literally, she told her mom and me at the beginning of eighth grade she was going to go out for everything- being sports-minded, we did not realize that meant every sport offered and cheerleading and performing in plays in theatre. Of course, she made the top in everything and almost killed my wife and me along the way but she did get cut in soccer!

R.D. played as a starting setter on 14s the year before the team won it all and we decided to move to another club! Yeah, tell me about it! She plays on a top 16s team as the starting setter now and is right where she needs to be and we are so blessed.

Have you ever read “Why I Don’t Pay for Club Volleyball” by Dr. Jeffrey Kerns? I think about this piece often and to answer your #GirlDad question I will take a different slant on it that is sort of in line with Dr. Kerns.

We never found out if we were going to have boys are girls but I just assumed we would have one of both because that is the case for my wife and I but nonetheless we didn’t care. And over the years, especially the early years when all of our friends were starting to have kids of their own, I would get asked what it is like to have only daughters being such a hunting, fishing, beer-drinking, sports-loving kind of guy.

My answer generally speaking was- I’m not a girl dad. I’m not a girl dad because I refused to allow my daughters to be pigeonholed into a certain role; I’m not a girl dad because I held them to a certain standard even when it was hard and maybe to the level only a boy should be held to, or that I pushed them to their physical or mental limits. I’m not a girl dad because I demanded that they be boy-like tough and girl-like soft and understanding and act like a lady and hold themselves to a higher level but be equally proficient at getting dirty.

The reality is, I wasn’t a girl dad. I didn’t set out with a plan, or wear it as a badge of honor- I just set out to love them unconditionally and share a very precious life with them and be there, be present unconditionally through thick and thin.

When I really step back and think about it, they made me a #GirlDad- through all of the paths we have traveled together and the highs and the lows, that was their gift to me, they have taught me so much, and I can tell you with 100-percent certainty that I would be half the man I am today without them. I am blessed.

Tony W.:  It’s not easy for me to put into words how amazing it is being a #GirlDad. It’s a huge responsibility raising a child and I take so much pride in being able to help build a foundation of toughness and compassion of fight and love in M.W. She’s by far the strongest, bravest, most badass young person I’ve met. Being a #GirlDad fills me with so much pride every day, I couldn’t imagine not being a father to a daughter.

Earl R.:  I too am a #GirlDad and my baby is a v-baller to boot. I never knew I could love anyone or be as proud of anyone until we had her. I’m constantly amazed at the things she’s able to accomplish on the volleyball court but what I’m most proud of, which I tell her all the time, is that she’s a good person. That’s what matters. Society needs more good people and she’s definitely helping us get our numbers up. She’s the best. The absolute best! I’m one of 3 boys so it’s definitely different in my household versus the one I grew up in…and I love it!

Ronny W.: Being a volleyball #GirlDad means the world to me. I get to watch them work so hard at doing what they love. Watching them succeed makes my heart burst with excitement for them and their team. Watching them fail hurts me the same way. However, watching them overcome their failures is the most important thing. They just make me proud no matter what the outcome is as long as they’re giving their best for their coach and team.

Tony O.: I am blessed to have two girls and be the only guy in the house. I have my oldest, S.O., who is 18and plays volleyball and my youngest, J.O., is 16 and has done competitive cheer. Being a #GirlDad means learning to braid hair, what Tik Tok is, and understanding that raising an athlete doesn’t have anything to do with gender. It means that car rides to and from competitions and tournaments are a great place to find out what is going on in their lives. How blessed I am to get this time with them and how lucky we have been to travel all over the country with no issues.

With the incident that happened this past week, it makes me grateful when everyone gets home safe after an hour and a half “one-way” trip to practice. I have also learned that girls can be as smelly and gross as any guy I ever played football or basketball with growing up. That I only have a very limited amount of all of these left as my oldest leaves for her university in four months. So I will double down and take every trip I can with them including shopping or going to IHOP in the middle of a rainstorm just because they asked me to take them.

Matt V.: I have been a proud #GirlDad for over 21 years now. Our daughters (“Eldest Daughter” or “E.D.”) and (“Youngest Daughter” or “Y.D.”) are a blessing from God and our lives have been made so much better having them with us.  We have had some tough days and also some amazing days with them as they have grown up to be strong young women.

As a former high school, DI football, and professional athlete, I was often asked before we had children, “How much are you going to enjoy coaching your son in football?“; “Do you think your son will follow your footsteps and be a QB?”; “Will you be okay if your son does not want to play football?” I never really put much thought into those questions but I did ponder not having a son and having only daughters.

When my wife and I got married, we always discussed having children and our thought was not on a boy or girl but a healthy baby blessed by God and blessed we have been.

E.D. did not start playing volleyball until her freshman year in high school and then in club volleyball. Having started playing so late compared to others she learned fast and put in a lot of hard work and training. Y.D. daughter started playing sooner as she is years younger. We would be traveling for E.D.’s club tournaments and her coaches took Y.D. under their wings and would start teaching her and peppering with her during warmups and in between games.

Y.D. started to play club at 10 years old and our lives revolved around both of them playing in local and national tournaments with AM and PM waves split. Both girls went on to have great club and high school careers that gave our family some very special moments and having made some great friends to this day including you. Both our daughters have gone on to play college volleyball.

The sport of girls’/women’s volleyball has been a big part of our lives and helped our daughters learn a lot of life lessons and team-sport mentality. The off-court and off-season training they put in was all on their own desire to be better. Their male athlete friends got to see firsthand that girls can be amazing athletes and be just as competitive if not more.

I would not trade in a day having E.D. and Y.D. in our lives and I hope one day to be a proud #GirlGrandpa.

Brian D.: I am an extremely blessed and proud father of two of the most wonderful young ladies I know (credit their mother for that). I didn’t know much about volleyball until my girls started playing. IMO it is the one true team sport. Volleyball has taught my girls and me so much. It has been a joy to watch them mature inside and outside of the sport. Thank you to the volleyball community as a whole for all that they have done for my family.

Scott T.: I have two wonderful daughters, “Eldest Daughter” or “E.D.,” 16, and “Youngest Daughter” or “Y.D.,” 12. E.D. is an accomplished OH who is pursuing her dream to play D1. Y.D. is convinced she will be even better and I tell her she’s right!

So what does #GirlDad mean to me? It means I get to wake up at 5 AM and drive to a gym in the dark for 8 AM pool play. That I get to travel nearly every weekend during club season. That I get to push them to pursue their dreams, to teach them they have to work harder than anyone else. I get to teach them that they are not lesser because they are female. That “I can’t…” is not an option.

I get to teach them how a man should act and what a relationship should be. I get to carry hair ties and tampons in my backpack just in case. I get to deal with emotions I don’t understand at times but try anyway. I get to say I love you and hear those words back and that’s what being a #GirlDad means to me… and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

-Father of two, #GirlDad forever

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Sloane Green is a former volleyball player, current writer, and eating disorder survivor.

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