COLUMN: Father’s Day tribute to Michael Donoghue

Note: June is always a big month around high schools. There is graduation and the end of the scholastic careers for seniors, plus Father’s Day, which is Sunday.

During previous Junes, Tom Williams has turned over his column to Stephanie Gaitley, Matt Woolley, Jeff Boyd, Allison Rinck, Erik Geisinger, Doug Colman, Allie Moreland, Tracey LeFever, the Degenhardt sisters, Chelsea Bruno, Danielle McNally, Dave & Casey Beyel, the Mensinger brothers, the Donahue sisters, the Impagliazzos, the Baruffis and Shaune McLaughlin, among others, to write about their fathers.

This week, two Ocean City High School athletes – Danielle and Andrew Donoghue, one of the most successful brother-sister combinations in Raider sports history, write their feelings about their father. Danielle, who will graduate from OCHS next week and head to Mount St. Mary’s, is a two-sport all star who set school records in lacrosse and played on three South Jersey basketball champions. Andrew, who just completed his sophomore year at The College of New Jersey, holds school passing records in football, was an basketball all star and a starter in baseball.     

Their father, Michael, was an all star athlete in high school and college..


This father’s day, we are blessed with the opportunity to write about our childhood hero, Michael Donoghue. Unlike recent Father’s Day tributes, our father is not known in the community like many of the other fathers. Our father is not a teacher, superintendent, athletic director or principal. He has never been a coach of any of our sports teams, has never been a part of our team’s booster clubs, and he would not be recognized as an instrumental part in our city’s recreation department.

He may not be known as an athlete in our community, but go up to Delran and you may have a different answer. Our father was a star at Holy Cross High School, a key player on his football and baseball teams, playing quarterback in football and catcher in baseball. After a junior season where the 1979 Lancers made it all the way to the Parochial state final, he earned a spot on the Burlington County and All-Parochial teams. His senior year team was not as successful, more of a season of laughs still to this day with his buddies.

His teammates have said they would come back to the huddle after dropping a pass and when he asked “How’d you miss that one” they would say “Mike, you threw it too hard!” After high school he attended Gettysburg College, playing quarterback there too, then attending Arcadia University after college and again in 2008 to get the fancy “PT DPT MS ATC” titles after his name, along with creating Arcadia’s baseball program.

After his schooling he had some cool jobs, such as being an athletic trainer for the Philadelphia Eagles, working with Eagles legends Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Randall Cunningham and others. He spent his time on the sidelines of games standing close to Buddy Ryan, the head coach of the Eagles at the time, to see if he could get on TV (and he was successful).

Our dad is not the only Donoghue who has a history with the Eagles. His grandfather and our great grandfather, Joseph Donoghue, was their vice president back in the 60’s and was offered the NFL commissioner’s position after the passing of Bert Bell. He turned it down and suggested someone else, someone by the name of Pete Rozelle. Also there is our uncle, Jim Gallagher, who was a long time team executive spending 46 years with the Eagles serving under 17 head coaches and 12 owners, GM’s and presidents. Both our dad’s grandfather and uncle are a part of the Eagle’s Hall of Fame.

Although we can go on and on about how cool our dad is and tell you all about the experiences he’s had, it is his character that we like to brag about the most. Our father is a licensed physical therapist who owns his own practice in West Deptford. Team Rehab Physical Therapy has been in business since 1992, helping patients recover from their injury and get back to life before the pain. In his 27 years in business, he has spent $0 in advertising. How is this possible? How can customers know that his practice is even an option? His patients claim that he is some type of miracle worker, relieving the pain that other physical therapists could not. His trick is he caters to each individual patient with a unique approach that will help them the most, instead of pushing a type of “universal” and “one size fits all” approach on them. This type of one on one care and service has allowed his business to spread through word of mouth and he gets lots of referrals to family members, coworkers and friends. He is so good at his job that people want to see him – he does not even have to ask for customers.

In the early days of his practice he would operate two different offices in different locations. Somedays he had to leave at 4:30 a.m. and not come home until 10 p.m. On top of working long hours to provide for his family, he never missed a moment of our lives when he could be there. On days that he could, he would rush right from the office to get into the bleachers of our games. On weekends, he would spend his days off driving us from state to state for various games and tournaments. With all the time spent with our dad, he has taught us so much that it’s almost impossible to put it all into one single article.

The first thing that comes to our minds when writing about our father is his work ethic and how great an example he has set for us. Growing up we have always admired the fact that our dad was always willing to go the extra mile to get something done and is not afraid to get his hands dirty. He never complains about any task, he simply puts his head down and does what he’s got to do because, you know what – “life’s rough, wear a helmet” (one of his favorite sayings). This is evident in his career, where he has sacrificed so much of his own time to give his children opportunities he never had when he was growing up. He is constantly putting us first before anything he does, because he wants to give us all the tools that we can use be successful.

With his dedication to working for his family, he has given us the opportunity to grow up in the great community of Ocean City, one of the most unique places to grow up in the entire country. So many people wish they could grow up a city like Ocean City. His dedication and desire to go 100% into everything he does has translated to us, creating a trait that we use both on and off the field. He has taught us to work hard in every aspect of our lives because he is a living example of the phrase “the harder you work, the luckier you get.”

Valuing the importance in education is also something that our father taught us. Our father is always in the mood to learn something new and better understand the world around him, and he can often be found lounging on a couch reading a new book. There isn’t a subject he hasn’t read about and if he kept all the books he has read over the years we are sure he could give the public library some competition. This quest for knowledge has taught us to try and soak up and learn as much as we can, both in school and our personal lives. He has taught us the power of information and taught us that it was important that we pay attention in school and create e a diverse portfolio of knowledge in many subjects. By being open to learning new things, he has been able to help and tutor us in all subjects of school, even in classes he’s never taken. For example, Andrew frequently asked him for help in one of his finance classes in college two semesters ago and, sure enough, he was able to help him understand the material better through a phone call here and there. It’s because of him that we both wanted to continue down the path of education into college, because he has taught us that an education will lead to success in the long run.

Although our father was never an on the field coaching for us, he still has taught us more than any coach ever has. Physically, he introduced us to sports at a young age, teaching us how to throw a football, how to shoot a basketball, how to swing a bat, how to hit a golf ball and how to use our backhand in tennis. He even made a regulation sized goal-post in our backyard to teach us how to kick field goals. To this day most of our mechanics in every sport we play or played can be traced back to lessons in the yard. He spent hours with us in the backyard and in the alley way behind our house playing catch and making sure to coach us along the way so we would develop good habits early.

But besides the part where he took us to batting practice or played catch with the lacrosse ball, he was a mental coach for us, too. He always told us we were capable of anything, on and off the field, and he was our biggest supporter. At our games we always know where he sits (maybe because of his shiny silver hair that’s usually not brushed) and if we ever need a pick-me-up we can always look to him to get a thumbs up to get us going again.  Before games we can always expect to get a text full of words of encouragement, and most likely a funny, motivational movie quote to go along with. It’s this type of coaching that we feel has been the most impactful, because without the encouragement he has given us and the belief he has had in us throughout our lives there is no way we would be where we are today. He has truly been able to get us to reach our maximum potential level by being the support system everyone should have in their life. With his choice to be a fan for us instead of a coach, he gave us the opportunity to prove to ourselves with our performance that we belonged on the field, showing us early-on that we are in control of our own destiny and can achieve whatever goals we set.

The saying goes “a father is neither an anchor to hold us back nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way”. Throughout our lifetime our father has never restricted us nor has he ever tried to live through us and invade our lives to get something he wanted. What he has been is the lighthouse along the coast of our personal journeys, leading by example with his hard work, his desire to learn, his coaching and constant encouragement to make sure we arrive at our destination safely.

One of the coolest things about our dad is the sheer amount of people that know him and how quick they are to tell us about how they know him. Whether it is seeing customers at our summer jobs, coaches or parents from opposing teams or simply someone who recognizes the last name on the back of our t-shirts or sweatshirts, they all have so much to say about knowing him from school back in the day or how much better he made them feel after they came in for a visit.

To have that kind of impact on so many people shows the quality of man Michael Donoghue is. We are so thankful for the dad we have, because he does so much for us and we are eternally grateful for the life he has given us.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. We love you.

Danielle and Andrew Donoghue (both wearing No. 3) with, from left, their mother Kim, father Michael and sister Jessica.



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