Believing in kids—and showing it—gives them the confidence to achieve.

The lanky basketball guard—quick, good and one of Dad’s favorites—missed a layup mid-scrimmage. For the second time in a row.

Dad, who is rarely demonstrative, blew his whistle loud and long. The boys froze. The gym silenced.

“Fuuuuuuuuliiiiiine!” Dad yelled the boy’s name. “My 10-year-old daughter can make a layup.”

The boys looked up at the stage, where my pint-sized self was sitting with my sister. They were like the brothers we never had. We made spirit bags to leave in the locker room before games. They covered our ears when guys swore.

Dad—my hero—said nothing else. He just stood at the elbow of the key and held out the ball.

I untucked my skinny legs and prayed a million prayers as I walked onto the court.

Please let me make this.

Please let me make this.

Please let me make this.

Did it take 30 minutes to walk up there? 40?

Dribble, dribble, step, kiss it off the glass.

The ball fell into the net, and the guys erupted into cheers, jabbing Fuline with their fists, laughing, happy.

Dad beamed. If he spoke, I don’t remember hearing it, probably because I was praying a million more prayers.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

I was recently at a dinner party where everyone was given a question to answer. Mine was, “What’s your favorite story to tell?” The fact that this one quickly came to mind didn’t surprise me. It’s among my most vivid memories. I can still hear the last sneaker that squeaked on the floor when the players all froze mid-stride. I can still feel the nerves bundling in my stomach as I walked toward that ball—and the rush of joy when it fell into the net.

But why? What, in a lifetime of moments, makes this one so special?

It’s in part because in many ways, those days after school encapsulate all that was (and is) good and right in the world. A small town. The high school gym where Dad and Mom first fell in love, and where his state championship banner still hangs. No worries. Abundant love.

But it’s more than, that, too. It’s because Dad believed in me.

I love my dad more than anyone has ever loved their dad. He is the man who perfected the center part to put my hair in pigtails. Who played his homemade version of The Price Is Right with us in the living room. Who rode waves with us for hours in the frigid Atlantic Ocean and then spent quarters he had saved all year winning us stuffed animals in boardwalk Skee-Ball.

He took us to daily basketball practices all season, every season, and I relished watching him in his element. Listening. Learning. When my sister and I were old enough to start playing ourselves, he invested hours of driveway time teaching us the game. He never pushed us to love it. But we wanted it, so he helped us work for it. I was a peanut, and not nearly as athletically gifted as my younger sis. But I practiced threes from behind the arc Dad painted on our concrete. I methodically paced our long driveway dribbling the ball between my legs. I charted layups—50 from the left, 50 from the right. Use your legs. Flick your wrist. More arc. Good. Do it again.

My freshman year, I played on a 2-18 varsity team. I came home one day, landed in Dad’s arms, and cried.

The next season, he left the boys program to coach the girls. He eventually built a losing program into one that dominated the league for years and was, for a moment, ranked best in the state.

He taught us all to be big. To hustle harder and smarter and until the very last second runs off the clock. To compete fiercely but to always help your opponent up. That if you’re ever stuck, don’t panic. That there are no excuses. That leaders uplift. That it’s all so much bigger than a game.

He taught an entire community of girls how to believe in themselves, really.

Parenting is hard. We want to get it right, but what is right? We worry about overscheduling vs. underscheduling. Enjoying vs. spoiling. Caring vs. helicoptering. The struggle is, as they say, real.

Here’s something I know for sure: Believing in the people we love matters. And showing them that matters even more.

Love lifts us, no doubt. But belief from someone we love does something different. It buoys us, not with arrogance but with confidence. It doesn’t make us invincible, but it does make us capable—sometimes of things we can’t even imagine. Because once someone believes in us, we don’t want to let them down.  

Thank you, Dad, for believing in me—and for showing it. Then, now, always.

Kristy Eckert is a Powell mom and founder of Kristy Eckert Communications.