So we successfully survived 6th grade sports. If you’re a parent and you’ve been thru this, you know what I’m talking about. It’s not easy being a 6th grade athlete. Whether its loads of bench time until you earn your spot in the game, or you’ve earned your spot on the floor over an upperclassman and it’s just stressful to be put in that position, the first go around at school sports is tough. And the parents, well, we’re just never happy no matter how the situation goes down. We are passionately yelling to our kids and the coaches of exactly how the game should be played, but nobody seems to be listening to us. We played these sports, we know what we're talking about! (Stick with me coaches).
Samantha played in all four sports that were offered to her last year and enjoyed being a part in all of them, even though 6th grade offered its fair share of ups and downs. We actually had to twist her arm to join track. She didn’t really want to run, but our sales pitch was that track is not about the running. You do have to do run, but track is really about the social aspect. You run your event, then you hang out with your friends on the sidelines and have a good time the rest of the meet. “Do it, you’ll like it. Either that, or you can start riding the bus home and we’ll have a list of chores for you when you get home from school.” Tough love, I know.
Track season started and there was a little complaining about the excessive amounts of running required, but she was surviving pretty well. Coach had a meeting before the first meet to talk about the usual parents stuff. Afterwards I asked him about what kind of shoes Samantha needed to have (because I’d already purchased 3 sports of shoes this year and was hoping to get away with regular tennis shoes for track season). When he said “Sam needs spikes,” I actually questioned him to make sure I understood that she REALLY needed them. “Yep, she’ll be sprinting.” Well, ok, I guess now I have to buy them because the coach says so.
I’ll never forget the first meet, it was freezing cold for the Pawnee Relays, and I was taking great pity on the shivering kids who had to strip out of their sweats to run. Samantha was the 2nd leg of the 4x100 relay and I even got the race on video for Ted, who couldn’t make it that day. I was in udder shock and awe as I watched that 100 meters of the race. She not only held her own, but actually passed up several of the other girls on the track to put them in first place. I know it wasn’t just me because several other parents turned and said, “where did that come from?!?” Combining the talents of some awesome teammates, they won that 4x100 relay, and also the 4x200 relay that day. Track quickly became my favorite sport of 6th grade and I hustled to get to every meet so I could watch Sam develop and continue to find her inner speed.
Summer came and went and it was discovered during softball season that Sam could use her newfound speed stealing bases. In the last game of the season, she even stole home on a sneaky little play (next year we are going to work on sliding).
And here we are in basketball season. I cannot lie, this has always been my favorite sport. I suppressed my feelings last year and tried to remain unbiased. But Wednesday night’s double overtime victory resurfaced all my love of the game. I’m so very happy the girls had the chance to experience the thrill of a close game, the noise of the crowd, the pressure of making the right plays, and the excitement of bringing home the win at the last buzzer. Fighting to the bittersweet end and accomplishing the final goal, but also figuring out how to work together as a team to get to that goal. It's a life experience that infuses a winning attitude into your system. Stop me! I’m going sentimental, I’d better move on.
Back to speed, so Sam comes home from basketball practice one day last week and mentions that she “has” to run fast now. Hmm, I asked for further information. “Well, now I’m kinda expected to be fast when we run lines.” So you have to work harder then, I summed up for her. “Yep.” Beautiful! That right there makes it all worth it. Every 4 hour bleacher butt, running around from practice to game to concession stand worker and gatekeeper. All worth it for the young lady who is realizing her potential and that she now WANTS to live up to it.
So how did she discover her inner speed. Let me rewind, it was some of those first track practices last spring when the coach was probably trying to figure out what to do with all of these sixth graders. I asked Sam how she figured out she was fast. Her reply, “well I didn’t really know I was fast, but I was afraid I was going to have to run the long races. I ran as fast as I could in hopes that I wouldn’t have to.” There you have it friends, the reason to run fast is so that you don’t have to run far. She’s a smart kid. I actually saved her track photo on my phone recently so that I see her running every time I open my phone. She’s my new inspiration to work smarter, so I don’t have to work longer.
And in closing, I need to pay special recognition to each of the coaches that have helped Samantha bring out her inner speed. Thanks for yelling at her and demanding more out of her. Your job is a thankless one, so today I’d like to take a moment to thank each of you.