Fathers and sports seem to have a special connection.

Whether it’s as your coach, your throwing partner, your biggest supporter or a combination of any of those, fathers are, in many cases, the person who starts a child’s interest in sports.

Because of this, and Father’s Day being on Sunday, I find it fitting to honor those who fill that role.

Of course, when fathers in sports are brought up, there are the usual popular examples. Archie Manning is one, who had a respectable NFL career. Two of his sons, Peyton and Eli, have combined for four Super Bowl rings.

Dell Curry is seemingly more known for being Stephen and Seth’s father now than he is for his own successful NBA career.

Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. played together for the Seattle Mariners in 1990 and 1991, becoming the first father-son duo to hit back-to-back home runs in a game.

What interests me the most with fatherhood in sports, though, is the people who don’t get the publicity. The fathers at the middle school and high school levels who are at every game, watching the highs and lows of their child on the playing field. Their kid might never make it to college or professional athletics, but they’re there for every step of the way until the athletic journey ends.

You know who those fathers are within seconds. Sit in the stands at any school sporting event. You’ll know soon, with all of the yelling or nervous toe tapping, who is a father of a player in the game. It’s the nature of sports, and it’s one of my favorite things in a sporting events’ atmosphere.

I had a friend who was an offensive lineman on my high school’s football team, and his father was one of the types described above. I will never forget the game where my friend flattened a defensive lineman much bigger than him. As soon as it happened, his dad threw a party in the stands. There was jumping around involved and a lot of excited yelling. The play was actually a three-yard loss for the offense, but you would have never known that by how excited the father was in the stands for his son’s block.

My dad also fits the description above. I played baseball for about 15 years, and I can only remember a few games that he missed. He was always there to see my pitching outings and would start sweating when I would get two strikes on me in the batter’s box. At one point in high school, we played tournaments several hours from my hometown, and my dad was the only fan who would show up. It became a running joke on my team. Without my dad’s support through the years, I wouldn’t have been even close to the player I was, and I am believer that that applies to thousands of other people around the world.

Fathers make the sports world turn at every level. With Father’s Day on Sunday, be thankful for whoever filled that role in your life. It is a special connection.

 Sam Henderson is a contributor for the Stillwater News Press who is going into his junior year at Oklahoma State University.