Book Review: Like Father, Like Son. My story on running, coaching, and parenting.

I finished reading Like Father, Like Son. My story on running, coaching, and parenting by Matthew Centrowitz (Sr.).

It’s a great book. But, don’t expect flowing prose and vivid sentences of filled with imagery. Matthew Centrowitz Sr. is runner, not a writer. And, that is exactly why this book is so good. It’s raw. It’s authentic. It’s a book that anyone – including you – could aspire to write.

The book’s title is a solid synopsis of its content. This is a book on running, coaching, and parenting. What gives it depth is that it is a book on running at the University of Oregon during it’s heyday, on coaching from one of the top collegiate coaches, and on parenting to the reigning 1500m Olympic Gold Medalist.

This book is a great history – similar to many of the books I enjoy. It recounts stories of running for Bill Bowerman and Bill Dellinger (“Just call me Bill”) at the University of Oregon. The cast of characters include legends such as Frank Shorter, Alberto Salazar, and Steve Prefontaine. These were the contemporaries of Centrowitz Sr.. Written from the point-of-view of the author, these stories are fresh even if the facts will be known to most readers. There are flashes of youthful bravado, which the seasoned reader (ahem, older like me) can relate too and find humor.

But, I’d ask you to consider reading this book differently. Consider reading it as a book on parenting and raising children.

In the final chapters of the book, Matthew Centrowitz Sr. focuses on his role as a parent. He is the dad to a daughter (an accomplished athlete) and son – Matthew Centrowitz Jr. the reigning 1500m Olympic Gold Medalist and one of the best middle distance runners in the sport today. Given his elite running background, you would think that Centrowitz Sr. would be heavily involved in the daily coaching on his son. You might even think that from the book’s title; however, the reader will find this is not the case.

Centrowitz Sr. had a bad dad growing up who vanished from his life at an early age. For many, this situation creates a recurring cycle of deadbeat dad to their kids. Role models are powerful – even deadbeat ones. Fortunately, Centrowtiz Sr. breaks this cycle. He spends much of his teenage and young adult years filling the father-figure void left by the absence of his own dad.

When Centrowitz Sr. has his own children, he behaves differently as the reader will discover. By all accounts, Centrowitz Sr. becomes a great dad who applied the same discipline to parenting as he applied to running – showing up on the hard days, logging the miles, managing pain/disappointment, and listening/learning/getting better every day.

There’s a quotation in the book that Centrowtiz Sr. receives from an early coach.

“When you become a dad, put your medals away in a drawer.”

Makes you think. Let your children measure up to themselves and their goals – not chase yours or even your unfinished dreams. Like most great advice, this is hard to do. Maybe that’s why it takes a runner to pull it off.

 

-George

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