What can sports teach my kids about life? Well, one reason I let my kids play sports is for the life lessons they can catch in the process. It’s a great learning ground. I recently learned a simple technique to ensure that those lessons are fully harvested.

I caught up with a friend a colleague named Gabe over lunch last month. He is one of the most intentional and sincere men I know. I want to be like him when I grow up.

Intentional Fatherhood and life lessons

While waiting in line at the sandwich shop he said something I nearly missed. He was sharing about his son Gabriel who recently completed his first football season. As we neared the counter he said, “…I asked Gabriel to write down a list of things he learned from his season…so we could talk through them…”


Pause button. Did I hear that right? He asked his nine-year-old son to write down lessons from the football season? So they could talk through them together?


Two thoughts jumped into my head.

First: “That is amazing!” What a great example of an intentional father.

Second: “I hate hanging out with Gabe.” The guy is a fatherhood curve buster.


Yes, when I become more “mature” I’ll see this as a great “opportunity” to be around a solid dad who can teach me a few things. Whatever. Penciling him in for lunch again in a couple years.


Kidding aside, that’s the beauty of being with Gabe. He wasn’t drawing attention to his excellent parenting. He was just sharing a story as we were ordering lunch. He’s intentional, engaged and humble.

He sent me a picture of Gabriel’s list. At the top, Gabriel wrote, “Things I learned. Accomplishments that I thank God for.”

The list:

  • Not to stay sad when you lose.
  • To keep trying.
  • To stay committed to what you have chosen to do.
  • Winning the games and championship.
  • Having great coaches.
  • Great teammates.

Are you kidding me? How cool is this? So we ask again, what can sports teach my kids about life? Gabriel has surely asked himself this question.

We can learn a lot from this young boy’s list. It’s chock full of great lessons. Instead, let’s focus on the lessons we can draw from the father’s approach.

1) He is fully engaged. Gabe didn’t just toss his child into the athletic fray and wish him luck. He stayed plugged in and followed through.

2) He is asking, not telling. Instead of Gabe pointing out the lessons, he asked his son to think of them and write them down. Genius.

3) He is intentional and efficient. Gabe wanted to chat about the list during their short road trip to a college football game. He’s making the most of his time.

4) He is focused on a higher purpose. Gabe didn’t just want his son to learn football. He wanted his son to learn about life using football as the backdrop. Colossians 3:2

5) He is setting a great example. Gabe showed his son a picture of what an engaged father looks like. Gabriel has a role model he can pattern himself after.

Gabe is like the quarterback of his family team. As his son ran the route, Gabe spotted him and fired a strike right in the numbers. The dad delivered the “intentional fathering” pass. The son caught personal character. And, while watching from the sidelines, I added a new play to my own fathering playbook.


P.S. An interesting tidbit: Gabe played high school and college football. Wide receiver. 🙂