In this episode of “Dads with Daughters,” host Christopher Lewis explores the experiences of being a father to daughters with guest Craig Bennett, a high school football coach. The episode delves into various aspects of fatherhood and raising daughters, offering valuable insights and personal anecdotes.
Craig Bennett, a father of two daughters and a high school football coach in Georgia, joins the podcast to share his experiences and wisdom.
The conversation begins with a reflection on the moment Craig learned he was going to be a father to a daughter. He expresses his elation at the gift of having a daughter and discusses how gender wasn’t a determining factor for him; he simply wanted a healthy child.
Christopher asks Craig about his fears in raising daughters, and Craig candidly admits that his main fear was being too hard on them due to his upbringing in a rough and tough environment. He shares a transformative moment when he realized he needed to separate his frustrations from his role as a father to protect his daughter from unnecessary emotional baggage.
The discussion turns to the uniqueness of each daughter’s personality and the importance of building unique relationships with each child. Craig emphasizes the significance of understanding and accepting their differences rather than trying to mold them into a specific image.
When asked about his favorite activities to share with his daughters, Craig emphasizes that it’s the time spent together that matters most, regardless of the activity. He mentions his commitment to spending quality time with his daughters, considering his demanding role as a high school football coach.
Craig talks about the challenges of parenting daughters during their middle school years, highlighting the emotional struggles and societal pressures they face. He underscores the importance of being there to support and guide them during this transformative phase.
The conversation shifts to the topic of work-life balance, a challenge for Craig given his role as a head football coach. He discusses his efforts to compartmentalize work and home life, prioritizing time spent with his family and setting boundaries to avoid bringing work-related stress home.
The podcast explores the concept of being a “girl dad,” with Craig expressing immense pride in the unique bond he shares with his daughters. He shares the inspiring story of his daughter’s journey to becoming a kicker for Valdosta State’s NCAA football team, breaking barriers and pursuing her passion despite challenges.
Craig also reflects on a crucial lesson he learned while coaching girls’ basketball, acknowledging that he was overly critical of his daughter instead of enjoying watching her play. He advises fathers to avoid pushing their children too hard in sports and to let them enjoy the experience.
The episode concludes with Craig’s daughter returning to his coaching team, offering an opportunity for a renewed bond and shared experiences.
Throughout the episode, Craig Bennett’s experiences and insights provide valuable guidance for fathers on their journey of raising strong, independent daughters. The importance of embracing individuality, spending quality time, and being supportive is at the heart of this inspiring conversation.
Christopher Lewis [00:00:06]:
Welcome to dads with daughters. In this show, we spotlight dads resources and more to help you be the best dad you can be.
Christopher Lewis [00:00:16]:
Welcome back to the Dads with Daughters podcast, where we bring you guests to be active participants in your daughter’s lives, raising them to be strong, independent women. Really excited to have you back again this week. Every week, you and I are on a journey together. We have an opportunity to sit down together, to talk and to learn and grow from every dad that I talk to on the show. And the reason for that is that being a dad doesn’t have to be a solitary thing. And so many dads that I’ve talked to over the years talk about the misunderstanding, the misconception, the kind of societal norms that sometimes make you think that you have to go it alone, that you have to man up, that you have to do all these things to figure it out for yourself. And that’s really not the case. There are so many dads that are around you.
Christopher Lewis [00:01:09]:
There are so many dads that are doing the fatherhood thing, and you can learn so many things from them. So every week I love being able to talk with you, but also to bring you dads that are fathering in different ways, that have learned different things, both positive and maybe negative, that can help you along the journey that you are on as well. And that’s an important thing because all of us need to understand that we’re going to make mistakes along the way. All of us need to understand that we can ask for help. And even if you’re not willing to ask for help, you can listen, you can learn, and you can find some new tools that you can add to your toolbox that will help you to be that dad you want to be this week. We’ve got another great dad joining us today. Craig Bennett is with us and Craig is a main head football coach down in Georgia, and we are going to be talking about his journey as a father of two daughters and learn a little bit more about him and about the experiences that he’s had. And I’m really excited to have him here.
Christopher Lewis [00:02:20]:
Craig, thanks so much for joining us.
Craig Bennett [00:02:22]:
Thank you so much for having me. It’s definitely an honor.
Christopher Lewis [00:02:25]:
My pleasure having you here today. One of the first things I love doing is I like to turn the clock back in time. And I know you’ve got two daughters. I’d love to turn the clock all the way back, all the way back to that first moment when you found out that you were going to be a dad to a daughter. What was going through your head?
Craig Bennett [00:02:39]:
Amazing. Just the guy would bless me with such a gift. And I had a brother and there was no daughters in our family, and so he had already had two daughters. My brother and so this was going to be the third granddaughter on our side of the family. So your typical response was, you’re a football coach, you had a brother, don’t you want a boy? And I said no. I really didn’t. I did not care. And when it was a girl, I was elated.
Christopher Lewis [00:03:08]:
So like you just said, someone asked you, you don’t want a boy? And you said, Nah, you didn’t matter. It didn’t matter to you. For you, why didn’t it matter?
Craig Bennett [00:03:19]:
Mostly just because I just wanted a healthy child. I mean, that was a blessing from God. It didn’t matter to me, boy or girl, didn’t matter.
Christopher Lewis [00:03:29]:
So a lot of dads that I talked to talk to me about that when walking into fatherhood, but also walking into being a father of a daughter, that there’s a little bit of fear that goes in there. Maybe there’s a lot of fear, but there’s some fear that definitely is there. What would you say was your biggest fear in raising daughters?
Craig Bennett [00:03:46]:
Probably being too hard on them. Honestly, just growing up on a farm and growing up, my brother, myself, both had opportunity to play college football. And so you had this rough and tough and macho world that we grew up in and just making sure that I was doing the right thing and doing right for her and to her and all of that, unpack that a.
Christopher Lewis [00:04:10]:
Little bit for me. So what did you have to do to be able to, as you said, not be too hard and to kind of maybe soften the outer shell a little bit that you might not have typically done well?
Craig Bennett [00:04:23]:
And I’ll tell you, it really goes back to a moment in time, and not necessarily when she was born. We were in a playoff game and still was a young coach and still very immature. And it’s very immature as a dad as well. And when you lose a game, you tend to bring that loss home and nobody wants to be around you. And I remember distinctly we lost a playoff game and my daughter, she was a little over one years old, and she comes running up to me and I’m mad and I’m frustrated that we lost. And she has her arms wide open and it hit me really like a ton of bricks that she doesn’t care if we win or lose this game or not and why should I let my emotions impact her? And so that moment I decided that I was not going to bring those things home and that was really because of her.
Christopher Lewis [00:05:10]:
Did you have to do anything to be able to flip that switch? Did you have to do some work for yourself to be able to make that happen? Because for a lot of us, we can say it, but to make it happen takes some work and is not always easy work to do.
Craig Bennett [00:05:28]:
Yeah, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t. The look in her eyes running to me with her arms open, that was it for me. And it was either going to give up this thing you love in your coaching career or you’re going to treat your daughter the right way and not take anything out on her that she has no control over whatsoever. So it was pretty instantaneous.
Christopher Lewis [00:05:50]:
Honestly appreciate you sharing that. Now you have two daughters. Everyone that has multiple kids tells me the same thing and I have two daughters myself. Personalities are very different amongst the girls and you have to be able to build strong relationships, but unique relationships with each of your kids. Talk to me about what you’ve had to do to be able to build those unique relationships with each of your daughters.
Craig Bennett [00:06:15]:
I think just understanding those differences and sometimes we want our lives easy and we want cookie cutter things where everything’s identical and it just makes life easy and learned early on they were going to be very different and had to approach them differently, had to speak to them differently. Everything from schoolwork to athletics to social life, everything’s different. And thinking, just accepting who they are and not trying to change them or mold them into being the bigger sister or being the younger sister, it was, hey, you guys are very different and we’re going to accept that and move forward and do the best we can.
Christopher Lewis [00:06:53]:
So getting to know your kids, you get to also know the things that they love to do and you definitely have specific things that you love to do. As you look at both of your daughters, what are the favorite things that you like to do or share with each of your individual daughters?
Craig Bennett [00:07:13]:
And it’s time, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t really have a favorite thing I like to do with either one of them. It’s just the time that we get to spend. And being a high school football coach, my time is very limited anyway. And so we made an early choice early in our marriage and being early parents to say the time we get, we’re going to spend and not bring things home. And I gave up golf because I was 4 hours away from them and spending money and I wasn’t very good anyway, so that was easy. But even simple things like, hey, if we’re going to meet as a staff, we’re going to meet in the mornings. That’s when my girls were asleep and most kids are and it saved me some time in the evenings to be able to spend with them and it’s just we enjoy being with them and I think they would say the same.
Christopher Lewis [00:08:02]:
So raising kids in general has its high moments. It’s got its low moments, it’s got everything in between. As you look back at the lives of both of your daughters, what’s been the hardest part of being a father to a daughter?
Craig Bennett [00:08:15]:
Oh, gosh middle school. Just the emotions that young girls go through and the struggles of middle school and everything from what they wear every day to who their friends are and what sports they do or whatever, what classes they’re in. That was a hard time, I think, for everybody, even parents of young men at that age. I think they’re going through a lot of changes and just to be there, support them and help them grow into who they’re going to be, hopefully. So that was a tough time.
Christopher Lewis [00:08:52]:
It is definitely a tough time. And I can think of both my daughters having to go through their own learning and own journeys and you want to save them from every single thing and you can’t always save them from every single thing because they’ve got to learn and they’ve got to grow. But you definitely want to, and you want to lift them up and hold them and help them through it and tell them that it’s all going to be okay. And it typically is, but at that point in time it’s not to them.
Craig Bennett [00:09:22]:
Christopher Lewis [00:09:24]:
Now, you are a busy guy. You are the head football coach for the Cambridge High School football team. And as you said, it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of time, especially throughout the fall as you are working with your team and you are also working with other teams at your high school, as working with other athletic teams as well. And that takes you away from your family as well. So talk to me about balance. And balance is sometimes a bad word, but it’s something that we all have to deal with, we all have to think about and all have to try to grapple with. How have you been best able to balance both work and being that engaged, present dad that you wanted to be?
Craig Bennett [00:10:13]:
And I’ll be honest, I don’t always do a great job of that. And that’s something you got to work on daily and constantly. I would say. I try to compartmentalize everything at work. I’m going to be at work. Obviously, if those two need me, they know they’re going to be able to get me. But when I’m at home, I don’t bring the work home, I don’t bring my computer home, I don’t bring huddle home, video, whatever. I’m going to try to spend that time as much as I can with them.
Craig Bennett [00:10:41]:
You do say balance and people sometimes look at that and say there’s never true balance, but if you don’t work for it, it’ll slip away from you. And I think I learned that, like I said early in my career, just say, look, if I can’t get it done at school and get it done in the time that we’re there and the time that we’re spending, then it probably doesn’t need to get done. And a lot of coaches, and I think I learned this early in my career as well. A lot of coaches say, hey, family is first your faith and then your family. But they wouldn’t live that out. And football became ever so more important than family during the season. And it was hard as a young coach to say, well, you’ve told me family is important, but yet your actions don’t show that. And so that’s been one of my goals as a head coach.
Craig Bennett [00:11:25]:
I think sometimes you learn more what not to do through people you work for and work with than to do what they did. So I learned that early on. Look, if we’re going to say it, we’re going to try to live it out and make that important, make those decisions important, and the game will disappear for all of us, but family doesn’t.
Christopher Lewis [00:11:44]:
You and I got introduced through a tweet that you put out there. I saw a tweet of your daughter, and you used that hashtag Girl dad that’s been around for quite a few years. And I guess for me, one of the questions I would love to ask you is for you, what does being a girl dad mean?
Craig Bennett [00:12:02]:
Honestly, just pride. I mean, just pride in who they are. And it’s something to me very special to be a girl dad. To say, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t go with the trend a couple of years ago when it became really trendy, I guess you could say. But, yeah, it’s special. There’s a bond, I think, with dads and daughters that’s incomparable, and I’m not throwing any other relationship away or anything like that, but it’s a special bond.
Christopher Lewis [00:12:31]:
I’d be remiss to not have you brag a little bit about the image that I was talking about. And I saw an image of your daughter at Valdesta State and playing football for their team. Tell me the story behind how she got into playing football and now is playing NCAA football.
Craig Bennett [00:12:52]:
Yeah, it’s unique. She played soccer growing up. She played soccer at four years old. And I got to be a little bit honest here. She played in a co ed league with little boys and little girls, and I would always give her a dollar for every little boy she knocked down. I probably shouldn’t say that out loud. She was always very physical. So she would tell me she was going to play football and she’d be my quarterback, and we would laugh kind of joke.
Craig Bennett [00:13:14]:
And so this progressed throughout her young soccer career. And as a 9th grader, she said, I want to come kick for you. And I said, well, you’re going to come out there and try it. I’ll let you try. And the first extra point at a practice she made, and she made like, I think she was like 13 or 14 in a row, but her soccer schedule wouldn’t allow it. And so her sophomore year, I’ll never forget, she came up to me at school and she said, I just got my soccer schedule. I said, okay, good, that’s great. What is it like? She goes, I can play football.
Craig Bennett [00:13:42]:
So I immediately took her to locker room and put a helmet on her and it kind of grew from there, to be honest with you, that she was a JV kicker for us as a sophomore and got to kick in a varsity game. We were up pretty big and she got to go in and kick in a varsity game, which was pretty cool because there’s not too many in high school football that get to do that. And then as a junior, one of our young men got really sick and had to withdraw from school. He was our starting kicker. And so she kind of assumed those responsibilities. I think she was 90 out of 95 in two years as extra points. And she did some kickoffs. She had a touchdown saving tackle that helped us win a game on a kickoff.
Craig Bennett [00:14:25]:
And so she had some accomplishments with our region in Georgia, and we went and made the playoffs two years in a row while she was kicking for us. She wanted the opportunity, and it’s tough, it’s a tough deal to have a female on your football team and there’s locker room that you have to deal with and dressing out at different places and all of those things. And so every coach I would send her stats to, every coach that I knew, I knew a lot of college coaches, and they would say, yeah, we’ll take a walk on kicker, and I’d have to then text them, hey, Coach, this is my daughter. And it would kind of go radio silent. So long story short, I’m not going to tell you the whole story. She decided just to go to Valdosta State, who has been a Division Two powerhouse for many, many years. And we had a chance meeting with the Dean, and he had actually evaluated the officials for one of our playoff games. And we were like, well, our daughter kicked.
Craig Bennett [00:15:22]:
And so it kind of progressed from there. And they gave her a tryout and she made the team as a walk on last year. And now we just got told this week she’s going to get the dress for home games. And if I’m not mistaken, I searched and searched. I think she’s right now the only female on any NCAA roster.
Christopher Lewis [00:15:40]:
That’s amazing. Congratulations to her and to your whole family and working with her throughout the years because it takes a whole family to make that happen. But good luck to her in this season. That is a great story.
Craig Bennett [00:15:54]:
Thank you so much.
Christopher Lewis [00:15:54]:
And the other thing that I think that really it goes into what you said, that she’s breaking barriers by doing this too, and it’s not going to be an easy road for her in being the only female on the team. And my hope for her is that she has people around her that are supportive on the team that are helping her to be able to manage that. She seems like a strong individual and can probably handle herself, but it’s always good to have those people around her that will support that and support her and work to help to lift her up in that way.
Craig Bennett [00:16:34]:
Yes, sir. Absolutely she is. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about our state coaching staff. They have been phenomenal to her and treat her like a daughter as well as the young men on that team. They have accepted her, and she had earned a lot of that. But it’s just a class program for how they’ve treated my daughter, and that’s all you can ask as a dad.
Christopher Lewis [00:16:58]:
Definitely. Now, one of the things that you and I talked about goes back to coaching and a lesson that you learned as you were coaching a different sport. But can you tell me a little bit about that, what you learned as a coach of basketball that made you have to make some changes in your own life that would help you to be able to be a better dad?
Craig Bennett [00:17:18]:
Yeah, no doubt. My oldest daughter, she was a phenomenal athlete, played basketball, was a competition cheerleader. And so at that moment, I was a high school girls basketball coach. So she was around the girls a lot and always with us. And so she wanted to play basketball and be like some of those girls that she grew up watching. And I think that the thing that I regret is probably one of my biggest regrets is I was the coach. I was her coach. I never coached her.
Craig Bennett [00:17:49]:
I was never her titled coach, but I coached her in the car on the way home. I coached her from the stands, and that’s the worst thing you can do. I know better as a coach. And so she decided to quit. And I go back to those moments that I was constantly coaching her instead of just enjoying watching her play and enjoying what she did. And she quit playing basketball, and she was really good. And so my regret advice, I guess, would be to tell Dads to enjoy it, let them grow up, and don’t ruin it for them.
Christopher Lewis [00:18:23]:
As I did tell that that definitely impacted the way that you father and as your oldest that got older. Did you ever talk to her about that and reflect back on that and what was her reaction as she grew up and maybe her reaction now as you talk about it?
Craig Bennett [00:18:43]:
Yeah, I did. I apologized to her several times over and over again because I felt like I stole something that she really, really enjoyed, and I made it not enjoyable. And she was like, It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. I just didn’t want to play anymore anyway. I still truly believe that it was me that forced her to stop playing, but she went on to do some cheerleading and really enjoyed that. And now she’s going into athletic training and she’s back with me on the sideline right now.
Christopher Lewis [00:19:14]:
That’s great. And I love hearing that she’s going to be able to get to now work with you in a whole different way and working with you on the sideline, I’m sure that she’s excited about that as well. And it’s going to give you both an opportunity to grow your bond even further and get to know each other in a different way than you probably have before, too.
Craig Bennett [00:19:33]:
Yes, sir. No doubt.
Christopher Lewis [00:19:34]:
We always finish our interviews with what I like to call our Fatherhood Five, where I ask you five more questions to delve deeper into you as a dad. You ready?
Craig Bennett [00:19:41]:
Yes, sir. I hope so.
Christopher Lewis [00:19:42]:
In one word, what is fatherhood love? Was a time that you finally felt like you succeeded at being a father to a daughter?
Craig Bennett [00:19:50]:
I hope in the near future, if.
Christopher Lewis [00:19:52]:
I was to talk to your daughters and ask them, how would they describe you as a dad?
Craig Bennett [00:19:58]:
Oh, gosh. Loving but demanding.
Christopher Lewis [00:20:00]:
Who inspires you to be a better dad?
Craig Bennett [00:20:02]:
Probably my dad passed away last November. That would be it been a lot.
Christopher Lewis [00:20:06]:
Of pieces of advice, things that you’ve learned along the way. What’s one piece of advice you’d want to give to every dad that’s listening?
Craig Bennett [00:20:14]:
Take it all in. And I know everybody says that and how fast it goes, but goodness, take it all in. The good, the bad, just enjoy the journey.
Christopher Lewis [00:20:23]:
Well, Craig, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for sharing your own journey. Thank you for sharing your daughter’s journey with us as well. And I wish you all the best.
Craig Bennett [00:20:33]:
Thank you so much and it was an honor to be on and I appreciate it.
Christopher Lewis [00:20:37]:
If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode of the Dads with Daughters podcast, we invite you to check out The Fatherhood Insider. The Fatherhood Insider is the essential resource for any dad that wants to be the best dad that he can be. We know that no child comes with an instruction manual and most dads are figuring it out as they go along. And The Fatherhood Insider is full of resources and information that will up your game on Fatherhood. Through our extensive course, library, interactive forum, step by step, roadmaps and more, you will engage and learn with experts, but more importantly, dads like you. So check it [email protected]. If you are a father of a daughter and have not yet joined the Dadswithdaughters Facebook community, there’s a link in the notes. Today Dads with Daughters is a program of fathering together.
Christopher Lewis [00:21:26]:
We look forward to having you back for another great guest next week. All geared to helping you raise strong, empowered daughters and be the best dad that you can be. We’re all in the same boat and it’s full of tiny, screaming passengers we spend the time we give, the lessons we make, the meals we buy them present. Bring your A game because those kids are growing fast. The time goes by just like a dynamite blast calling astronauts and firemen, carpenters and muscle men. Get out and be the world to them. Be the best dad you can be. Be the best dad you can be.