When it’s all said and done
Normally I work in the suburbs, which is where I live. I drive to work each along the same route, violating the Mafia Don’s strategy for avoiding a hit, but what can you do? Because it’s the same route I’m usually pretty oblivious to the scenery.
Today, though, I took the train into downtown Chicago, and once I finished reading the Redeye (the local GenX newspaper from the once-proud Chicago Tribune) I sat back and started looking out the window. As the train wound its way through the suburbs into the city, we passed by a rather large soccer complex. Suddenly I found myself whisked down memory lane.
While both of my sons played the game, only one was serious — my son Eric. He played both house league and travel soccer for many years before finally just settling on travel. He did that through high school, but decided not to try to walk on in college due to the course load for his chosen major (athletic training).
Maybe I’m just tired, but as we passed those fields I suddenly had a tinge of sadness realizing how much I missed watching Eric play soccer. He was always passionate about it and gave 100% whenever he was on the field. His passion more than his talent made him a difference-maker on whatever team he was on.
I coached him for a couple of years when he was very young, but for most of his career I was just a parent on the sidelines in his camp chair, and I was very content with that.
Ok, here’s where it applies to fastpitch softball if you haven’t figured it out yet. As I thought back on his playing career, I wasn’t really focused on any particular game, or record, or even any year. I just remember how much he loved playing the game, and how much I loved watching him do it. I often drove him to and from the games, and I remember quietly listening to music in the car on the way there (A Hard Day’s Night was his favorite psych-up song) and animatedly dicussing the game afterwards. We’d talk about how the team did, how he did, what went right, what went wrong, and how he felt about the whole thing overall. It wasn’t me coaching from the driver’s seat either. Just a fun discussion that prolonged the experience of the game.
I didn’t think about it much then. One game just sort of blended into the next. Often we were hard-pressed to get to the games due to the many activities of all my children, and when they were done we were on to something else. There was always another game to concern ourselves with.
Now there aren’t anymore. He plays on a team with his fraternity, but it’s not the same. And I don’t get to see it in any case. This morning I was thinking about what I would give to be able to relive one of those days, when my young son was out working his butt off to try and win a game that ultimately mattered to no one.
Winning and trophies and being 63-4 seems very important at the time. I get caught up in it too, especially when I coach. But when it’s all said and done, it’s doubtful you’re going to remember a whole lot about all that stuff, or savor it the way you think you might.
The important thing is the playing. What you’ll remember for the most part (most likely) is one sort of big, blurry game that spans years, not the individual games. And that’s why I believe it’s better to play on a team that’s not quite as good as to sit the bench on a great team. You don’t want your memories of your child to be primarily sitting on the bench watching her teammates win trophies.
And for those who are in a good situation, savor it. Take a little time before or after the game to look around, take in the sights, the sounds, even the smells of the ballfield. Because before you know it you may find yourself sitting on a train, looking wistfully at ballfields going by and wishing you’d worried about scholarships and trophies a little less, and enjoyed it a little more.