“Dad, can I be in the NBA someday?” I asked my dad when I was seven years-old, on the way to basketball practice. This was well before the WNBA existed.

“Well, your defense is very strong and once you get your jump shot down, I think you definitely could be in the NBA,” my dad replied, making me feel like I could do absolutely anything in the world.

My dad is the ultimate empowerment figure in my life. When I was a little girl, he encouraged me to try anything I wanted. When I wanted to play flag football on an all-boys team, he was my coach. When I wanted to be my middle school’s representative at the diocesan oratorical competition, he listened to me rehearse “A Vision of Old Glory” hundreds of times. When I wanted to run for student council, he gave me ideas for my speech. When I decided to quit water polo my junior year of high school, he was behind me 100%. When I struggled with feelings of insecurity in high school, he taught me how to re-evaluate my perspective and how to embrace my strength. When I was in college and trying on different hats, whether it was majors of study or extracurricular activities, he was the one I’d call to talk about how excited I was that this could figure into my “life plan”. 

Kelly and her father

Now, in my first year in the “real world”, he’s the one I still call for advice—whether it’s navigating health insurance plans or pondering graduate school options, he’s my number one go-to for advice and support. I know that no matter what happens or what pathway I choose, my dad will always be on my team. I hope every girl, every child, has an adult figure that makes them feel like they can boldly pursue their passions and interests. I’m blessed that Brian Smith is that person for me. 

My dad has never failed to make time for his family and to take our phone calls during the work day (he’ll still step out of meetings for a five minute “catch up”), regardless of how busy his professional life is. As someone who frequently traveled during the week, I remember him flying in and rushing to high school swim meets in his work clothes, determined to volunteer as a timer or scorekeeper. Since meeting many of his co-workers, I’ve learned that this is something that he frequently discusses with them—you have to make the swim meets, the dance recitals, and the parent teacher conferences. You only get to go through these milestones with your kids once and you should treasure every second of it. As a man who has followed his own advice to the millionth degree, I want to thank and recognize him for being the backbone of our family and one of my best friends.