Its funny how life will bring into focus moments that remind you of your past in order to help you realize your present. And sometimes we don’t realize how much we have grown until we have those “aha” moments. Those times where it seems as though God has put everything else on mute so you can embrace the moment in its fullness.
Today was one of those unexpected moments for me. We had our annual “McMichael scrimmage” that we have been doing for a couple of years now.This year we were suppose to have it at our place, but due to the rain we had to move it to Nacogdoches High School. This year brought forth a different meaning for me because my dad is retiring. I will miss seeing the man who I grew up watching all my life. Although he was around, it was not the same as seeing him in the third base coaching box. He is the man whom I always watched and for the first time in my life he was not there for me to watch. He was only there as a supporter, which I’m sure is a difficult role for him but for me it was emotional. I kept listening for his voice and searching for his presence only to come up empty. There is a new person standing in the third base coaching box but to me is only a ghost of man I use to see. Its pretty amazing how me and my sister have similar coaching styles all stemming from our foundation (our dad).
Tonight was not my first time coaching at my alma mater but tonight took on an entirely different meaning. As I was walking with my team underneath the bleachers to hit, I looked around and for a brief moment it seemed as time stood still. I didn’t see all the girls anymore I just saw one girl (ME). I saw a girl who had a dream and a dad who helped her get there. I saw was the countless nights that me and my dad would work underneath the bleachers perfecting imperfection. I could see the buckets of balls and feel the sweat pouring down from my forehead. A determined girl who was willing to lay it all on the line for a dream. A dream, even at the high school level, went beyond the collegiate realm and into the Olympics.
I could still hear the beating of my heart and the exasperated breaths after many rounds of front toss. I could see myself looking back at my dad who offered his constructive criticism that never tore me down but always motivated me to do better. He would always say, ‘Your good, but not that good.” That phrase would always encourage me to NEVER SETTLE under any circumstances. Rain, sleet or snow I was willing to put in the work.
It was underneath those bleachers that I learned how to deal with failure. Round after round I was trying to get better than the round before. It was underneath those bleachers that I learned how to be mentally tough through the frustrations of miss hits, pop ups and foul balls. I learned that though those perceived failures that I had to find a way to overcome. There was no room for self pity only results. I understood then, that I had to fail underneath those bleachers in order to succeed in the game. I fell in love with the game of softball because I absolutely love a challenge. I love the fact the chances of hitting the softball consistently were low. I loved the fact that the game was set up for failure, the pursuit to succeed was the driving force behind those countless hours underneath the bleachers.
It was underneath those bleachers where I could escape the criticisms of those who thought my success had everything to do with my dad being a high school coach, or that I though myself more highly than everyone else. But yet, none of them bothered to stop by and see why the lights were on under the bleachers at 10:00 at night. None of them bothered to offer to give me a hand when I became so frustrated tears would roll down my eyes. None of them bothered to ask how difficult it was to balance wanting to be better but trying to hold back to keep friends. To them, my quietness was “stuck up,” and my success was from my dad. But the truth is that my drive wasn’t me competing against them it was ME competing against ME.
I have learned much in my adult life from the game that I loved. Strikeouts have reminded me that there are times when I will try hard at something with every ounce of energy I can and I will still come up short. But, I will always get another chance to “bat.” Homeruns have taught me that if I can slow down and relax that good things will come to those who wait. Bobbles in the outfield have taught me that even when I misjudge a situation that I still have time to turn around and make a “throw.” And Steals, have reminded me that If I wait on God’s perfect timing that “All things will work out for those who are called according to his purpose.”
So, as I pitched to my girls tonight underneath those bleachers, I had to fight back my tears. My dreams have been replaced by someone else’s and now it is my turn to help the girls I coach fulfill theirs. My heart aches sometimes for those moments of when I could release everything in my life in a swing. In each swing was a fierce drive and determination of a dream.
For me, I didn’t just want to be a participant I wanted to be committed! That hard yellow ball with those raised red stitches is what has helped mold me into the person I am today. The ups and the downs underneath those bleachers and lights morphed a girl who’s dream became real. The day I put on the red, white and blue USA jersey was a day I will NEVER forget. When I put the jersey on I got chills over my entire body and my fingers went numb. I wore USA proudly, not because it was about ME , but because it symbolized that I was connected with other people who spent countless hours underneath the bleachers.
I was reminded today that even in my adult life there seems to be a sense of unacceptance and criticism in my decision to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ. Instead of swinging my bat under the bleachers I now read my bible “under the lights.” My life seems to take the road less traveled and that’s ok. I have traded my spikes for coaching shoes, my jersey for a polo shirt and my playbook for a bible. I have to believe that although there are sacrifices that I make as a Christian, that God will allow me to be in a place where I can again feel acceptance amongst a group who understands what it takes to spend time under the lights. That moment where I will realize that its all worth it.