I cried in public Friday night. On two separate instances, actually. Now it wasn’t the breakdown, sobbing, ‘hand be a box of tissues’ kind of crying. More like the lump in your throat, can’t talk, crocodile tears in the corners of your eyes. A Man-cry.
My middle daughter is a senior in high school and she plays on the her school’s basketball team that currently is 22-0 and ranked number 1 in the state in its classification. My daughter is not a star, but she’s gotten to play a fair amount this year. She’s played since second grade, and we’re all hoping that her senior season concludes with a handful of gold medals for the three championships they will compete for during the next month and a half.
I’m not too concerned with the winning stuff. The kids will take care of that. I will cheer my brains out for these girls over the next six weeks, but if they earn silver medals instead of gold, it’s still been a pretty awesome season in my book.
I wondered Saturday morning why I got all choked up. After all, I’ve been through this with my oldest daughter already, and I’ll most likely go through it again with my youngest four years from now.
The Athletic Association organizes the night’s festivities. Before the game, each player is introduced and is escorted to center court by her parents. They recite the clubs and organizations the girls participate in outside of athletics, and they announce the college to which they’ve committed. They then present them with flowers and balloons. Finally the game begins, and the coach usually starts all of his seniors; except this year there were seven, so two started a previous game and the remaining five Friday night.
After the game there is a get-together for the players, coaches, families and friends. The coach says a few words about his seniors, then underclassmen each select a senior to talk about, and they take turns giving a brief presentation about why that senior is special to them. The final moment is a video of all the seniors, and this year it was put together by one of the seniors instead of an adult. It was pretty cool.
I think I got choked up during the game because I realized how much respect and admiration I’ve acquired for my daughter these past few months. She worked really hard for this season because, as a senior, she wanted to be a key contributor, and, most importantly, she wanted to help the team win.
She was in the gym, working out three and four days a week from July to the middle of November when preseason practice began. That came after a full spring of AAU practices and games, and a full schedule of summer league games. I had her in the driveway three nights a week on a shooting program that I developed specifically for her, and we were shooting between 900-1,100 shots a week.
She was ready to go! Unfortunately, her coach undervalues and underestimates her skills, her intelligence, and most important, her desire to help the team win. She and I know that she’s not the best player on the team, and we would never make that argument. But we also know that she’s a much better player, a more complete player, than a couple of girls who play in front of her. Which means that the team is missing out on the positive contributions she could be making to it.
So, I think when I see my daughter sitting on the bench and cheering her heart out for the girls who play in front of her; when I hear her talk about the team and never utter a negative word about the players who get some of the playing time she knows she worked hard to earn; and when I hear from others how she’s been a mentor and a positive role model for the younger players in the program, I can’t help but admire the young lady who cries herself to sleep after games in the bedroom next to mine because it hurts her to be devalued and dismissed.
Of course, the second time I got a lumpy throat was during the video presentation. I have a special bond with many of the players on this team because I coached most of them in youth sports for a number of years and have gotten to know them better than some adults have an opportunity to. Seeing the video of pictures from years gone by, and now seeing the tremendous young ladies they’ve turned in to, it was hard not to grab a napkin and dab my eyes. Luckily the lights were out.
I guess, looking honestly at the emotions of it all, I think what it really boiled down to is this. There are days that I go to bed wondering if I was a good Dad that particular day. Sometimes I wish I could take back things I said or did, or wish I would’ve said something but didn’t.
But every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to get a little reminder that, maybe, I don’t always mess up.
P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.