A slice of President Gilbert’s fatherhood: The importance of recreational activities

Father’s Day is coming this weekend, and whether he is on campus, at a son’s basketball practice or at the dinner table, President Clark Gilbert sets an example for BYU-Idaho students of what happiness in the family looks like.

“I remember, as a young child, practicing and shooting baskets with my father, but probably even more impactful, was when he took time out of a busy schedule that he had and made it to my basketball games,” President Gilbert said. “I especially remember when I was on the JV team, games were early in the afternoon, and I knew he had to leave work early to come to my games. He would walk in wearing a suit, and I didn’t care that he was all dressed up. I was just so happy to have my dad supporting me.”

Kathy Webb, President Gilbert’s secretary, said he has time in his schedule he refers to as non-negotiable time. She said during these times, he turns off his phone, disconnects from work and spends time with his family.

“Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities,” according to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

President Gilbert said wholesome recreational activities include sports, hiking, travel, games, family study and a wide variety of other things that bring and bind families together. He said his family is currently studying the Spanish culture and language as a way to come closer together and learn about the world around them.

“Frankly, it takes a lot of family support just to get them to those activities with eight children,” President Gilbert said.

President Gilbert said he often refers to three main roles of fathers that are outlined in “The Proclamation” as being the most expansive and impactful principles for fathers. He said these are to provide for, preside over and protect their family.

“There is real priesthood leadership expected from all of us as brethren in the Church,” President Gilbert said. “What do I do to make sure we are having family home evening and family prayer? Are we doing fathers’ interviews with our children regularly? When summer comes, do I provide leadership in the home for our children by helping them set goals and use their time productively?”

President Gilbert said with one of his two sons on a mission, he tries to be extra involved with his son John, who is still at home.

“Sometimes he feels like he is the  lone man out with all these girls at home,” President Gilbert said. “He played in a basketball league, and I just found if I could be one of the assistant coaches, that would help. All winter, John and I would get up every morning and would go to basketball practice starting at 6 a.m. It was a way for us to go do something together. It was a way for me to be really involved with his team. Even though I was busy, we could make it work with our schedules.”

President Gilbert said to have that father and son bonding time was great for their relationship.

Rick Merrill, President Gilbert’s son’s basketball coach and a Rexburg local, said President Gilbert is one of the most supportive parents and makes it to every game and practice if he is in town.

“I can see — as they work together and as he is involved with John, helping him improve and understand the game —they grow closer together as a father and son in love and friendship,” Merrill said.

Webb said students at BYU-I have special opportunities and resources to learn how to become fathers and prepare for family life.

“Here at BYU-Idaho, we study in the eternal family course the roles and responsibilities of fathers and mothers,” President Gilbert said. “I think about the recently married students and those that have just become fathers in their homes, and I think ‘The Proclamation’ becomes a powerful resource to them.”

Fathering is more than just being the man in a house, according to Deseret News. Being a father is to spend time with your children, to build a relationship with them, and to do everything you can to give a child his or her best shot at life.

“As we get to Father’s Day, I am just so grateful for something like ‘The Proclamation’ that articulates these roles for a father,” President Gilbert said.

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