Jeff Benedetti learned from his mom and passes on to his daughter

A two-sided easel sat in the corner of our home's loft. Two lines were written on the whiteboard side: One line read "attend the 2012 Summer Olympics in London" and the other said "become a junior Olympic volleyball player."

I asked my daughter, Hattie, who turns 10 this month, what that was all about.

"My teacher told us to go home on the last day of school and write our dreams down. Those are my two," she said, pointing to the whiteboard.

I knew she had harbored a love of volleyball for the past year, but she hadn't talked about it much. Now the whiteboard did the talking for her.

A week later, we had our little town's U-10 tournament championship soccer game to play (I was the assistant coach) and we faced the previous year's tournament winner. Hattie knew there was a chance she could be playing her last organized soccer game, and there was no way she or her team were going to lose. She told me so on the sideline.

Long story short: Her team won. Our head coach pulled me aside after the game.

"Hattie played a great game," he said. "Try to keep her involved next year."

"I'll try, coach," I said. "It's going to be hard, though. She's got volleyball set in her mind. Her summer clinic starts next Saturday. I'll talk to her about it." And I did, but her mind was made up.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming a cowboy so I convinced my mom to pay for horse-riding lessons. Though my cowboy dream has faded somewhat over the years, the lesson learned from Mom has stuck with me.She didn't say, "Oh, you'll never be a cowboy. Why don't you become something worthwhile, like a lawyer, like your Dad!"

So if Hattie said her life's dream was to sew garments for a living, I'd work extra hours and get her a top-of-the-line sewing machine.

"I'll help you," I told her. I think that's all she needed to hear - that I'm on board with her dream.

It's incredibly important that I not only stay emotionally close to my only child, but that I check and validate what's going on upstairs in her head (and I said check and validate, not control).

So when it came time, I was there - paying for the clinic, taking her to it on Saturdays and securing her a place in the fall tryouts for our parish girls' volleyball team.

"Thanks," she said, pecking me on the cheek when her tryout was set. "You're going to be there, right? I mean, you're not just going to drop me off, are you?"

No, I assured her. I would be there to see her saddle up and continue riding toward her dream.