Summertime, red dirt, cleats and a softball family. Those are what I miss about this time of year. Casey played softball from the time she was 5 or 6 years old until she retired her cleats last year after playing two years at the collegiate level. The years of watching her play are unforgettable. I yearn for the ballpark food, the flip flop tans and heat that was so stifling you couldn’t breathe at times. My heart aches knowing I will never see her in the circle again.
My affinity for this game has reasons that you might not expect.
I didn’t grow up playing softball. I played first base in one game and that was it. I wanted to play but that desire was during a turbulent home life that didn’t lend itself to weekly practices and commitment. I sometimes wish I had played.
I love the game for what it passed on to me in the roles I played as a coach, mother, spectator, and friend.
Coach: I coached girls softball for several years. When the girls got older and the game got more “technical” I knew it was time to let the more qualified take over. I learned to accept my limitations. I didn’t have a softball skill-set coming into the game, perse, but I had passion and I could teach. The “other stuff” came later. I learned as a coach of girls that it needed to be fun. When I started assistant coaching with more qualified folks, I was more the entertainer and the one that kept the girls busy between games. I told ghost stories. Nikki B. loved my ghost stories. She was taken from this earth way too soon, but that is a story for another day. We played pranks on the coaches. We made runs to whatever store was close to buy things to entertain us between games. I learned to reinvent myself and accept the role for which I was created during that season. I’ve been blessed to have coached some pretty cool chics along the way. I was privileged to watch many of those young girls turn into young women on a stage of red dirt. That game kept most of those girls out of trouble. They were held accountable. They respected their coaches and never wanted to disappoint them. Many of them, I still talk to regularly.
Mother: I owe so much to this game. Over the years, I watched my daughter develop a skill set that she uses daily. I watched Casey struggle in the circle on several occasions. So many times, I wanted to rescue her. On more than one occasion I begged her coaches to “get her out of there.” They didn’t. By allowing her to struggle, she became stronger. She learned to remain composed. She learned to play hard. She learned not to give up. This momma learned to let her daughter struggle. It wasn’t easy, but Casey is better for it.
Spectator: You see some crazy things at softball parks. I would like to blame the craziness on the heat but they played in the cooler weather also, so that’s a no go. I was a crazy softball mom at times. I’ll admit it. I absolutely hated bad calls regardless if against our team or our opponent. I was never ejected from a park but came close a time or two. Towards the very end of Casey’s career, I stopped getting angry. Lessons learned too late were to enjoy the game and hide the crazy. I spent a lot of time angry or tied up in knots when in reality, I should have been kicked back enjoying it. My spurts of crazy didn’t change the outcome of the game. A lot of times my craziness drove a wedge between Casey and I. If you are a sports mom in general, learn from my mistakes.
Friends: If you have any experience with travel ball, you know that the families on your kids team becomes your family. I miss our softball family like crazy. We were from all corners of Texas. Being friends was super easy when you had to see each other every practice and spent countless hours together on the weekends. I learned that long distance friendships are hard to nurture. The last get together, we all shed tears and vowed to stay in touch. Thankfully, social media keeps us in the know of one anothers goings on, but it’s just not the same. Life gets in the way. We did life together for so long, it hurt and took some getting used to when the girls moved on. I learned to cherish each friendship made in this game of life. I’ve said before. We have friends for a lifetime, a reason or a season. I miss that season.
The game of softball was so much more than a game for so many years. I didn’t realize how much more until that season was over. I owe some of my best of times with my daughter to it. I could write an entire book regarding my lessons learned while my daughter played. Another book could include what those girls learned along the way. Oh, for the love of the game.
My circle of friends has evolved over the years. Some were there longer than others. Some stayed the course. Some disappeared. I wouldn’t change those years for anything.
The only mistake in life is a lesson not learned. Albert Einstein