Was It Worth It?

Occasionally I will find myself in the small town where we lived when our older daughter decided that she wanted to play softball.

I will drive by the field where we watched so many games, and often just sit there and reflect. Someone once asked if all the time, money, and sacrifice was worth it. My response, “If I had known how hard the journey would be, I might have discouraged her.” Before the words were fully spoken, I knew better.

This was her dream and I was lucky enough to be invited to take part. The heartbreaks? There were plenty. The bigger the dream, and her dreams were huge, the more time spent wiping away tears and trying to think of lessons we could both learn when things did not go planned.

The things that seemed so important then seem insignificant now. The college scholarship was a blessing, certainly, and the awards were exciting at the time. Many of the memories are tied to great wins and losses. The first high schools state championship will always be treasured, watching her college team beat an unbeatable U.S. Olympic Team was nice closure after she was turned down for that team, and the upset wins in the Regionals and Super Regionals made the College World Series appearance even more memorable.

But, it was a loss that is included among my greatest memories. Her younger sister stayed in the shadows and even left softball for a while, but came back with a new passion for the game just in time to earn her scholarship. It was a cool, crisp night when our little college freshman took the mound against a powerful D1 program that had easily “run-ruled” her team in the first game of a double-header. A huge underdog, our younger daughter looked across the field at her hero, her older sister, coaching in the opposing dugout, and she had every reason to crumble. It may have been the longest game of my life, with mixed emotions, but seeing her face after a dramatic 1-0 win over big sister was beyond description.

Both college scholarships were wonderful. Many of the wins still create butterflies in the stomach. Was it worth it all? If you, as parent, can keep perspective, the answer will be a resounding “Yes”! And, I hope you can do it more easily than I did.

Remember that it is her dream. The parents that seem to resent it most are those who pushed, became overly-involved, and made it more about themselves than about the kid. It is easy to confuse her shortcoming as a player with failure in your own parenting. Absolutely not. Those are two very different things. We are so, so fortunate that our relationships with our daughters are wonderful today, but I have seen so many situations where softball actually drove a wedge between the player and the parent that they never overcame.

The next point is just that…the relationship. Measure every single decision based on relationship, not your ego, not what someone else says you should do, and not how you will feel if she falls short of your goals and expectations for her in the game.

It is never about the money. The travel ball expenses were significant, and we felt the impact. Once I heard a parent lecturing his daughter, saying “Do you know how much money we spent to come to this tournament for you to play like that?”. Trust me. Working with thousands of students over the years, countless issues can end their careers from injury to illness to car accidents, and sometimes their life goals take precedence over their softball goals. Her college major may make it almost impossible to continue in the game. If the game were to suddenly be taken away and you cannot honestly say that the memories were worth every penny, take a step back.

Was it worth it? Today, I do not see it in terms of the scholarships they received, trophies won, or exciting victories that we will always remember. Far more important are the relationships we built through spending so much time together, seeing the way they each matured in ways we could never have imagined, and seeing how comfortable and confident that each has become through the process. These things can be accomplished through many activities you share with your kids, many of which never include a scoreboard.

As I tell parents every week, “There are a thousand ways to mess it up, and only one way to do it right for your unique, individual kid on that particular day.” Taking the time to figure that out….yes, that is definitely worth it.

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