I snapped a few photos yesterday just before the awards ceremony at Alyssa’s season-end softball tournament, and in each picture her face was the same.
Honestly, it was a feat even making it far enough to get a chance at the championship.
After losing in the first round of their tournament last weekend and a solid week of postponements due to rain, they won two do-or-die games against fresh teams in a double header on Saturday night just to get to play on Sunday. It was awesome to watch, but rough on our girls.
Alyssa came home after those games dehydrated and light headed, and she woke up at 11 am on Sunday morning with a ratty stomach and a sore pitching arm.
But she was still ready to play.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” I asked.
“I just need to get loose. I can do it,” she said.
If they won that first game on Sunday, they’d have to play and win another game against the same team immediately afterward for the championship.
If they lost the first game, it was a done deal: second place.
And that’s just what happened.
I hated it, but I was so happy and proud of those girls — they had accomplished so much! After an 0-6 start to the season, they worked hard, and became a real team. They grew together and they learned together, and thanks to a heap of determination, they won eight of their last ten games. To me, that was enough.
And I was proud of Alyssa, not because of any play she made or ball she hit, but because she tried her best. I was proud of her determination and her work ethic and her effort.
She practiced every day that someone would go outside with her, and sometimes by herself.
My kid, who has never put forth extra effort for much of anything, gave it her best down to the very last play of the very last game. She didn’t always do everything right, but she never quit. I’ve never seen her work so hard.
For her, second place might have been pretty good, but it wasn’t good enough.
Her smile had returned by the time the team went for ice cream. Last night when we got home, she threw ball in the yard with her brother until it was too dark to see. When she went to bed, she asked me what she could’ve done differently in that game.
I felt sad that she couldn’t be content with second place. I was also immensely proud that she wasn’t content with second place. And her feeling about it wasn’t because of anything her coaches said, or anything her teammates said, or anything I said.
It was because this season she got a spark that she’d never had, and she cared, and she worked, and she tried. Really tried.
This season, I believe she learned the true meaning of teamwork, and that the team itself is greater than any one player. She learned that hard work pays off, and she became motivated to put in extra effort day after day because she loves it, not because we told her to. She found lessons in winning and losing, and she got a good dose of both. She got to feel the exhilaration of a comeback, and the let down of falling a little bit short.
I think she learned a lot about responsibility and ambition and luck, too. She had good games and bad games, and I’m pretty sure she took something from all of them. She began to understand that commitment means giving up some things you’d really like to do because your teammates are counting on you to be there. She also found out that hard work doesn’t guarantee success, but it sure does give you a better shot at it.
In the end, runner-up might not have been what she was hoping for, but I believe she got something much bigger from that medal, and the road that led to it.
Good stuff came with second place too, even if it takes a while for her to see it.