It’s hard to imagine my life without sport. For as long as I can remember I’ve been annoyingly active. Throughout it all, whether in organized sport or unorganized play, the one constant has been unconditional family support. In particular, my Dad has literally always been there.
Our relationship is one that is centered around sport and over the years he has taught me a lot. Some of those things have been good, such as how to be gracious in defeat and others are relative in their acceptability (I’m a brilliant smack talker thanks to him!).
And yes, he and my Mum have travelled around the world to cheer me on and watch me compete, but more than that my Dad has driven out to watch me play rec league hockey games at one o’clock in the morning.
What I am getting at here, in a really roundabout way, is to say thank you Dad. Thank you for always encouraging me and supporting me in sport and helping to ensure I never put boundaries on my potential.
But more than anything, and this is going to sound strange, but what I am most thankful for are the years you didn’t try to coach me.
The countless stories you told me while I was growing up about all the swimmers you helped coach to the Olympic Games and your time in Munich helped to normalize the Olympics, to ensure that I didn’t put them up on a pedestal as something others aspire to but were out of reach for me. You helped me believe that I belonged there, competing against the best in the world. But at the same time, you knew precisely when to step back.
You knew that my passion, my belief that I belonged there had to be self-realized. You knew years ago that I was under-training myself, not doing enough, squandering my potential. But somehow, betraying all your instincts, you sat back and watched. You didn’t coach me; you didn’t push me harder.
Instead you let me come to that realization on my own time. Yes it was a little late, and yes it may have cost me some earlier success. But coming to those conclusions on my own, about how hard I was truly going to have to work to go after my dreams has instilled a lifelong passion for sport.
Had you pushed me harder 10 years ago I don’t know where I’d be. But a large part of me believes that 16-year-old Evan would have rebelled and dropped out of sport altogether. So on this Father’s Day what I am most thankful for is you not coaching me when it must have been killing you. It has been so much fun getting to share this journey with you and I really believe it wouldn’t have been possible any other way.
Happy Father’s Day.
Olympian Evan Dunfee competed at Rio 2016 where he placed fourth in the 50km race walk for Canada’s best-ever finish in the event and was widely lauded for his sportsmanship. He was previously the 20km race walk gold medallist at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. His father Don was an Olympic swimming coach at Munich 1972.