Years ago, when my daughter was a 10-year-old Little League Softball® player, I ended up making a big mistake. I was at most practices, watching from the bleachers. Michaela did great. Always hustled, hit the ball well, and fielded fine. But, when it came to games, she struggled. I talked to her about it, her manager worked with her, her older brother even gave her some advice. We just couldn’t figure out how she was such a nice practice player, but when the uniform was on, she was different. Maybe it was nerves. We never found an answer. My mistake occurred when I pulled her from Little League® after that season, and decided, on her behalf, to focus solely on soccer, where she was a standout.
I look back now, and regret the decision for two reasons. One, despite her game day struggles, she was still having fun, and that is what it’s about at that age. Second, I went the route of specialization despite many of my friends telling me not to. At the time, I figured she was advancing so much more in soccer, that is where she’d find the most success and happiness.
… She wasn’t a standout, but that didn’t matter. She was where she wanted to be, and I’ve learned that if she’s happy, I’m happy.
And, to be honest, she was happy and successful playing soccer, but there was always that blank look on her face when her friends would talk about their upcoming softball season. She missed playing, being with her softball friends, and I think she grew tired of the grind playing one sport usually brings – school team and lots and lots of travel ball.
Fast forward a few years. My youngest daughter, Stephanie, who is a really nice soccer player like her sister, asked if she could play Little League Softball. I was reluctant because of the situation with Michaela, but I allowed it. Stephanie’s biggest supporter ended up being her big sister. Michaela worked all the time with Stephanie, constantly catching with her, working on her swing, and giving advice. They built a really strong bond, thanks to softball.
In fact, Michaela was the team’s biggest supporter. She made signs to hang on the fence, coordinated trips to the ice cream shop after games, and even helped the girls come up with new chants! For her high school’s community service program, she umpired a few games, ran the scoreboard, and even announced once! She just loved being around the softball field and the girls. I realized I took that experience away from her for too many years.
Michaela was in her senior year in high school. An email from the athletic office came, stating softball sign ups were the following week. It was Michaela’s last chance to play, and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. During dinner one night, Michaela said to me, “Mom, it’s my senior year, and I was thinking . . .” I interrupted her, and said, “I already filled out the paperwork. You can try out for softball.” The smile on her face melted me. And, Stephanie was just as excited as her big sister!
Michaela ended up making her high school team. She wasn’t a standout, but that didn’t matter. She was where she wanted to be, and I’ve learned that if she’s happy, I’m happy.
Michaela has had a few colleges look at her for soccer. One of the first questions the coaches ask is “what other sports do you play?” They know the importance of being a multi-sport athlete. Unfortunately, I ignored that. And, who knows, maybe she would have ended up being an even better soccer player because of softball.
While the vision of Michaela wearing a college soccer uniform next year excites me, I admit, I was just as pleased watching her on the softball field with her friends. I wish I would have allowed that when she was younger. I guess parents don’t always know best.