06/11/2012 08:20 am ET | Updated Aug 10, 2012

My Dad, The Coach

My father taught me to swim, to bike and to blast a soccer ball from the right corner of a goal box past the midline. I think it's fair to say that on their own, these have not been his most important lessons, but they are revealing of one message that was essential to my development: I am capable.

I was raised in Manhattan and so I can tell you that city kids of my subgenre don't grow up with a lot of physical courage. We don't climb trees or interact with the local fauna, much of which is rabies-carrying. We learn from a very early age not to talk to strangers and to memorize the names of streets we should never, ever go down. The world is at once vibrant, far reaching and diverse -- but also a place in which it's best to keep to oneself. City kids are ... contained. And that insular nature can extend to how we move our bodies and experience the physical world.

Knowingly or not, my dad combatted this force with a new physical project each weekend. Most often, this was soccer. He coached a team in the local American Youth Soccer Organization league for which I played. But if it wasn't soccer season, it was basketball. In summer months or on vacation, we would practice biking or swimming each morning until the floaties and training wheels had come off.

In each scenario, my very patient father coaxed his bookish, slightly chubby daughter into a new way of movement. He brought unflagging cheerfulness and enthusiasm to each new attempt. If it took 20 tries to swim the length of our hotel pool, that was okay. And because he did that, I can now coax myself to go for that run on Sunday morning -- to take up a new practice or dive into a new activity.

Which is a way of saying that, if it weren't for my dad's weekend gig as my coach, would I try new things? Would I meet a challenge with as much enthusiasm? I suspect I would not. And that has been his immense gift to me.

This Father's Day, we're celebrating the lessons we've learned from staying active with dad. Tell us about your fit father -- leave a comment, email or tweet us @HealthyLiving. We'd love to see pictures! And when Father's Day gets here, we'll share some of your stories.

For more by Meredith Melnick, click here.

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