Senior year is crucial for father-son relationships.
It’s often the last chance for the family patriarch to offer advice before a young boy becomes a man, and leaves the nest for college or a career.
That’s why Shiloh Christian coach Jeff Conaway has a retreat for seniors-only and their fathers, just before the blur of their final year of high school begins.
The Saints returned Saturday from this year’s “Father-Son Retreat,” a three-day, two-night stay at War Eagle Resort in Tahlequah, Okla.
“It’s perfect [timing],” Conaway said. “As a young man going into your senior year, you begin to think, ‘What’s next?’ ‘Where am I going to college?’ That seems to be a time when they may be leaning on mom and dad a bit more. And this is their last year in the house if they do go off to college.
“We feel like they are really ripe, or really fertile if you will, to really make those connections right before our football season.”
A father-son relationship isn’t always rosy, especially as youngsters reach their late teens. Sometimes, the relationship breaks down as the son begins thinking he’s a man and can make his own decisions — even though he still lives under dad’s roof and dad will always be the man of the house.
Often, those situations can be avoided if communication lines remain open.
As it sounds, improving communication is a big part of the Saints’ annual “Father-Son Retreat.”
“The goal of the retreat is to connect fathers and sons in a very special way,” Conaway said. “We want to give those dads and those players the opportunity. And as coaches, we’re kind of there to assist in the bonding.”
There are all types of “competition drills” and even a “trust walk,” where blindfolds come into play. For instance, dad gets blindfolded and is directed through an obstacle course using only verbal commands from their son. Once dad makes it through, roles are swapped with son wearing the blindfolded while dad provides direction.
“It’s just a neat deal and it gets the sons and the dads talking and communicating, and that’s always a special deal,” Conaway said.
Perhaps, the neatest deal is during a testimonial-type segment where tears flow and hearts open. One by one, players stand up and profess what they are the most thankful for from their fathers. Fathers then tell what they’re the most proud of from their sons.
“That gives them the opportunity to really share from the heart,” Conaway said. “It’s a unique opportunity for them to communicate and to do it with the football team.”
The experience not only strengthens bonds between fathers and sons, it also serves as a team building experience for the seniors and the coaching staff. They see sides of one another they may not see while busting heads on the field or pushing iron in the weight room.
Conaway has been hosting father-son retreats since he was at Green County Tech in 2008. He said he “pulled the best stuff” out of similar retreats put on by coaches Ronnie Peacock, Rick Jones and Jeff Weaver “to make ours the best we could.”
“Every year I’ve done it, it’s been a great experience — for all us,” Conaway said.
And the timing couldn’t be any more perfect.
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