Monday, March 3, 2014

If Life Is Just About Competition, Then I Would Rather Not Play.

My daughter. She is 11. She is sweet. She is kind... to everyone. No matter what. She plays the flute in her school band and sings in a choir program through a local university. She played volleyball for several years, and excelled in the game. She is on the math team for her school. She gets straight A's, and is a teacher's best friend & best helper. She is also shy and very nervous about trying new sports, or any physical activities.

She came to me last week and asked if she could go to the local softball tryouts. I was thrilled. We have been looking for a spring sport that she enjoyed enough to want to participate in. We recently moved to a much less populated part of the country this past summer so we asked around and found the only softball league in the county. There was a set of try-outs and then they split the girls up by ability. It thought that sounded perfect.

She practiced, she stressed, she was excited. She wanted to try something new.

So we went to try-outs. As soon as we walked in the door I knew we were in over our heads. Apparently the only way to participate in softball here is through a competitive sports team group. As Lewis filled out her paperwork, I took her over, got her a try-out number and we went to watch the girls warm up. As soon as that first ball was thrown I thought I was going to be sick. Right then they called all 11 & 12 year old girls up, paired them off and had them start throwing to one another. I encouraged her to go and I turned around and ran back to get Lewis. From the second that we walked back into the gym I knew we had made a huge mistake. Most of the girls were huge! You could tell that they played softball, it was their thing. Each throw was like a freight train. Each time the ball hit and bounced off of her chest, her arm, her thigh, I flinched. She kept going. She caught a few but quickly lost any and all energy that she had. One look into her eyes made my chest get tight and my eyes well up with tears. Even though I am a mother of four, I am not a crier. This, made we want to cry.

After 20 agonizingly long minutes the adults in charge (who had been standing in a circle pointing, grimacing, and making notes) called the girls into a huddle. Haley came straight to me and asked for the restroom. I hurried her to get her inside before the tears could start, as people (adults and kids) were pointing, smirking, and asking what her problem was. The second we stepped inside she was bawling... uncontrollably. She was hurt, both her body and her feelings. I felt completely responsible. How did I let her even try?

When we left the restroom a man called me over:
Random Small Town Man: Tell her to suck it up. Rub some dirt on it and stop the blubbering.
Me (smiling but uber annoyed) : Thanks, but she is fine.

We finally just walked out of the try-outs. Lewis took her to the car and I went to get our money back and explain. The lady gave me our money back but also wanted to give me her two cents worth of insight:

Random Small Town Woman: Some kids just can't handle the pressure. Maybe she is just soft. Maybe you should have started her playing when she was younger.
Me (sounding slightly annoyed) : She didn't want to play when she was younger. She wanted to try playing now.
Random Small Town Woman: How did you expect her to be competitive in a sport if you wait until she is grown to put her in it?
Me (sounding extremely annoyed) : Why can't she participate in it without it having to be competitive?
Random Small Town Woman: But that's what life is about. Competition.

That is when I walked away. I got in the car, hugged her and told her that we were proud of her no matter what.

If life is just about competition, then I would rather not play.

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