The Power of Catch
By Greg Bach
Gary Myers, a New York Times best-selling author, father of three and former youth sports coach, knows the power of catch.
So does any mom or dad who has ever tossed a baseball, softball or football back and forth with their child in the backyard.
That time together is intoxicating.
And never forgotten.
Myers cherished those moments with his kids, and when he spoke with legendary coach Jack Harbaugh and his sons John and Jim for a chapter in his fascinating new book My First Coach, a story that brought tears to their eyes was centered on the power of catch.
As Myers details, early in the career of legendary coach Jack Harbaugh he was an assistant coach at the University of Michigan, and he would come home for dinner and to relax before heading back to the facility to grind away at watching tape throughout the evening. His sons John (head coach of the Baltimore Raves) and Jim (head coach at the University of Michigan) were 11 and 10, respectively, and would ask their dad to come play catch in the backyard. Exhausted, with a long night still awaiting him, he would always head out back and throw the ball back and forth with them.
“Fast forward all these years later and Jim is now the backup quarterback for the Colts and Jack, who was coaching at Western Kentucky at the time, came to Indianapolis for the game,” Myers says. “Jim is getting dressed for the pre-game warm-ups and Jack is sitting on the bench inside the old RCA Dome and Jim comes out and goes over to his dad and says, ‘Hey Dad, let’s have a catch.’ I’m telling you, when they both told me this story individually they both teared up talking about what those catches meant to them. I was very moved how they both got very emotional talking about it. It was something that they genuinely felt in their heart that was a big part of their relationship. It was the power of the catch and I think that’s something that a lot of dads can relate to.”
Myers certainly can. “Having a catch in our backyard was always a big part of my relationship with my son,” he says. “And then when he got a little older around 15 and he started throwing too hard and he had a good curveball I said this wasn’t really safe for me anymore. I didn’t want to tell him to throw soft.”
GREATS OF THE GAME
My First Coach goes behind the scenes to explore the relationships between some of the game’s great quarterbacks and their dads, including Phil Simms, Joe Montana, Eli Manning, Derek Carr and Jameis Winston. It examines the diverse parenting approaches used during their childhoods.
“If I was to sum it all up it became very clear to me that there is no game plan or playbook to developing or helping nurture a kid,” Myers says. “Some of the parents I would put in the category of very involved, although they didn’t coach their son. Some of the fathers coached their kid; some of them were just there to watch the games; and others were bordering on indifference. There was no real set way of doing it.”
And it all makes for an interesting read to see which approaches worked, and which didn’t, for these talented athletes – and what was learned about raising children in the process.
“I really do think there’s a life lesson in each chapter that parents can relate to in terms of their own situation,” Myers says. “If you have a daughter who is a really good basketball or lacrosse or softball player a lot of these stories relate to those relationships as well.”
Myers is the NFL columnist for the New York Daily News and has been covering the NFL since 1978.
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