By Romi Carrell Wittman
Coach and Cheerleader for His Kids
Step into the office of attorney Ali J. Farhang and one thing becomes immediately apparent – his kids and football are the two dominating forces in his life.
Baby photos, photos of kids’ sports teams – along with a lot of NFL Steelers memorabilia – cover nearly every spare surface on his desk, as well as on most of the walls. It’s safe to say that family and football are at the center of all Farhang does.
He admitted he was stunned when he learned he’d been named a 2019 Father of the Year by the Father’s Day Council Tucson. “It was surreal,” he said of the moment he got the news. “I know the type of men that have previously been nominated. To even be considered is humbling and I’m very appreciative.”
His 14-year old daughter, Soren, was with him at the time and he said she immediately gave him a huge hug. “I had to take a breath to not cry,” he said.
Farhang is a longtime Tucsonan, having attended the University of Arizona, where he earned an undergraduate degree in 1993. He later attended Cambridge University, then the University of Denver College of Law. He returned to Tucson in 2001 and worked to build his business as well as his community.
These days he’s a managing partner at Farhang & Medcoff. He coaches his son Xavier’s varsity football team at Salpointe High School, an endeavor Farhang said amounts to “helping him kick my ass.”
Coaching has made him a better father. “I’m a coach at my core. My job is to make (my kids) better than I was, to teach them how to be good people and good citizens. I’m not their best friend. I’m there to teach them right from wrong – because they’re going to be on their own some day and we must prepare them.”
Watching his children grow and evolve over time has been one of the things he’s enjoyed most about fatherhood. “Sometimes they are so funny and so smart,” he said. “Some qualities we imparted on them, some are all them.”
When asked about his parenting style, Farhang said he and Lia, his wife, who is also an attorney, are less helicopter parents than they are fighter-jet parents. “I’m very hands on,” he said, “but you have to let them succeed or fail on their own. I’m there to step in when they need it.”
In fact, Farhang believes failure is often the best teacher. “You’ll learn more than you did than if you succeeded.” At the same time, he admitted that watching them fail is one of the hardest parts of being a dad, but added that the pain is worth it for the lesson it provides. “I’d love for every paper they turn in to be great – but what do they learn if I’m the one editing it and cleaning it up?”
As he’s matured as a father, Farhang has discovered that, besides loving his children unconditionally, he really likes them as the people they already are and who they will become. “They’re uniquely themselves and I love getting involved in what they like. They’re good kids who believe in justice and who both love to learn. That will carry them through life.”
The relationship between his son and daughter is one of the things he’s most proud of. “They really love and support each other. They’re best friends and, ultimately, that’s the relationship that matters most,” he said.
Farhang said his success as a dad has to do with making priorities and sticking to them. “You make the time,” he said. “There’s always time. You sleep less or don’t watch TV – you find the time.”
Farhang’s advice for new dads is simple: Don’t rush it. “Parents think if their kids aren’t in a bunch of stuff, it’s bad. Just let them be kids.” But also teach them that the sky’s the limit, he said, and not to be afraid of success.
Farhang attributes his success in life and as a father to his mother and father, as well as the people he refers to as the “Legends of the Community.” “I’m a reflection of men and women growing up that were just fantastic parents. I’ve learned a lot from other people. There is nothing more important than being a dad.”