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Modern Parenthood

Danell Leyva and John Orozco: Fathers deserve medal in parenting

Danell Leyva and John Orozco have both received unwavering support from their fathers, who both set a standard for modern parents trying to connect with their kids through sport. Where's the gold medal for parenting?

By Lisa SuhayCorrespondent / August 2, 2012

US men's gymnastics member Danell Leyva's stepfather and coach Yin Alvarez, right, celebrates after Leyva, left, won the bronze medal during individual all-around competition at the 2012 London Olympics on Aug. 1. Both Leyva and teammate John Orozco received support from their fathers during the competition.

Matt Dunham/AP


Norfolk, Virg.

Danell Leyva’s dad is not afraid to hug, hop, whoop, fist pump, weep, ear tweak, and give stern looks that telegraph to his son, “You can do better!”

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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John Orozco's father sits stoically in the stands, looking down on the US men's gymnastics competition and willing his son to persevere.

Both fathers' ability to connect with their sons via sport is the gold standard for modern dads, according to a study released this month by the University of California.

The study, "Fatherhood and Youth Sports: A Balancing Act between Care and Expectations," released this week by University of California, Los Angeles, takes a look at “how men juggle two contrasting cultural models of masculinity when fathering through sports – a performance-oriented orthodox masculinity that historically has been associated with sports and a caring, inclusive masculinity that promotes the nurturing of one’s children.”

The fact that dad/coach Yin Alvarez is Mr. Leyva’s stepfather adds a whole new dimension to the story, and it goes a long way toward removing the stigma stepfathers can often suffer when they are portrayed as disconnected from children who are not theirs biologically.

Danell’s mother is Maria Gonzalez. His biological father, Johann Leyva, lives in Spain. Both his biological parents were members of the Cuban national gymnastics team. Yet what we have seen in London is a bond of fatherhood born of a level of parenting through sport that should be a model for any man who wants to build a parental relationship with a son or daughter.

While the study does not specifically mention Mr. Alvarez, the next study probably should. It is easy to see more than the admiration and respect an athlete gives a coach when Leyva looks at Alvarez – that's love.

Watching Leyva and his father, we can see that for this father, at least, there is absolutely no holding back in the emotional department and that’s a great thing.


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