March 6, 2013 by Ray Yanek
Winter storm Saturn arrived around 6 am this morning. It’s 7 pm as I write this, and the snow is still falling outside my window. Already, somewhere around 5 inches have accumulated and the reports say more will fall overnight. Flurries fell throughout most of last week too. With all this snow, it seems strange to say that my daughter’s softball team went 2-2 over the weekend.
That was our introduction to the world of U12 ASA girl’s softball.
People have mixed feelings about travel softball. With practices starting early January and 60+ games in the summer, some say it’s too much. My wife and I had some of the same concerns before we let our daughter try out for the team, but we also heard thousands of good things about travel softball. I haven’t seen enough of the season yet to make any concrete judgments. Over the weekend however, at this tournament, I did see quite a bit that stirred some feelings in me.
What I saw was a group of girls get to play softball under a dome while the snow fell outside. I saw
excitement, a little bit of wonder, and a lot of nerves on young faces as they lugged brand new bat bags across the turf. I watched as these girls, only two of whom had played on a travel team before, came from behind to win two games. Pride and excitement, screams and squeals, erupted when we stole home as the opposing pitcher walked back to the mound leading us to tie and eventually win our third game. Tears fell when errors cost us too many runs and a bad inning here or there. On the bench, girls at that awkward age where it’s important to be cool congratulated each other after the good things and consoled one another after the bad.At night, back at the hotel, the girls ate pizzas in the banquet rooms, drank soda, and shared junk food. They swam and lounged in the hot tub, played hide-and-seek in the halls, and slept in each other’s rooms. They laughed and bonded, made better friends and plenty of memories.
The parents sat back, had a few beers to unwind and lose the adrenaline rush some of us had been feeling since earlier in the week. Like the kids, we made friends too, acted goofy, and got used to the people we’ll be spending the majority of the summer with.
In short, I witnessed intense emotions: excitement and sadness. I watched young girls begin to come together as a team, to back each other and to lift each other up. I watched these girls face big challenges, some of which they met and others against which they fell short. I saw friendships strengthened and memories made.
What I saw, I think, is what youth sports should be.
It is early. I know that. We don’t play again until mid-April. But I’m thankful my family and I got to see what we did last weekend, got to see things that we can hold on to and remember during those grueling summer stretches, those many practices, and those inevitable family squabbles.
And maybe the other thing I learned this weekend, is that I really don’t need to put quotation marks around the word family in the above sentence…