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Don’t Put Things in Your Suitcase of Life


Jan. 1, 1970

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

As I watch my 14-year-old daughter Karis grow into a thoughtful, determined young woman, I ask myself again where did the time go? I was just holding her in my arms, watching our favorite movie, Daddy Daycare, and playing tea party. Now I’m barely a blip on the radar screen and she’s off to the next thing with her friends.

As a father, have I done enough to connect? Football has been such a central part of my life and a proving ground when it comes to resiliency and having a thick skin. Unlike my son, who I easily connect with over sports, what are my opportunities with Karis? She is a ballerina. Contrary to my affiliation with linebacking, I do know some things about ballet and I’m a huge fan of the performing arts. I think she genuinely understands how impressed I am with her as a ballerina.

But when do I get to connect on some of the things that a person needs so urgently in this life. When do I get to teach her about being tough, dusting yourself off after setbacks and being able to feel and understand resiliency in real time, with real lessons.

What if she doesn’t play team sports, how do you bond? You must dig for those moments to connect with your daughter and teach what you’ve learned about competing and losing, but not quitting.

These moments in time could be gems to your daughter, but you must be ready, deliberate and prepared.

Be a Dad first. Treat her with respect. Daughters need a father. They don’t need you to be a friend. Silly dancing doesn’t work on a14-year-old. Don’t hang out the car window at school waving all crazy saying, “Hey, daddy’s over here.” She can see the car. It’s embarrassing and it helps solidify the ‘dumb daddy’ or as my wife calls it the ‘donuts for dummies’ stereotype. She already thinks you’re not cool. They have their own ideas about what’s cool and Boy George and Tony Toni Tone aren’t on the list.

Karis is strong and capable. She is smart and resilient. I won’t ‘check out’ as our relationship continues to change and grow. And I won’t get left behind.

Opportunity exists when she asks you for help on homework. Even if you don’t know the answer you can find solutions and encourage her to push forward. The opportunity exists when you witness someone making poor decisions or being a poor sport. Use those moments to share your own brand of wisdom with your daughter.

I tell my daughter, “Don’t put things in your suitcase of life. Don’t carry around that setback, the less than perfect grade or the missed opportunity to dance the lead.” We are only called to do our best. Life is often about feelings, and managing those feelings, which is so important to girls. This practice creates a sense of stability and ensures that life goes on even when things aren’t perfect. You are providing comfort in a different way. You are still dependable with good advice. Life isn’t perfect.

You want your daughter to learn these lessons now on the little things that in the grand scheme of things don’t matter so much. Use positive words. Tell her she is great! There are plenty of people out there that will try to put her down.

Don’t let that suitcase get full! Lugging it around is tiresome.

Keeping an empty suitcase requires toughness and resiliency. You are a master of resiliency, and you are her greatest teacher. Don’t miss a single opportunity to be involved and to let her know that action creates opportunity and she will trust you even more.

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust Fund

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