As a parent I now know what a challenge this “job” is…for many reasons. We worry about their development when they are babies, we stress about their growth when they are little and we agonize over their decisions and who they will become when they are teens. Having partners in parenting is critical to our survival emotionally, spiritually and physically…at least for me. That means we need family members to help us or give us advice. We need friends to bounce ideas off of or to drink wine with when discussing the challenges of parenting. We also pray that other adults come into their life that help them develop as a human being and partner with us in helping them achieve their potential. That’s where teachers, coaches, parents of their friends and extended family members come in.
I was blessed in my life to have those role models and external people, outside of my own parents, to help me grow in confidence, develop and learn and who also held me accountable. I believe our kids will be blessed because they not only have their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles but they have great teachers and coaches as well to guide them through life. Where they get extra blessed is they also have our former players that are a significant presence in their life and it warms my heart so much to see they get this extra love from a place that we love so much.
Tonight it all came full circle for us. One of our former players, AP came over with her husband Emmanuel and their son Ezekiel. I’ve waited patiently to meet this little man. AP played volleyball for us at St. James but it’s so much more than that. This young woman became a part of our family when she walked into the gym at SJA as a freshman. As coaches we make ourselves available to our girls in whatever way they need or want…but we want them, and their parents to know we are here to help them become better volleyball players, yes, but much more importantly, we are here to help them become better people. Strong, confident women is and always has been the goal. Being a woman can be challenging at times and the dialogue that women who have strong opinions or principles are a “witch, with a w” as we say to our players is a dialogue that needs to disappear. We want our players to be confident in who they are so that when they go off to college or enter the work place they don’t let anyone take advantage of them or push them around.
AP was a special player. Anyone who ever saw her play remembers it. But…she was an even more special person. To say we truly love this young woman would be an understatement. She’s awesome. Meeting her son last night was almost too much for me to handle. Watching my kids hold and talk to this little man about made my heart burst.
This morning they all asked me when we’d see them again. Fletcher said to me “mommy, he’s just the cutest little nugget, I love him and I could just kiss him to death” (more evidence that this child is related to me…totally something I would say). Cooper and Finley talked about how cute he was and how much fun they had. Cooper probably asked Emmanuel 200 questions about NFL football, as he is a player for the Chiefs. GOD bless Emmanuel as he was so patient and kind answering every question fired his way. Ellen asked if she could babysit Ezekiel sometime as she’s getting older and is responsible (her words…also true words). Fiona couldn’t get over how cute he was and asserted that he liked her the best (always the competitor).
The entire car ride to school we talked about their visit.
In the past few years Bryan and I have talked a lot about the state of sports. There is a lot we don’t like. There is a lot that makes it hard to do our jobs as coaches. But…moments like this one, meeting the child of a former player, now friend and extended family makes it all worth it. That is why we coach, to build people up and to build relationships with people who may one day need us. I’m so grateful to all the people I’ve encountered in my time as a player and a coach. I learned from all of them. In AP and her little family, as well as her extended family, I know I have people I can count on if I ever needed them. All of this is because Bryan and I had the opportunity to coach her. That’s pretty stinking cool.
So when the direction of sports today disappoints me I’m going to think about the save the date wedding invite hanging on my fridge for a former players wedding, or reminisce about the many weddings we’ve already attended, or remember holding that sweet baby (or the other former players babies I’ve been lucky enough to meet) and focus on what really matters and what I believe we do best…build relationships.