By Nichole Giles
One of the things you learn when you become a parent is how to cheer for your children in their chosen art or sport. In our family, the boys are the artists and the girls the sportswomen. This took some discovering, but over the years, my husband and I have done our best to help nurture them all in whichever way is necessary. We want to encourage them to move forward with whatever sport or art in which they have passion.
Unfortunately, whenever large groups of girls play sports together, it has the potential to become a popularity contest more than a sports competition. Sometimes, it’s a lot of both, and that’s where things get very difficult. Something like this happened this year to my eleven-year-old daughter. I’ll call her Happy in this post. (As in the dwarf, not the emotion.)
It all started with an adult. The woman is the wife of one of our church leaders, and someone Happy has looked up to in the past with a bit of awe and respect. This woman decided to put together a basketball team, using all the girls in our neighborhood and ward. After coaching girls’ basketball (city league) for several years, she’s learned how to circumvent the city’s way of dividing the teams up so they are evenly matched. This woman picked her favorite and best players, leaving out only one girl in a very large area. In fact, she went to lengths to recruit girls from other areas to fill her team, deliberately leaving that girl out—for reasons unbeknownst to anyone other than the wicked coach herself. That poor lone girl is my Happy.
There’s more to explain here, but that would make for a long story. Suffice it to say, all of Happy’s friends got on the team. Except Happy. Who is a very good basketball player and has no idea why she was ousted. Neither do her parents.
Even more unfortunate, none of Happy’s friends understood why she wasn’t on the team. They asked her about it. Repeatedly. Telling her how they were recruited and wondering why they don’t get to play together. The friends didn’t understand that they were making Happy feel even worse. Happy was heartbroken.
She cried herself to sleep for two weeks. So did her mother.
Happy was hurt. But I was angry. So angry at this wicked, awful woman (I’m trying to be G rated here) who had the nerve to hurt my child so deeply. And guilty. My DH and I became certain that it was somehow our fault—that we’ve somehow done something to make this happen. Offended someone or said the wrong thing. But it didn’t matter at this point. No degree of arguing with the city people would get her on that team. Even if she wanted it anymore. Which she didn’t. (Side note, wicked, awful coach-lady wouldn’t return our calls either. She knew what she’d done.)
I could think of no solution to help my daughter feel better other than to offer for her to not play basketball this year.
That was the wrong thing to say. How dare I even suggest it? Happy loves basketball. Always has. And she’s good at it. Very good. Why wouldn’t she play just because some stupid crazy-lady wants to create a ringer team and not invite her? Happy tells me she’ll play anyway. In whichever team the city places her. And she’ll practice hard. Very hard so that when Happy’s new team plays against the ringers, she can wipe the floor with them. All by herself if necessary.
Then the day came when the two teams played each other. Happy had been preparing herself mentally, physically, and emotionally for a long time.
*Switching to commentary mode*
They tip the basketball. Happy is off. She has the ball. She’s fast. She plays hard. She is aggressive. She runs, she shoots, she scores, she rebounds. She’s…amazing. Incredible. Fantastic.
Happy doesn’t miss. Happy’s coach is ecstatic. Doesn’t want to take her out. She wouldn’t come out anyway.
**End commentator mode. **
In the end, Happy’s team missed a few too many baskets and lost by one point. But Happy felt good. She played hard. She showed them what she’s made of, what they missed out on. She kicked their butts to China and then brought them back on a wooden platter. She shined the floor with them. Even though the other team won.
Everyone who mattered saw. And she knew it.
This time, for her, it wasn’t about winning or losing or about who likes who more than someone else or who doesn’t like someone else or who was popular. It was about proving to herself that she has value. That she is as good as them. Better even. And that she doesn’t need her friends (even if she loves them) to make her into a good player. She is already good. And the rest doesn’t matter. She has won. And the tears were worth it.
Epilogue: Mom and dad are now thinking we have a star on our hands and wondering about putting her in a more competitive league where she can learn and grow. Where other players can give her some competition and make her even better. Can we say scholarship material? Yeah. It’s like that.
And since I’ve been experiencing a similar-type snub, I’m trying to learn from Happy’s example. I don’t need my friends to make me good. All I need is to keep going, keep pushing forward and working hard. Put my heart and soul into my work, the way she did in that game. The rest doesn’t matter. I have already won. And the tears I’ve shed will be worth it.
(*Evil coach lady couldn’t look at us in church today. Even though she teaches Happy’s class now. (Bad form, even for an evil coach.) She is embarrassed and humiliated. She should be.*) Tee hee.
Lesson of the day: Carry on and be like Happy.