9 Ways to Leap Beyond Father’s Day to Dad Awesome Day

by Jeff Zaugg

I’ll never forget the joy that swelled up inside my 9-year-old heart as I watched my dad leap into a swimming pool from a raised perch in front of hundreds of cheering cruise ship passengers.

It was the biggest event of the four-day cruise: the Belly Flop Competition. My 40-year-old dad was competing against men 15 years younger than he was, and in a lineup ranked by beach physique and swimwear style he would have placed dead last. But the belly flop competition wasn’t about muscles and appearance; it was about the soaring and the splash. And my dad had an inner courage, creativity, and crazy commitment to win that was about to electrify the crowd.

After two rounds of amazing and painful belly flops, the top two finalists were announced and my dad was still in the fight for the title. The other guy went first and landed a nearly perfect belly flop. Then it was time for Dad’s final attempt.

This is when the unexpected awesomeness emerged.

There was a 2-foot box next to the pool that everyone was using as their jumping platform. For this final flop, this leap of a lifetime, my dad didn’t settle for that. He climbed up to the outer railing of the hot tub that was next to the pool, about five feet above the water. The crowd went crazy, and with fearless focus, Dad performed an awe-inspiring flight and plunged into the pool. Yes, the splash was incredible. My dad won, of course, and for the next few days he was congratulated again and again by strangers on that ship.

In my mind, he was not “Dad Average.” He was “Dad Awesome.” Looking back now, 30-plus years later, every dad on that cruise should be celebrated and thanked for taking his family on a fun vacation. My dad’s belly flop victory is just one memory, and it’s actually a small part of what made him an awesome dad. And I’m sure many of the other dads on that cruise had their own moments of awesomeness with their kids that weren’t witnessed by hundreds of people.

Please don’t settle for the “Dad Average” approach on Father’s Day or any day.

It always feels great to be affirmed for the role we play in our kids’ lives, but don’t let Father’s Day be about receiving gifts, eating a favorite meal and relaxing, then you go back to the same routine you had before. Maybe you’ll just roll through an uneventful summer and an unremarkable year that will be easily forgotten. Then, 30-plus years from now, the story of your fatherhood will be “Dad Average.”

Now, make no mistake, dad: Kids are remarkably resilient and forgiving, and “Dad Average” might be just fine to them. Especially when they’re young, they think you’re awesome, larger than life, maybe even a superhero. But you and I know when we’re giving our best effort, really trying to be awesome dads, and when we’re just kind of doing what’s expected and, well, average.

The “Dad Awesome” approach is about intentionality. We don’t take cruises or enter belly flop competitions every day, but we can make small-but-significant, day-by-day changes that will help us win with our kids and be more awesome in their eyes.

The goal is to leap beyond Father’s Day to “Dad Awesome Day,” and I have 9 actionable ways to help you express more courage, creativity, and crazy commitment in your fathering:


1. Gather Other Dads – Awesome fatherhood results will never be accomplished alone. Most of us don’t feel qualified to lead a fatherhood group, so we keep trudging on this journey toward “Dad Awesome” alone, as do other men around us. But the best way to grow is to gather. Simply invite, recruit, and gather three other dads around a campfire, a cup of coffee or a workout, with a focus on helping each other be better dads. You can ignite more intentionality in your own fatherhood and in every dude who says “yes” to your invitation.

2. Ask Your Child Deeper Questions – When was the last time you asked for feedback from your kids? Start by looking your child in the eyes and saying, “I love that I get to be your dad.” Then ask three questions: 1) How am I doing as your dad? 2) What do I do that you really like? 3) What do I do that you don’t like? (And don’t accept “Fine” or “I don’t know.”)

3. Schedule a Counselor/Therapist – Courageous dads are willing to look into the deeper areas of past hurts and present tensions. Every hour we humbly spend in this deeper healing work could transform hundreds of future hours with our kids and grandkids, and drastically reduce the likelihood that we’ll pass down our issues and pain to them.


1. 1-on-1 Intentional Time – Show me your calendar, and I’ll show you your values. The most important people in the world are your wife and kids! Do you have an upcoming date night on the calendar with your wife? Do you have 1-on-1 time scheduled with each of your kids? These planned connection times can be very simple, like a bike ride together, a walk to the gas station to buy TicTacs, or a car ride to a new playground with a favorite drink to share.

2. Prepare Intentional Words – When you’re giving a speech at a wedding or sharing a few memories at a funeral, you thoughtfully plan out what you want to say. What if you spent five minutes, once a month, preparing a minute of thoughtful and affirming words for each of your children? Intentional words build up and give life, and our kids need to hear lots of them from us.

3. Craft Memorable Moments – Spend some extra planning memory-making adventures with your kids. Be original or grab ideas from Dude Perfect, Dude Dad, or name your favorite YouTube creativity generator. You could make a rope swing, build a fort, jump off a cliff into a lake, turn your carpeted stairs into a cardboard sliding hill, throw pancakes across the kitchen, make a slip-n-slide, etc. Shiny eyes are contagious!


1. Read a Fatherhood Book – Readers are leaders. Reading books may not be on your list of favorite activities, but this is a challenge to change. Whether the books are audio, paper or eBooks, this is a great way to keep growing as a dad. Here are six of my favorites: The Intentional Father, Becoming A King, The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers, Fathered By God, Uprising, Raising Spirit-Led Kids.

2. Plan a Trip – Your kids want to be invited into shared time away with you: a week, a weekend, or a day trip. Spend the money and the time and take initiative to plan some adventures.

3. Dial Down Your Career – I have hosted 282 weeks (and counting) of the DadAwesome Podcast, and when I hear from dads who have kids 20 years or older, there’s one sentiment that’s repeated most often: their jobs sucked way too much of their valuable time and attention when their kids were younger. This might be the year to say “no thanks” to a promotion or make the hard decision to pivot your career to bring life back to your most valuable people.

Dad, I challenge you to choose one or two of these ideas and get started today. Don’t let this Father’s Day pass without making or renewing a crazy commitment to your kids. You’ll never regret any effort you make toward being “Dad Awesome.”

Jeff Zaugg is a loving husband, intentional dad, and passionate advocate for the fatherless. With experience in nonprofit leadership and pastoring, he founded dadAWESOME in 2018 and has since hosted more than 280 podcast episodes. In 2019 he founded Fathers for the Fatherless, which has mobilized over 800 men in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain to ride their bikes 100 miles, raising over $720,000 for the fatherless. Jeff and his wife Michelle have four daughters and are based out of Minnesota but can currently be found traveling the country together in an RV. Jeff enjoys waterskiing, cycling, ultimate frisbee, surfing, slacklining, spikeball, triathlons and building tree forts.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.

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