I woke early yesterday morning in order to make it to a time of worship. 6:00 am, to be exact. The sun was not up yet, but I was. Just barely.
When I arrived at 7:00, the place was full of the faithful. Bleary eyed adults sipped coffee as they settled in their seats. Groups of teen girls were buzzing, as they worked to get the sleep out of their eyes.
Wait, teens gathered at 7:00 on a Sunday morning? Talk about commitment.
And then it all began, with the BLOW OF A WHISTLE.
No, this was not some sort of new age church service. It was the final day of a 14-year-old’s volleyball tournament. What a way to spend a Sunday.
The last of many Sundays.
The club season, which began with signing day (yes, signing day is not just for 5-star football recruits) last summer is coming to an end. Mercifully for some.
This journey has consumed Saturday’s and Sunday’s for the better part of the last five months.
There was even a tournament on Easter weekend - the second largest in the U.S. Thousands of families spent Easter Sunday not focused on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but the god of Mizuno, Nike and Molten.
I had to be resurrected from the bed just to make it there.
Along with it being a long season, it’s also been a challenging one for my daughter’s team. In volleyball, as in a prospective relationship, if you don’t get the first pass right, it’s hard to recover. That was the story of our season. With girls playing out of position, rotation issues and typical 14-year-old drama, the season could best be described as... Did I mention it was long season?
Do you know what else? With the combination of the cacophony of seemingly hundreds of whistles, with the gulag-like glare of the overhead gym lights, the incessant shrill of teen girls cheering every point at the top of their lungs, and the unending sleep-deprivation, you can find yourself on the verge of entering a veritable volleyball coma… for which WebMD says there is no cure.
The girls are very un-coma-like. Some play the game out of passion. Some play with the hope of a scholarship. Some play to fulfill their parents’ desire. Some for the social aspect. Others because it has become a societal expectation. Regardless of why, they play. And the parents pay – cash and attention.
And, as those who do not show up for games at 7:00am on Sunday mornings know well, sports is not life… at least not yet for these 14-year-olds, even though it does sometimes feel like life AND death for a 14-year-old buckled into the roller coaster of emotions phase of life.
Sport is, however, a metaphor for life. And, perhaps the best one of all. It teaches, reveals character, and requires self-denial. Often, as with our seasons, things don’t go the way expected or planned. In fact, they rarely do. Our response to those things that lie outside of our control is crucial.
I used to tell the players I coached in youth sports, You can’t control the referees, the opponent, your teammates, the fans, the setting, or even the coaching. All you can control is your attitude and your effort.
I’m proud of my daughter for giving her best in both categories.
I’d like to tell you that the team rallied for an incredible finish yesterday, winning the last tourney. They didn’t. They did, however, pick themselves up off of the floor of a disappointing season and won their last game, giving them a second place finish in the silver bracket. All of the girls went home with a medal around their neck. Not a participation trophy, mind you (which should have been given to the parents), but a genuine reward for their effort and perseverance.
Throughout it all, there were valuable lessons learned…
Like those folding chairs and bleacher seats can really mess with your back after 6 hours of sitting…
…And, like being more careful when you select a hotel in Shreveport, LA…
…And, it’s wise to have enough snacks in your backpack for you AND your wife…
…And, to never spend Easter Sunday in a crowded gym again.
Oh, and one more thing I learned… or maybe remembered.
When I get to the end of my days on earth, I will not look back and wish I had taken more naps… on second thought, perhaps I will… but, I know for sure that I will look back and wish I had had more time with my family.
So, I will never regret getting up before the crack of dawn to watch my daughter during these days. I will, in fact, file away so many snapshot moments of even this season. Not just the great kills she made, but more so the brief exchange of looks and the sly smiles we shared.
I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
But I sure am glad it’s over.