Winning isn’t always about the final score at the end of the game. In fact, some of the sweetest victories have nothing to do with the final outcome of a game.
This weekend was a softball tournament. Our little all-stars who have been practicing together for about of month were playing. Also playing were the handpicked, “elite” team from our county. (There is a whole ‘nother blog on that particular subject). Every single one of our All-Stars had, at one time or another, played with some of these ‘elite’ players. They had been teammates and friends until adults got in the way. Most of these girls had played for the ‘elite’ coaches at one time or another.
Already the tension between the 2 teams had begun. The Outlaws (I find that particularly amusing) had bombarded the stands watching our first game. One of them commented, “Man. If we got to play teams like this we would be Champions for sure.” And so the game began. I saddled over to be with my fellow Anti-Outlaw mom so that we could exchange a few rolled eyes and help each other hold our tongues.
Early in the tournament it became evident that we were going to end up playing this ‘elite’ team. Our girls were already murmuring, “…they are good” and “they are better…” etc. Mentally they were already playing the game and losing the game. Smiles were fading. Nerves were fraying. Not just the player’s spirits but also the mother’s too. The mothers that knew more about the whole sordid mess then even the girls did. It didn’t help that we won our first game 12-0 but then were beat handily in our 2nd game. In a double elimination tournament we were already one down and were facing the self-proclaimed chosen ones next.
Game time. Parents were wiping sweaty palms against shorts in an effort to remain calm. Our girls were tossing the ball back and forth and back and forth chatting nervously. Our coach commented, “I think y’all are more nervous then I am.” No one argued. Our girls gathered in the dugout looking adorable and dapper in their black pants, red/white/blue jerseys and red socks. Sequin headbands and jaunty hair bows completed our look. No matter what happened on the field we were the cutest team.
We lost the toss. We had first at bat. I swear I almost vomited as the first player made her way toward the plate. Coaches were nervous, our players were nervous and parents were nervous. This was more then a game. This was much, much more personal.
I wish I could provide a play-by-play of the game. I can’t. All I know is that one after another our girls were hitting or getting on base. And one after another we were scoring. WE WERE SCORING. We ended our at bat on the scoreboard. They didn’t. At the end of the first inning the score was us 2 and THEM 0. Oh sweet victory.
In the dugout our girls were cheering and chanting, singing and dancing. They were smiling–big, broad smiles that were infectious. Our pitcher, also one that had not be CHOSEN with this team was formed, was throwing strike after strike after strike. The other coach called over the umps to try and complain about her form. The ump watched and shook his head. The other coach humphed and pouted but the game went on.
After being shutout we took the offense again. This time my daughter was up. She stepped up to the plate and took her stance. One hip cocked to the side. I knew what that meant. She was so nervous that she had to go to the bathroom. I knew she was terrified. This at-bat had much more to do justice then it did with anything else. She was part of the core team of girls that made up this elite team. The only coaches she had ever played for were the coaches of that team. Her best friend was on the team. Her perception was that she wasn’t good enough to be asked to play for them. She had to find out about the team from her friend, at school. She was crushed. She was hurt. But, in that hurt she found some strength and the reward for that was being here, at this game, wearing an All-Star jersey. Tears filled by eyes as I watched her square up against a pitcher whose had taunted and been rude to my girl in the past. This pitcher was the daughter of the coach who pretended not to know Kinsley one day as the Outlaws were gathering to practice.
Tears filled my eyes. She needed a hit. This at bat was symbolic of her entire year of overcoming obstacles. I knew this. The muscles in her shoulders quivered. Her bat stood still. I knew she had that bat clenched so tightly that her knuckles were white. A few pitches were thrown. Balls. Father storms the field to conference with his daughter. Kinsley steps out of the batters box and takes a few swings. I could see his face. I don’t know what he said but from the fierce look on his face and the way his daughter took a step back I can only imagine that it was an intense directive about striking out my girl.
Mound conference over. “Play ball,” shouted the ump. Back in the batters box went my girl. She shimmied a bit and I knew her nerves were gone. Mine were too. I couldn’t cheer as my mouth was dry, I couldn’t see from the tears in my eyes-I couldn’t help. All I could so was sit there and watch. TWACK! With more power then I knew she possessed my daughter swung that bat and hit a line drive. I jumped up with my hands high in the victory formation. I found my voice and it was cheering, loudly and with fervor. From the base my daughter looks my way and makes eye contact. She smiles broadly and gives me a thumb up.
At one point the score was 5-0. Our girls were cheering and singing and dancing. They believed. No longer were they the 2nd class players. They were hitting, they were fielding and they were united as a team.
We didn’t win that game. We lost. As the home team they got the last bat. They went in the bottom half of that inning tied with us 6-6. But the victory was ours. We were victorious with our first hit. We were victorious with each and every strike out—and there were several. Victory was my daughter stopping a ball in the outfield that could have easily been a home run and throwing that ball from outfield to 3rd. Our team was singing and chanting and having the time of their lives. There was victory in that. They were playing like champions. They didn’t let their previous loss weigh them down. They didn’t let their friends or former teammates intimidate them. They didn’t let the other coaches scare them. They played hard and they played with heart. We were the winners no matter how the score ended up.