As the CEO of Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, Tom Looby has spent years working with kids and families.
And as a father to three daughters (Megan, 23; Kaitlin, 22; Kara, 16), Looby is never off the job. In honor of Father's Day, Tampa Bay Times staff writer Shelley Rossetter spoke with Looby, 53, about the joys of being a father and the activities that come along with it.
It's a fitting topic for Looby because it turns out the Father's Day holiday can trace its roots to the YMCA. In 1910, a Spokane, Wash., daughter wanted to honor her dad, the organization said. Where did she hold the first celebration of fathers? The Spokane YMCA.
Everyone talks about soccer moms. What is it like to be a soccer dad?
It's terrific. I've been doing it for probably 20 years, starting with my oldest daughter who will be 24 in September. Each one of my three daughters have been soccer players in addition to other sports, but soccer has been their main sport. I continue to be a soccer dad with my youngest, who is 16. The other two have grown up and went to college and now are fans of the game.
It has been a good activity to have as a family. It helped us build closeness, going to soccer tournaments and practices together. It's something we do together. We are a soccer family as much as I am a soccer dad.
And a lot of our nonwork friends are also soccer families. It's a great opportunity to connect with other families with kids who have similar interests.
Did you play soccer as a child?
I played a little bit in high school. It was not near as popular a sport as it is today. I also played basketball, tennis and football. I grew up in an age where kids didn't specialize and instead tended to play everything. Today kids tend to specialize a little more. In order to play at a higher competitive level, they have to make a choice and dedicate time to get skills for that.
How did your daughters get into the sport?
That's a good question. I think we saw soccer as a great sport for girls — obviously a sport like football was out. Soccer was a great choice for young girls growing up. Working for the YMCA, they were in soccer leagues early on and enjoyed the sport, enjoyed the environment and enjoyed the camaraderie.
How important are sports in your family? Is it something you do together?
We are sports enthusiasts. Both my wife and I played sports all the way up to college. It seemed natural for it to become a lifestyle. Think of soccer: When you spend most weekends on the field and traveling to tournaments, it becomes a lifestyle. We are sort of one of those nutty soccer families. When the men's national teams were in town in the pouring rain, we went to the game anyway and thought it was great.
What is the best thing about being a father?
I think being a father is probably, for me anyway, one of the more natural things I've ever done in my life. Whether it is work or other things in life, I had to work hard for them, but being a father came natural. I had good role models in my parents and I wanted to do some of those things for my kids. We've always been a close family and I contribute some of that closeness to soccer and athletics and just doing some things together.
Any advice for other fathers? Especially those with daughters?
It's always tough. There are challenges with any family and relationship. But I've always found that if you just carve out the time and spend it together it becomes a significant piece of what makes things go right. Life gets too busy and crazy and you sometimes can't spend time with kids . . . Finding time and making time and having things that are special between you and your kids, like soccer, helps create special bonds between fathers and daughters.
This article was edited for brevity and clarity.