If you're the father of a young girl in southwest Minnesota and you're in your late 30s-early 40s, chances are pretty good you wouldn't mind seeing your daughter become the next Mary Jo.
For those who don't know who Mary Jo is, check the athletic records at Tracy Area High School or Kansas State. You'll find her name - look for Mary Jo Miller - sprinkled all over the place.
Mary Jo was a three-sport star in the late 1980s. My guess is it would've been four if the wrestling and basketball seasons didn't coincide. She was a stud as a seventh-grader in Milroy and blossomed into the region's best female athlete who ever walked off the farm. Her three-pointers were jump shots, not set shots. Few girls could keep up with her one-on-one. Before little boys in the U.S. wanted to be like Mike, little girls in Tracy wanted to be like Mary Jo.
How good was she? Hanged high in a corner of the gym at TAHS is her retired No. 21. And every time I see it, I think how cool it would be if my daughter did indeed become the next Mary Jo.
But in that same gym last Sunday, my little girl made me as proud as I've ever been of her, and she didn't have to make a layup or spike a volleyball to do it. It was on that day that Olivia and dozens upon dozens of other girls ranging in age from about 4 to 18 performed a dance/tumbling recital. My little athlete (maybe she's only an athlete for the time being, maybe not) took to the stage all dolled up and wearing a sparkly, purple outfit. Took some getting used to for this dad. I'm used to seeing Olivia on a field or a court, not on stage. And with a ball or a bat in her hands, not a bow in her hair. I've always envisioned her wearing eye black, not eye liner.
But there she was, looking more like a girl than ever.
It quickly dawned on me when I saw her perform that you don't have to have a kid be a starter on the volleyball team or lead the team in scoring to be so proud that tears well up in your eyes.
Some of us dads secretly dream of our kids becoming that one athlete whom everyone around town knows and talks about. For some reason, there's some sort of prestige that comes along with having your offspring be the jock of the town. Or maybe that's just me. Maybe I just assume everyone looks at superstar athletes in a certain light that shines only on the sports pedestal. What I do know is that we should be proud of everything our kids do - on the court, on the field, on stage, in the classroom - everywhere.
Will Olivia some day have a number retired at TAHS? Probably not. But it's OK if there never is another Mary Jo at TAHS or another Shannon Bolden at Marshall High School. We dads should be proud of our girls whether they set records or not.