I was invited repeatedly to be part of this picture, as a daddy, but I was in a meeting with the organizers concerning our medals. Nevertheless, as I was in my meeting, I saw when this picture was taken, actually, there were several of them - I chose this one.
There is something beautiful to be said when men are an active part of the lives of their children. There is nothing more beautiful, especially in our morally decaying country, to watch these daddies be there for their kids, regardless of age.
I grew almost without a father as my dad took his own life when I was 9-years old. Two weeks prior to committing suicide, my dad and I, alone, took a vacation to Hawaii where we really bonded. However, his love of money and other women while married to my mother were his eventual downfall.
I never had the chance to fly a kite with my dad, go out and play catch, or simply go out to the movies with him, it was all about work and money in his life. Do not get me wrong, even with his shortcomings, I learned from him.
They way I discipline my children, with respect and common sense came from my father. My business sense also came from my father. However, from there own, everything I am is because I decided to be different from my dad.
Yet, while I was arguing about our medals with the organizers and I would look over to watch these daddies pose for this picture, for a quick minute I looked at the audience and not the daddies.
Their children were watching with smiles drawn on their faces. In their minds they were saying, "THAT'S MY DAD!"
1. I met Daddy Finney late Thursday night as he was the last American to arrive at the hotel. He was the only one that was not greeted by the same entourage as the rest of the team. He was not driven to the hotel by yours truly, or able to be at the first night team meeting with the rest of the American team. However, when I entered his room, with his son's team jacket, I realized he had a special bond with his son. I spent about an honor in their room going over the material that we had seen at the team meeting. When I left with him to the front desk in order to fix a billing error, he told me, "He was really paying attention to you." I understood that Daddy Finney understood his son. Many parents, although they live with their children, do not know their children. Two days later, I was in the restaurant, below the tournament hall, when both father and son arrived to inform me of Stuart's last round win - he was the North American Youth Championship 2009 U-14 Champion. Daddy Finney put his arm around his son as they returned to their room.
2. Daddy Karamsetty really struck me as a father that was really involved with his children, he had two competing in the tournament - I could not go through that. He was always waiting for his children outside the tournament hall. In the 3rd round, Jeevan was surprisingly upset by a Mexican player from Michoacan. Both daddies were watching their sons play. One tried to communicate with the other but due to language constraints they could not communicate effectively. The boy was from Michoacan, a humble and poor family, who did the impossible to help his parents to take him to the tournament. When Jeevan finished his game, he was in tears, he hurt because he lost in a game he felt he should have won. I was observing everything, ready to put my arm around Jeevan if needed, but Daddy Karamsetty was dad enough, I was not needed. He did not verbally assault his son, as many parents do disrespectfully,even in public, after their child has lost. He asked his son what had happened and then after receiving a report, he proceeded to engulf his son in the security that he required as a child.
3. Daddy Zeng was an interesting daddy, he was always close to his child and catered to his every need. He really gave his son the room he required to be a child. Winston, played in the U-8 boys, the only player in the entire tournament to have gone 7-0 and receive an ovation from the crowd in the closing ceremony. Most parents will not allow their children to be children in a chess tournament, which should be a crime punishable by the chess police - if one existed. What struck me interesting was that during the 6th round, Daddy Zeng asked me to have another team meeting. You see, prior to that round, I felt it necessary to have a team meeting since we had not had one after the second day. That morning, as I saw the team results I realized that I had to speak to the team in order to motivate them. I never realized that this team meeting would have an important effect on the children. When the children entered the tournament hall, Daddy Zeng asked me if I would hold another team meeting because he had seen how motivated his son was. Here is when a daddy becomes more than a daddy, when he realizes that someone can help his own son to grow. Many daddies want to be it, Daddy Zeng realized that someone else could also help his son grow. His son won the gold medal in the U-8 boys.
4. Daddy Aaron was the closest father I had ever seen with a teenage chessplayer. Both father and son really clicked together and had a mutually respectful relationship. I could see that Deepak was not croweded by his dad's presence but rather was nutured by it. When my daughter Faith grows-up, I want to have the same relationship. Daddy Aaron was one of the few dads that actually analized the games of other children of the team, and this was a blessing. He is a natural born leader and believes in seeding in others. After the first night team meeting, he asked me I could drive him to the store since we had our vehicle. We went to a SAM'S CLUB. He wanted to buy a cooler that was big enough to put bottled water for the entire team. When he purchased it, he told me that when the tournament was over he would give me the cooler to take back home in my truck, as a gift. When the tournament was over, every member of TEAM USA, parents included, autographed the cooler that now sits in my kitchen. The cooler will travel with us to different tournaments not only providing water for us but to other parents and children, in the same spirit in which Daddy Aaron purchased it for TEAM USA. His son won the gold medal in the U-16 boys.
5. Daddy Abol was outright fun. He was a fun daddy that knew how to play with his son while still keeping the lines of respect between his son and him. He never showed stress or worry, he simply was laidback and fun. He always had a smile on his face and never showed any signs of worry, which really helped his son. He was also one of the parents that asked me to have a team meeting prior to the last round because it had inspired his son. I would have loved to have had a dad like Daddy Abol, he was carefree and did not beat his son emotionally because he played fast. In the 5th round, several parents had made a bet with his son, if he won his game and came out after Emily Nguyen, three parents would give him a dollar. What three dollars will do in the life of a child, he played a long game! His son won the bronze medal in the U-8 boys.
6. Daddy Nam was an always smiling father who has an ADORABLE daughter. Our daughters wanted to adopt Emily and bring her home. She would have been a perfect younger sister for Claudia, my daughter. Daddy Nam was a father that knew how to treat a girl chessplayer. I am one that believes that there is no difference between boys and girls chess beyond what parents place in a girls head. Daddy Nam found himself in the uncomfortable position of having his daughter play with boys in a tournament that was supposed to be divided between the two genders. Yet, his daughter proved that girls can play boys and perform well against boys. Emily drew Mexico's Pan American Youth 2009, silver medalist Carlos Sandoval Mercado who has been playing chess and competing internationally for Mexico since age five. What I really like about Daddy Nam is that even now that the tournament is over, he continues to learn FIDE regulations and rules, things that are important for the development of a chessplayer. I know as the sun rises above, that Emily one day will be one of the strongest chessplayers in America, that is right, not one of the strongest "female" players but one of the strongest players, period. One last thing, Daddy Nam does not do Emily's hair - thank God! His daughter won the bronze medal in the U-8 girls.
7. Daddy Gilchrist is a competitor no questions asked. He wants his son to perform well as all daddies do. I did not get to socialize with him as much during this tournament as I did with the other parents and players. However, I did see some pictures of him with his son at the beach, which was great! I have very few pictures of my father and I together for the simple fact that there was not much of a relationship. Anytime I see a father and a son taking pictures together, it makes my heart warm. Prior to the tournament, Daddy Gilchrist worked hard on getting us a uniform, however, things fell through with the sponsor, yet his example helped the rest of us to rally around the Troff family, who eventually solved this issue.
8. Daddy Munoz, I am not sure what I would write about myself, and it would be arrogant of me to even attempt to self-applaude myself. However, I can add a tidbit, what I did in this NAYCC 2009, I did for my daughter Claudia. It is with our life that we erase the mistakes our parents made, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Maybe they did not have an excuse, maybe they were the way they were because they did not know better. But, we know better. What are we doing to be a blessing in the lives of our children?
I present to you, the daddies of the NAYCC 2009 U.S. Chess Team - FOREVER SLIM AND IN SHAPE.
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