As I pulled out of my 9-to-5 parking lot in the dead of winter with a light yet blistery snowfall side swiping my mom van (boy is this turning into a depressing visual), I looked ahead toward the direction of my normal route home. The blue and red flashing lights of police cruisers combined with a long row of bumper-to-bumper traffic warned me to go a different direction if I wanted my trip home to be a little longer than normal, but not entirely unbearable.

Another crash on the side of the road.

Another person suffering inconvenience…hopefully in just their pride and pocketbook.

Another driver losing control on the icy roads and another getting struck without warning.

And, just like that, two (or more) lives were impacted for the worse.

I had begun my day by watching a video, produced and shared by The Players’ Tribune, about why Larry Sanders chose to leave the NBA.

Prior to watching that video, I didn’t know who Larry Sanders was. I mean, I recognized the name, but I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out in a room full of freakishly tall guys.

Now I find myself respecting this guy I do not know, not because of what he accomplished on the court in the past, but because of his present day perspective.

Sanders was chosen by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 15th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft. In his most recent contract extension in 2013, he signed a four-year, $44 million deal with the Bucks. Let’s all pause and ponder what we would do with that kind of ridiculous money.

Then it appears he started to metaphorically lose control of his life path…or maybe he was never fully in control in the first place?

A couple of injuries, a couple of drug policy violations, a suspension, and a contract buyout.

A “crash” that no amount of ridiculous money could fix.

He understands that it was never his extreme athletic prowess or level of wealth that defined him. In his video message, he encourages everyone watching to “Don’t Forget The And…” meaning we are all more than just one thing, according to Sanders.

I am a mom AND a wife AND a writer AND a professional AND a kid-at-heart AND a dreamer AND a youngest child.

He talks about connecting to family, how he considers them his real riches, and why he walked away from such a lucrative career. He talks about how people like to use labels.

He stresses that 90 percent of the day is mental and how he turned to canibus to help him cope, and then went away to a hospital to help him with his anxiety and depression. He spoke of wanting to make a difference in this unseen world.

I needed to hear his message so I am passing it on in case any of you needed to hear it too.

If you didn’t exactly reach every success you set out to achieve this day, month, or year, I bet you met some. Luckily for all of us, life is not just a one-way trip.

We all steer off course.

We all crash and get crashed into.

We all regret and wish we could do over.

Just don’t remain on the side of the road. Get back behind the wheel and get back on course.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Do you remember a time growing up when you made a mistake from which you weren’t sure your pride would be able to fully recover? A mistake that not only embarrassed yourself, but those who counted you?

I remember one. It happened on the softball field when I was in college. In my adulthood looking back, I can appreciate how insignificant it was in the grand scheme of life. But it hurt nonetheless at the time.

I remember it was the final inning and third base was occupied by a player from our in-state rival. I remember a power hitter was up to bat with two outs. That same power hitter did something unexpected…she got under a pitch and popped it up to shallow right center.

I remember we were one out away from sealing a big victory. As I sprinted backwards from my position at second base looking up at the sky to track down the ball, I remember hearing my friend and teammate, the right-fielder, yell for the catch as she raced in towards the lip of the grass. At least I thought she called for the ball.

Although realizing I had just as good of a chance to snag that pop fly as she did, I immediately veered off course to avoid a collision. And that’s when it happened. The ball dropped between us.

Game over.

I saw the look of exasperation on her face. I saw the disappointment in my pitcher’s eyes. I saw the opposite team erupt in celebration.

And I was angry.

Angry at myself for not taking control as an upperclassman. Angry for not finishing a play that we had dedicated countless hours of practice to perfect. Angry that we did everything better than our opponents that game except for one stupid play.

I think back to that moment and often wonder how much worse I would have felt had that mistake been recorded and replayed over and over again for everyone to see. Luckily for me, I competed in a world that was far less technologically connected than the one my kids are expected to navigate.

Sports fans remember certain defining, cringe-worthy moments.

Bill Buckner 1986 World Series Game 6 “Between the Legs”

Chris Webber’s 1993 NCAA Championship “Infamous Timeout”

Fred Brown’s “Inexplicable Pass” to James Worthy in 1982 NCAA Championship

It is probable if you have kids who compete in sports that your son or daughter will be put in the position to single-handedly win or lose their games. And despite the fact that games are won or lost by a series of plays by both teams, fans seem to remember the final plays over everything else.

I challenge adults to think about times when they felt as if they were falling short in some aspect of their life: Struggling to keep their spouse happy; spearheading a work project that resulted in higher costs and fewer profits; failing to deliver upon a promise to their child; gaining too much weight; not taking enough time to rest; the list goes on and on.

It is true what they say: With age comes wisdom. We have the luxury of knowing that storm clouds will eventually pass. Many budding athletes aren’t old enough to have that same level of understanding. Children run the risk of only seeing darkness on auto loop. Errors are broadcast for all to see and mock.

Resist the temptation to only shower love on your child when they succeed and are being glorified.

Resist the temptation to stand across from their opposition in joyous celebration as young heads hang low.

Resist the temptation to immerse yourself too deeply into your child’s life, for it is theirs to live.

Resist the temptation to judge yourself or other parents based on the amount of trophies our kids accumulate.

I am 100% confident that my own children will learn a great deal from their setbacks as I have with mine. Memories will always trump medals in my opinion.

Don’t waste your breath (or dignity) screaming at anyone at your kid’s next competition. This is their book to write. Flip the pages and follow along. Enjoy the story.

Written by Heidi Woodard

As I laid in bed earlier this morning with my daughter by my side, buried as deeply down under my blanket as the fallen tree outside my bedroom window was blanketed in snow, I looked up from my phone to see her reading to herself.

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And this made me happy.

Refocusing my attention back to glowing screen staring back at me, I devoted the next 3.5 minutes of my day to watching this video.

And this made me hang my head in shame and put down my phone.

Later in the day, my little girl asked me to complete an “assignment sheet,” one that I was told needed to incorporate both pictures and words in order to describe her.

So I drew this beautiful rendition of her on the tiny assignment sheet she created for me.

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And this made us both giggle and me smile with pride.

She then told me it was my turn to create an assignment sheet for her. Same rules applied. She would combine words and pictures to describe me.

She meticulously printed her name and description sentence on the lines I created, drew her image in the square provided, then she handed everything back to me wearing a smirk on her face.

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This made me hang my head in shame (again). Notice the laptop and cell phone, in particular.

For the record, we did go to Target today. Miss Tell-it-like-it-is got a new pair of shoes and a couple more books to add to her Dr. Seuss library.

We plan to read those books together, like we do NEARLY EVERY SINGLE NIGHT snuggled under the same blanket. Where I will sit. Logged off.

Has your kid shamed you lately?

Written by Heidi Woodard

They get one childhood

January 26, 2015 — 4 Comments
Little Heidi

Little Heidi

I remember playing kickball with my group of childhood friends on a small patch of land surrounded by busy streets. We referred to that special stomping ground as the island. We’d meet at the island on the weekends or after school and had specific rules about where we were allowed to kick the ball.

There were the siblings, Chad and his younger brother Jeff, from one house and another girl like me, Amy, from another house. I say Amy was a “girl like me” strictly from an anatomical standpoint. I don’t recall her wanting to play kickball, race (foot or bike), or get dirty half as much as I did. I imagine Amy hung out with us for lack of other options as none of us were as musically gifted as she was. Chad and I were only allowed to kick between the first base tree and second base tree towards the neighborhood gas station because any ball booted over shortstop or third base ran the risk of being run over by a car.

You NEVER wanted to be the one who ruined a perfectly good game of kickball because you kicked the ball into traffic. Talk about the ultimate grade school buzz kill.

Before I knew what it meant to play sports, I was using muscle groups that would help me later in life as a competitor. Climbing branches in tall trees, burrowing deep down into bushes to hide, scaling rooftops, and avoiding traffic…seriously I would never let my kids cross that same street that I maneuvered on a daily basis now that I think about it…these were all everyday activities that formed my childhood.

My kids have ample room to play in our neighborhood. The open space behind our house is quadruple the size of the island and is fortunately not barricaded by moving vehicles. Yet that open space remains empty most days outside of the occasional dog walkers or bicycle riders.

The majority of my kids’ activity schedules is comprised of organized practices and games. Yes, they have friends (some teammates and others not) who sleep over every now and then, and they know what it’s like to go on a scavenger hunt or a random hike just to soak in nature and all its glory, but I’m willing to bet that my kids’ lives aren’t too drastically different from other kids their age – at least those kids whose parents are like my husband and I and signed them up for sports from an early age.

I’ve been asked by many about what motivated me to launch GiveTheGameBack.com. What inspired me to share my own personal story about watching my children compete in sports while tuning out the sometimes negative feedback from adults on the sidelines? What was my turning point in recognizing I needed to tone down my own competitiveness and desire to win? What urged me to take a stand?

The answers to all of those questions was something on which I had to really reflect.

I was motivated to launch an information site (support group) for sports parents and promoters that includes custom apparel designed to give the game back to youth athletes, because I want to be a voice for the silent majority who are putting their kids in organized sports for the right reasons.

I was inspired to share my story because I am far from perfect. I don’t want to come off as a holier than thou mom who doesn’t have the foggiest idea about what it means to prepare athletes for the next level of competition. I may take a few bruises by sharing my belief system, but I am of the mindset that you’ve either got it or you don’t when it comes to playing sports at the collegiate level and beyond. To me, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to dump thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars into trying to transform your little kid into the next Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Pele, Jerry Rice, (insert idolized athlete name here). It makes better sense to place your child on a team where he continues to hone his or her personal athletic abilities, playing for a coach who believes that sports teach lessons that extend well beyond the playing field, and with respectful and respectable teammates.

My turning point was a few summers ago when I caught myself questioning my son’s future potential because he wasn’t mastering a skill at 9 years of age that took me well into my collegiate playing days to master myself: the art of hitting a moving ball with a moving bat consistently and effectively. I challenge parents (because I’ve lived it myself) to stop and think before you yell or express frustration with your budding athletes. Ask yourself: Was I perfect in every endeavor I set out to conquer this week? If you answer “no” (and, for the record, I don’t believe you if you answer “yes”), then how can you expect a child whose brain and motor skills aren’t fully developed to do any better?

Recollecting my own childhood of playing kickball on the island urged me to take a stand. I had a fantastic, memorable childhood that involved self-discovery, taking risks, and exploring boundaries. Then I had 20+ years of playing competitive sports, which meant more to me than I can describe here. I had parents who supported me through my triumphs and tribulations. I vow to do the same for my own kids.

They get one childhood. Always remember that.

Written by Heidi Woodard