When I was going through infertility, losses through miscarriages, and the joys of pregnancy and birth, I had what I thought was a clear picture of what I wanted to teach my children. I think I have done pretty well. I have taught them to love God and have a relationship with Christ, to love their family and friends, and to live their life and make their decisions as Christians. Most importantly, I taught them that they, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.” My daughters know I have nothing against drinking Kool-Aid, but they know when I say it that I am giving them a message. I want them to be independent women that don’t follow the crowd. They often hear me tell them, “Know what you stand for, or you will fall for anything.” It is important that we know our faith and what we believe in and to make our decisions using that knowledge. They also know that when they make their choices this way I will love and support them. What I never imagined, is that they would end up teaching me so much and that I would learn it on the softball field and basketball court.
When I was in school, we would play sports after school by picking teams, putting on a different colored shirt, and we played. I could have never imagined when my youngest daughter began to show interest in sports that the world of sports had changed so much. There are uniforms to buy, high tops, cleats, batting gloves, helmets, bats, pitching lessons, hitting lessons, travel expenses, hotel bills, meals, sports camps, and that doesn’t include the time. Our youngest daughter plays softball for three different teams from April through October. She plays basketball from September through March. She also has hitting and pitching lessons during the winter while playing basketball, and throughout the summer while playing softball she makes 150 shots a day in our driveway. Our neighbors are also used to seeing her and my husband in the front yard every night while she practices her pitching. After pitching, they drive to nearby high school and they have hitting practice. Sometimes they do this after she finishes a softball game. She is driven and determined, and she knows she is supported and loved. She knows that her family contains her three biggest fans.
Doesn’t that sound like a life taken over by sports? We do worry about that, and we try to make sure that doesn’t happen. I read an article about a year ago about kids and sports and when too much is too much. What I learned is that if your entire family does not enjoy doing something together then it is not worth doing. We would never support one child to the detriment of the other child. I have read many more articles about how to motivate your child, or how to make sure she isn’t overdoing it. I’ve read articles about not doing enough and about how to support an athlete. Let me be the first to say that what I learned is that with the right coaches and the right people along with us, we are able to enjoy sports as a family. I never pictured our lives revolving around sports, but now that it does I wouldn’t want it any other way.
You would think that our other daughter would get very sick of all of the constant traveling and sitting at basketball and softball games. I would be lying if I said that when it comes to morning basketball practice at 6 am, we look forward to getting up that early. However, we have found that we are bored and disappointed when the seasons are over. We miss the other girls on the team and their families. Our daughter loves to sit in the stands with the other families, and especially enjoys that there are a lot of younger siblings around. She loves little kids and wants to be a teacher. All of the siblings fill her desire to babysit and take care of younger children. She is at her best when she is playing with the kids, and she looks forward to it. She claims the #1 fan position.
I not only love watching Kaitlyn play whatever sport she is playing at the moment, but I also love watching my husband out there helping her with her pitching and hitting. Because we have two girls, it is wonderful to see him have his chance to be involved in youth sports. There are many nights that we would love to eat around the dinner table at a normal time, but we have so much fun at game time that we are ok with eating sub sandwiches while sitting in the stands and cheering the team on.
I think the biggest thing that I have learned is that your experience is very much dependent on who you are surrounded by and who is coaching your child. As we were closing out a long weekend of softball this morning, I heard the coaches talking to my daughter’s team. They had just lost, and felt very disappointed and defeated. Now, if I had heard the coaches yelling, I would know that this would not be a team we would want her to play on. What I heard was her coach explaining to the girls that players in the Hall of Fame only successfully get on base about 3 out of 10 times. He explained that if they saw the other 7 as failures, they probably would give up. These are the type of coaches you want your children to have. We hear so many coaches yelling and screaming, and the kids are scared and crying. This isn’t what we would want for her. She plays on teams with great coaches that encourage her and help her to play her best. We have seen her God-given talent and abilities soar while playing when she feels encouraged and supported.
The other big lesson I have learned is that we need to be careful about the people who our young athletes look up to. Thankfully our daughter has a great group of older girls that she looks up to and has developed relationships with. She has also found college players that play the same positions she does and she watches them play over and over and over. One professional athlete she has chosen to look up to is Stephen Curry. I, of course, love the fact that he has a very strong faith. I came across a quote which sums up what I try to teach my daughter:
“Being a Christian athlete doesn’t mean praying for your team to win. God doesn’t give an edge to those who pray over those who don’t; hard work does that. Being a Christian athlete means competing for Christ, in a way in which you always give your all for Him, and win or lose, you thank Him for the ability and opportunity to play. It means giving all the glory to God, no matter the outcome, because you trust in His plan for your life.” -Stephen Curry
Here comes the confession part…our experiences have not always been positive, and there were times when we weren’t happy and didn’t want to do it anymore. What did we do? We searched and found teams and coaches that shared our thinking. They coached by teaching and encouraging, and made it a positive experience for our whole family. Do we still worry? We most definitely worry because our daughter is still young. However, she knows that if one day she decides she doesn’t want to do it anymore we will support her. We are here for her when she succeeds and when she doesn’t.