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Subtle Wisdom: My Dad's Ingenious Motivational Tool That Shaped My Life

Marcy is a school counselor at an alternative school in Illinois. Other than education and her family, her passion has always been writing.

An Introduction

In 2012, I complied 34 years of coaching statistics into a book for my dad. As an added surprise, I included several stories I heard him tell about his coaching career over the years and some personal stories about growing up under his direction.

This book was self-published and only intended to be a personal collection of memories for my dad, yet it somehow became a community memoir. See, my dad coached four sports over three decades at the same high school. He was also a teacher and guidance counselor. As a result, he touched the lives of thousands of students and their families. They, too, wanted a copy of the book as a portal back to a time when Blue Mound High School was supreme, and Coach Dick McDonald was King.

So, I found myself on local talk shows, doing newspaper interviews, and book signings in my hometown. Don't misunderstand, this book didn't sell thousands of copies, but for a small town of 1,200 people, it did alright. This story below is one of the personal stories from the book that I think explains my dad's success as a coach and as a parent. To this day, I often think back on his subtle wisdom and smile.

My dad & I on vacation in Lake of the Ozarks about 2011. He is wearing his Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame hat. He was inducted in the hall in 1993.

My dad & I on vacation in Lake of the Ozarks about 2011. He is wearing his Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame hat. He was inducted in the hall in 1993.

Subtle Wisdom: Parenting Done Right

Growing up, I sometimes felt like I was on his team instead of being his daughter. I guess when your dad is busy coaching three sports, every day is in season, even for daughters. Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining. I think I turned out pretty good, comparatively. Looking back, I see my dad's parenting style was much like his coaching style. He mostly used a motivational approach. He had and still has this way of getting people to uncover their inner-best. Today I have come to know this game plan -- for the lack of a better term -- as subtle wisdom.

I cannot explain his craft precisely, except he has this way of mentioning something that makes you think. And the more you think about it, the more you become positively influenced by it. Putting his tactic into words is extremely difficult, but I am confident anyone who ever played on one of my dad's teams knows exactly what I'm talking about. It's like a weird contradiction: something so simple it's complicated.

I honestly believe the entire core of my belief system links directly back to two specific examples of subtle wisdom.

I have pretty much grown into the person I am today based on many pieces of this subtle wisdom. I heard a few of my dad's sayings numerous times growing up. My dad's words, and more importantly, the meaning of those words still resonate in my head today. I honestly think the entire core of my belief system links directly back to two specific examples of subtle wisdom.

My dad was Grand Marshal in his hometown Fall Festival parade 2018.

My dad was Grand Marshal in his hometown Fall Festival parade 2018.

Renovations of the school where my dad coached and taught for 34 years. The gymnasium is named in his honor.

Renovations of the school where my dad coached and taught for 34 years. The gymnasium is named in his honor.

Don't Out-Drive Your Headlights

It never failed. I would be getting ready to go out with friends or on a date, and before I could zip out the door, my dad would offer these words of advice: "Marceleda, don't out-drive your headlights." This trademark metaphor was intended to detour me from doing just about anything that could get me in trouble. Over the years it has meant all of the following and more:

  • Don't do something you will regret later.
  • Don't do something for the wrong reasons.
  • Don't get yourself into something you can't get out of.
  • Don't do something just because everyone else is doing it.
  • Don't think you are invincible.
  • Don't think you can't get caught.
  • Don't get wrapped up in something you can't handle.

Well, you get the picture. Every time I even thought about doing something questionable, I heard my dad's words in my head. I am a lot like my dad: practical, cautious, and self-respecting. I thought too much of my dad, and myself, to risk disappointing either. Don't out-drive your headlights still has real meaning for me. And even today, when my dad thinks I need a little reality check, he will remind me, the way a dad should: "Marceleda, don't out-drive your headlights."

My daughters and my parents at an event in 2018 honoring my dad in his gymnasium. The gym was named McDonald Gymnasium after his retirement in 1993.

My daughters and my parents at an event in 2018 honoring my dad in his gymnasium. The gym was named McDonald Gymnasium after his retirement in 1993.

You Are Who You Think You Are

While the last saying kept me grounded and honest, the next one instilled confidence and pride. Growing up, I was always proud to be Marcy McDonald. I was raised to have goals and not make excuses for my shortcomings. I didn't have to be perfect at anything, but I had to be my best at everything. This attitude grew from my dad's other favorite saying: "Marceleda, you are who you think you are." Translation: as long as I believed in myself, I could do anything. If I thought I was a winner, then I was a winner. This saying taught me that my destiny was entirely within my control.

Still, today when I feel challenged or overwhelmed, I think of these words: You are who you think you are. I feel so blessed to have had such practical and subtle wisdom growing up. I am certain a lot of my dad's former athletes and students feel the same way.


My dad and I at a book signing in 2012. My friend Annette showed up in her cheerleading sweater to surprise my dad.

My dad and I at a book signing in 2012. My friend Annette showed up in her cheerleading sweater to surprise my dad.

Genius-Level Parenting

Sure, my dad could be direct and thunderously clear at times when he needed to get his point across. However, he also understood when subtlety was the best approach. His subtle messages were never confrontational, authoritative, or preachy. They were, as I have said before, pieces of subtle wisdom, cleverly offered at the opportune time of effectiveness. His approach was genius, and I did not hesitate to use this approach with my girls. After all, my dad always says, "If you are winning, why change horses in the middle of the race?" I'll let you ponder that little bit of subtle wisdom, compliments of my dad.

© 2020 Marcy Bialeschki

Comments

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 04, 2020:

Thank you Lorna. He is an amazing man. The book was a breeze because I had great material.

Lorna Lamon on May 04, 2020:

Your dad was definitely a wise man and it's touching that you were able to honour him in such a personal way. The fact he touched so many lives in such a positive way and so many of those lives wanted a copy of your memoir says it all. I enjoyed reading this uplifting article.

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 03, 2020:

Thank you Rosina. I have had a blessed life.

Rosina S Khan on May 03, 2020:

It's good, Marcy, you heeded your Dad's beliefs, principles and subtle wisdom, even later into your years. Writing a book in his honour is all the more remarkable. Thank you for sharing.

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 03, 2020:

We worked on the book together for about 8 months getting his sports statistics organized. It is a fond memory for me. We had a great time putting the book together.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 03, 2020:

It's great that you were able to honour your Dad in this way.