Last month Ordell and I attended the U of I vs. Rutgers game. It was my first football game at the University of Illinois and I have to admit I was not prepared for the emotions Dad’s Day would bring.
The Illini Dads Association was founded in 1922 and is believed to be the oldest in the nation. As the Dads of the cheerleaders and football players took their places on the field to lead their sons out onto the field an announcer began to explain what was happening and all I could think of was the dads of the seniors.
How many years of games had they cheered in the bleachers? How many hours spent waiting to pick up their children from practice or listening as a child rehashed the day? How many checks did they write over the years for team fees? How many pairs of shoes, extra clothes, and bags did they buy?
Now it was all ending in a few weeks. I couldn’t help but wonder if those dads were wishing they had taken a few more vacation days to attend those early games. Were they wishing the years had gone differently or were they grateful for the moment?
As the cheerleader’s dads dutifully took their places next to their daughters they were so enthusiastic, working hard to keep the crowd engaged while also enjoying their view on the sidelines of the game. They did their pushups after U of I scored and even attempted to somersault out of their positions.
The best part by far was the traditional Can-Can dance performed by the dads during the halftime show. Check out the full show here.
As a coach’s wife, I understand how invested many parents are in seeing their children succeed. The University of Illinois seems to have found a beautiful way to honor dads with long-standing traditions that are lighthearted and joy-filled that also have unique sentimental aspects each year as different families are featured.
The hardest working dads on the field that day were those of the cheerleaders, who luckily for them, took the second half off. It was a delight to see those fathers their sons and daughters with that familiar gleam of pride on that Saturday. Congrats to the University of Illinois for continuing a beautiful tradition that honors parents, athletes, and tradition. It was an enjoyable afternoon.