I teasingly tell my youngest daughter that she was born with basketball in her blood, as she is a Kentucky girl and the daughter of a grade school City Champion (yours truly), and I joke with her about giving her team a pep talk before each game. Watching her team learn the elements of the game and have fun together is a real treat, and I truly enjoy watching them play and cheering them on each weekend. I wasn’t prepared for the lessons we both learned from today’s game, though, but I am glad that we learned it together.
At the start of the game, my daughter tripped while running down the court and hit the floor hard. When she got up, I had to force myself to stay seated, as she was in tears and looked like she was in pain. She made several trips up and down the court before her coach called an injury time out to tend to her, and she made a beeline for the bench to where her Dad, who is one of the assistant coaches, was waiting for her. I continued to watch her from across the court, even though I wanted to run to her side, but after an incident at my older daughter’s soccer game several years ago when she was hurt by an opponent , I have been banished to the sidelines, but I digress. Thanks to reassurances from her Dad and the rest of the wonderful coaches and her own toughness, she went back into the game, where she was further put to the test.
This league is comprised of third and fourth grade girls from local parochial schools, and it is considered an instructional league, meaning that they do not play by regulation rules, as the focus is teaching the fundamentals of the game. The referees, in addition to calling the game, also provide instruction to the players, and as with all referees, some are better than others. Today, the referees were not focused on instructing, and they weren’t focused on the player from the other team who decided that playing offense meant shoving and pushing defenders, one of them being my daughter. Trust me, I grew up playing sports and understand that fouls are part of basketball, as are missed calls and poor sportsmanship, but it was rough watching my daughter getting roughed up. She and her teammates hung in there, and they posted a 10-7 victory.
The game may have ended, but the lessons from the game remained. As we left the game, I was surprised that my daughter was in tears in the back seat of our car, and the tears continued on the short drive home and even after she changed out of her basketball uniform. Like me, my youngest daughter is sensitive and wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she gets really upset, she launches into the “ugly cry”. Some of the things that hurt her confound others, but I always understand where she is coming from, as we speak the same language of those who have big hearts. So, when she thew herself across my bed and told me through her tears why she was so upset, what may sound like a child who needs to toughen up to others, made perfect sense to me.
The first thing that upset her was that she had gotten physically injured during her fall, which left a nasty floor burn on one of her knees and bruises scattered on her legs, and she was scared to re-enter the game. She feared that she would get hurt again and that her injury would prevent her from playing up to her potential, and she didn’t want to disappoint her coaches or the rest of the team. Even after the game ended, and neither of those two fears had become realities, she still was so focused on how scared she was at that time that she did not realize that she had faced her fears and conquered them. As I held her close to me, I felt myself tear up, as I said, “True courage is when you are scared, but still do what you need to do”. She hugged me even tighter, and I whispered, “You are my hero, and I am so proud of you”. Too often, I underestimate my own courage when it comes to facing my fears, both big and small, and I just couldn’t bear to let her discount what she had done today. For a little girl, it was a big deal not to quit when she would’ve welcomed time on the bench instead of getting back in the game.
The second thing that upset her was the fact that the player on the other team was so physical, as my daughter could not understand why anyone would not play by the rules and would be so aggressive. She took it personally and, again, focused on the fact that she had been intimidated by this girl and not on the fact that she played a great game and scored her first two points of the season, thanks to some ace free throw shooting. She, much like me, gave away her power to someone else to the point that she did not even acknowledge her own accomplishments. She could only focus on the fact that she had been hurt. I explained that she cannot control how other people treat her or behave and that she can only control her own words, actions, thoughts, and feelings, and I let her know that I understood what it is like when someone hurts your feelings. I also told her that I knew that she was brave enough to deal with whatever came her way and that I would always have her back. She gave me a final big hug and said, “Thanks, Mama; I love you so much.” The feeling is more than mutual, my sweet child, and those words and lessons that I spoke to her about were ones that I was reminding myself of, as well.
Courage comes in many forms, and like kindness, whether it be a heroic feat or the decision to try again, there is no such thing as a courageous act that is too small. My daughter learned more than how to play a game today; she learned lessons about life in general and discovered that she is braver than she knew. That makes her a true winner, regardless of the final score.
That’s another story . .
Categories: That's Another Story
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