When going up against a tough football team, Chris Endress, Bishop Carroll Catholic High School's newest assistant football coach and science teacher, says he'll often call upon a friend for advice. As a new dad, he's learning to employ the same teamwork tactics.
The first page in his fatherhood playbook: Taking part in the Bootcamp for New Dads and other childbirth education classes offered at no cost to parents by the Ascension Via Christi NewLife Center thanks to a grant from Children's Miracle Network Hospitals at Ascension Via Christi.
"My wife, Maria, and I took the educational classes together, but most of the physical load is on mom until the baby arrives," he says. "The Bootcamp class allowed me to be in a group where we could discuss without judgment and it helped give me more perspective to what I could do as a father."
That class pairs new dads with a "veteran" dad to offer advice and facilitate honest conversation among the rookies.
"I liked how we talked among us and felt we could ask those 'dumb questions,'" says Chris, who enrolled in the virtual Zoom class. "We could casually share our fears and worries knowing we were all in the same boat."
Almost three months after their son, Isaac, was born at the NewLife Center, Chris was asked to come back to class as a veteran dad.
"I tried to dig in on the parts where dads can help and not feel helpless; you can't help with the hormones or morning sickness, but you could help by picking up chores," he says. "I explained things from when I was sitting in their position and what reality is vs. what I thought it was, how I was feeling, so they had a better idea of what was coming."
With Isaac now nearly 5 months old and Maria returning to work in the Ascension Via Christi Infection Prevention department, Chris is excited to put his skills to the test.
"I've been a teacher and coach for two decades and if I was asked to put together a lesson plan or playbook tomorrow, I could do it easily," says Chris. "But being home alone with Isaac was like starting an internship with little experience, but I learn more with each day."
Chris says the class, occupation and natural curiosity taught him to value trading tips and "game film" with others.
"Fatherhood, I've found, is like going up against a tough team – I'll call on someone else with experience to ask what worked and what didn't so we can have the best outcome and I find myself asking similar questions to those in our families," he says.
"It's spooky because I've always had science and records to answer my unknowns in teaching and coaching," he says. "With Isaac, this is my rookie year, but it will be the best, most rewarding and challenging job I'll ever have."