Volleyball! I I enjoy playing it and I enjoy watching it. I get into watching the volleys back and forth waiting to see which team will make a mistake first. It becomes twenty times more stressful to watch however, when your daughter is on the team. Now I am a father and I want her to be competitive at everything she does. I love to watch her play but like many dads, I love to see her win. Most of all, I love to see her work hard for something she wants. If the team loses, I am disappointed, but I want to walk away knowing my daughter tried her best.
She has had her games where she played well, but I was so proud of her last Saturday when she saw a clear goal in front of her and she wanted to achieve it. She was focused. Very little horsing around during the game. Not a whole lot of extra chatter like I’ve seen in many games before.
It was clear early on they were going to lose to one particular team. They were by far the best team in the tournament. There was no question who was going to win. Our team hopes to be middle of the pack. Now you never want to give up before the game starts but by the start of the second set (best of 3) it was clear the other team was still very much in control. During a time-out my daughter tried to tell the team not to get so upset if they lose. It’s just a game. Well, that is not what her coaches wanted to hear. They wanted them to lay it all on the line and not accepting a loss until the game is done. You can say that in professional sports, college, and maybe even high school, but in seventh grade, when you know well ahead of time how this game is going to end, it does just become about playing hard but having fun.
So they wound up in the consolation bracket. They wanted to win that bracket. They felt this was theirs to be had. They took the first game easily and were excited. They played hard. Went after every ball and were talking. The second game (championship game for that bracket) they won the first match. Best I’ve seen them play all year. They really came together. They lost their second match and got ahead on the third and final match.
Before I go on I need to tell you about Aubbrie. Sweet, sweet girl who came over from a nearby christian school that has no sports. So she was allowed to join the team and clicked with the team immediately. Always supportive no matter what. A good volleyball player and a friend to all. When Kaitlyn was upset during one game because she cost the team a point Aubbrie came over and gave her a big hug and kept rubbing her back. Now that it is getting close to the end of their season, Aubbrie wrote everyone on the team a hand written letter telling them how much everyone meant to her and how much fun she had. What a great person!
So back to the tournament. I’m cheering them on. Trying to keep them motivated and give tips. The parents beside me are screaming. When someone misses the ball they are screaming “WHO HAS THE TEN FOOT LINE?” Meanwhile the girls have no damn clue what the ten foot line is. The coach is yelling at them. Parents are muttering about how the “refs” aren’t making the right calls when the balls hit the cieling. Mind you the referees look to be all of 18 to 20 years old and likely aren’t official referees but it doesn’t matter to these parents. They can’t believe some of the things the girls are doing in this tightly played game. The girls do a quick little celebration because of an ACE served by our team and the mom beside me growls. Apparently she hates that because they are not focused on the next play. She is yelling at them to not watch their own team serve. Be ready for the return. She is telling this to a team who has trouble serving and if you are not watching you may get nailed in the back of the head but that doesn’t matter to her because that’s how they were taught when they were in high school.
The third game goes back and forth and goes to extra points until the first team gets two points ahead. I’m exhausted! Not only from this tight game but also from listening to the parents beside me who seem to be living their dreams through their children. Meanwhile, you can sense something negative set into the team. Their confidence was circling down the drain. My daughter is on the court and cannot control her tears. They are streaming down her face. We are thinking she is so concerned about winning and with all the yelling the pressure is getting to her. We try to tell her to calm down but she can’t help it and the tears only flow harder.
The ball gets bumped and comes flying over Kaitlyn’s head. She tries to save it from going out of bounds but it is just out of her reach. The opposing team is now up by one and needs one more point to win and it is their serve. Kaitlyn cannot control herself and the coach doesn’t pull her out. I’m concerned the ball will come to her and she won’t be ready for it. Thankfully for her it does not but the ball gets tipped again and goes flying. The other team won.
Kaitlyn comes over to me just full out crying. I tell her it’s just a game and it doesn’t matter whether they win or lose. They played hard and that’s all that matters.
Kaitlyn says, “NO Dad! Aubbrie told me that her dad said the team had to do well in the tournament or she might not be able to play with the team next year!”
My heart sank. It was not about winning or losing to her. She was so concerned about not being able to play with this great new friend again that she couldn’t control herself.
My wife and I went out to the hall and heard two sets of parents saying something about no crying on the field. Possibly quoting “A League of Their Own” or Coach Teague (or however the hell you spell his name). I was now exhausted. They had no clue why she was crying but they didn’t seem to care. They were not amused by her crying. It’s hardcore sports parents being who they are.
In a daze by the events of the day, my wife and I drove home without hardly saying a word. We couldn’t. We let our daughter ride home with the team because I know she wanted to spend more time with them, especially Aubbrie.
She gets it and I was so proud of her. She understands something better as a 12 year old than parents in their 40’s.