I never was a big sports person growing up - not to play or to watch. My husband, on the other hand, was an All American, lettered athlete in football, baseball and track. So, it was only natural that he’d want his children to be athletes. I’ve grown to respect and appreciate their various sporting activities - some more than others - but because I love and support them, I will always be there to cheer them on whenever possible.
Now, where softball is concerned, I’ve grown to be a real junkie. My daughter, after trying dance, then cheer, then soccer, stumbled into the game of softball at age 7. We all knew it was true love. Her knack for the game was uncanny, and none of us ever imagined how truly exciting it could be.
This past summer, The CenTex Edge, our select softball team, had the opportunity to play in the World Series at Disney’s ESPN center in Florida. I cannot even begin to describe how overwhelming it was to see our girls - just a little pipsqueak team out of Central Texas - march out onto the fields with thousands of other girls during opening ceremonies. It was surreal to say the least. Teams from the United States, Canada, Mexico and even Puerto Rico had come out to compete for the championship title. Most were from huge, well-known, well-funded organizations, as opposed to us - a group of small town locals who just wanted their daughters to develop some skill and love for the game. We were there for the experience and had no expectation of winning.
Did our girls see it that way? Not in the least. They were there to play! Not only were they there to play, they were there to win! They didn’t care that most of the girls were not only physically larger than they were, but also that they were “Big Names”- nationally known and sponsored organizations. Their competitors were giants in the world of Fastpitch Softball. During a week-long tournament, The Centex Edge fell into the Loser’s Bracket after a terrible call on a tied game. That was on a Tuesday; the championship game wasn’t until that Saturday. To get there, our girls would have to play at least twice as many games as the teams who stayed in the winner’s bracket.
My husband has always said that the measure of a champion’s true character is by what she does when she is at the bottom. Playing back to back games all through Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, well after midnight, our girls proved that statement to be true. I stood for hours and hours watching them, clapping, cheering, “You can do it! I believe in you!” In the text exchanges with my husband, he repeatedly wrote with incredulous pride, “Our girls are giant killers!!!”
At 6:45 on Saturday morning, they were back on the fields, ready to defeat the team that had put them in the loser’s bracket to begin with. The game ran over two hours, with a neck to neck tied score and two extra overtime innings. But they were bound and determined to win ... and win they did. They immediately had to turn around and play in the game for third place- the game before the championship game that was to be televised on ESPN!
I don’t even know how to put into words the emotions that were whirling in me at that point. On top of sheer exhaustion was searing adrenaline. They started off that game behind 7-0, and I thought, “They’re out of gas. They can’t fight anymore.” I had to go charge my phone (I was tasked with keeping everyone at home up-to-date on their progress), and when I came back just a few minutes later, the score was 7-7. How were they doing it? Again, the game went into overtime...7-7….. 8-8……9-9….. Until finally, the opposing team scored, won the game and advanced to the championship game that moments before was cupped in our own hands.
We all cried- not just for the loss, but for the mounting emotion of the entire week. In our post game huddle, no words were uttered at first. Finally, I spoke.
“You know what? What you all did this week……it’s just plain amazing. You fought back from the bottom of the pile. You never gave up. You took absolutely everything in your heart and in your soul and you LEFT it on those fields. If you approach life this way, you will all be successful in whatever you choose to do. To me, you are all true champions”.
Being a true champion is just that - it’s not necessarily about getting first place, the biggest trophy or a moment of fame. It’s about envisioning your goals and believing you can reach them. It’s about reaching deep within yourself and fully utilizing all your talents, your skills, your knowledge without reservation or fear. It’s a choice our little girls grasped and held on to fiercely.
It’s a choice……any of us can make.