I watched someone in my office building being whisked away last week by EMT on a stretcher to the nearest hospital. She had come into work like any ol’ normal workday and, a few short moments later, had her chest exposed while random strangers were doing rhythmic compressions in an attempt to save her life.

I don’t personally know this woman as we work for different companies, but I recognized her because she and I eat in the same cafeteria on the first floor of a multi-story building. I’ve had her on my mind for several days. As of Friday, I had learned she was breathing on her own after having been without oxygen for an extended period of time. And after this weekend, I’ve learned she is able to sit up in bed.

While I have no doubt she likely faces a long road to recovery, it seems that miracles do happen.

Prior to this incident, I planned on sharing my thoughts about a school assignment given by a third grade teacher in Colorado to her students. It’s been passed around through various social media platforms under the heading “I Wish My Teacher Knew.” If you haven’t already heard about these powerful testimonies, check out the story here and here.

I wish you knew

There are a lot of things that I wish the people close to me knew. There are things I wish the people I barely know knew.

I’m not a big fan of funerals. In fact, I really detest them. But the one thing that I take away from every funeral I attend is the feeling of love. Love from the people who gather to memorialize the deceased. It is both beautiful and gut-wrenching to hear people talk so fondly of the person who is no longer here with them in physical form.

I know I’m not the first to think these thoughts, but why do we tend to wait to tell the people we care about how we feel about them until they aren’t with us to receive the message?

Below are some of my I Wish My (fill in the blank) Knew messages if you’d like to read them. If you feel so inclined, I would encourage you to add your own in the comments section or just share them directly with those you care about.

Don’t wait to tell people how you feel about them. Nothing in life is more important than love and relationships.

I wish my husband knew that I feel grateful and not always deserving to be loved so deeply by him.

I wish my oldest child knew that I think he’s a lot like his dad, which explains why he both inspires and infuriates me. And that I know without a doubt that he can surpass his goals. I wish he knew how much his future excites me and how I enjoy watching every second of it unfold.

I wish my middle child knew how brave and kind I think he is for always thinking about others before himself (his siblings being excluded from that general rule of course). And how I fight back tears knowing he will always give me a genuine hug and smile no matter how old he gets.

I wish my youngest knew that when people say that she looks and acts just like me, it fills me up. I wish she knew that I look forward to her loud, unapologetic laughter every morning when I first wake up and her soft, deliberate storytelling every night before I fall asleep.

I wish my dad knew that I still look up to him to this day and always will.

I wish my mom knew that not a day goes by when I don’t count my blessings that she is still in my life to guide me.

I wish my sister knew that I love her for introducing me to rock music, snow skiing, and softball. (But I still don’t forgive her for chasing me around the house with her clarinet while blaring the theme song from Jaws.)

I wish my grandparents knew that I still miss them and everything they stood for.

I wish the entire family I married into knew that I had no idea when I said “I Do” how much they would shape my life for the better.

I wish my super close friends knew that I don’t tend to have that many of them and that they are one of the rare few because they are understanding, funny, patient, kind, and have pushed me beyond my limits.

I wish my dog knew that I never want her to cross the rainbow bridge, but when she does, I want her to look after our other dog because I have no doubt he’s still stupid in heaven (and I say that lovingly).

I wish my coworkers knew that I want them to consider me a good, reliable colleague. And that I recognize there is more in each of us than the professional hats we wear and more that defines us beyond the four walls in which we interact.

I wish my children’s teachers knew this.

I wish my kids’ coaches knew how much of an influence they are leaving on every young life that they touch and that I am thankful for every moment they’ve chosen to invest.

I wish those of you reading this right now knew that I write as a way to release my thoughts when I can’t always verbalize them. You taking time out of your day to read this means a lot to me.

I wish God knew I still rely on him.

I wish the woman who suffered a heart attack last week knew that I am thankful she survived to live another day.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Derek Jeter

An upfront disclaimer: I am by no means a Yankees fan. Never have followed them that closely. And, yes, I realize their organization spends more money than the Kardashians. But if you’re a fan of baseball in general, it’s hard to turn a deaf ear to names like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Mariano Rivera. They demand respect for what they’ve meant to the game.

Read that graphic above again. Many people in my generation (but not my husband, DEFINITELY not him) would argue that Derek Jeter was, quite possibly, the best on the diamond.

I find it amazing and inspiring that a scrawny kid from Kalamazoo, Michigan, not only made his way to the Big Leagues, but also earned the spot of starting shortstop for the NY Yankees for 20 seasons.

According to The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams, Derek grew up competing on teams that played on average a couple dozen games per year. The pitchers he faced in high school maxed out on fast balls clocking in at 85 MPH. His adjustment to the Big Leagues, subsequently, was understandably rocky at first.

Yet he learned how to set personal goals early in life (age 8 to be exact). And he was determined to reach them despite any odds stacked against him.

As I’m spreading the word about my movement to GiveTheGameBack to youth athletes in my community and beyond, I am reminded that persistence and allies fuel my determination to make a difference. Setbacks are just that…in sports and in life. They are not insurmountable unless you allow them to be.

Since January, I’ve met amazing people whom I otherwise would have never met. I’ve shared my own stories as well as those from the coaching community, my fellow parents in the stands, and even players themselves about what can be done to improve the state of youth athletics. I’ve even transformed those people who rally against fandumb into walking billboards by having them wear GiveTheGameBack t-shirts.

I want to personally thank everyone who has helped on this journey to get out of the way and let the kids play. I don’t see an immediate finish line in sight and believe it will be quite some time before we reverse some of the more disturbing trends of parental over-involvement (visit your local ball park or gym this weekend if you don’t believe me), but we’re at least taking strides in the right direction.

We can easily hang our heads and call  it quits. But we won’t.

For the record, we’re Atlanta Braves fans here in the Woodard household and I’d argue that Chipper Jones in as close to perfection as they come. :)

Written by Heidi Woodard

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Let’s all gather round. I’m talking to you, parents of children who compete in sports.

I don’t know if it’s the same in your household, but my family is currently in a sweet spot known as the “off season,” when the only thing on our plates is weekly practice in preparation for summer baseball. My kids are actually adhering to a real bedtime routine. My husband and I have sat across from one another at our own dining room table and had a conversation while enjoying dinner together. I’ve both watched my DVR’d shows and napped unapologetically. It’s been surreal.

My shoulders are a little less tense. My speed is a bit slower. My breaths are much deeper.

Yet part of me misses the frenzy. The dirt and sunflower seeds are calling.

There’s a reason why the beginning of every sports season is exciting. Everyone starts with a 0-0 record and a pretty good attitude.

I’m here to tell you…the joy does not have to rise or fall in direct correlation with your kid’s success or lack there of. You can control your outlook in spite of external influences.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the study performed by Rob Miller and Bruce E. Brown, who run a coaching consultation business called Proactive Coaching LLC? For three decades, Miller and Brown asked college athletes about their parents’ behaviors; specifically, what their parents did right versus what their parents did wrong in an effort to support their budding stars?

The athletes overwhelmingly responded that the feedback that resonated the most positively with them consisted of six, simple, yet incredibly powerful words:

Top athletes reported that the most uplifting phrase they heard their parents tell them time and time again was ‘I love to watch you play.’

The worst thing that parents did, in the opinion of their kids, was critiquing or questioning them immediately following the game or competition.

So, to me, the easiest way to ensure I (and you) continue to feel positive as our budding athletes transition from the practice season to the actual season is by reminding them how much we love to watch them play. And that phrase should be the honest to goodness truth when it comes out of our mouths, regardless of the game outcome.

If we don’t mean it, then why invest the time, money, effort, and – most importantly – our children’s emotional well being by having them pursue sports?

I no longer routinely ask my kids if they had fun at the end of every game. Losing doesn’t feel fun. I don’t expect to see them muster up a smile after every final out.

But I also want them to know how to to recovery gracefully from setbacks, to not hang their heads, and to get back up when they’ve fallen.

As parents, we need to be able to hold ourselves to the same level of accountability.

Because, in the end, we must remember how much we not only love to watch them succeed, but how much we love to watch our children play. They need to be allowed to do the latter before they are ever capable of doing the former.

Written by Heidi Woodard

On a semi-steamy day back in July 1999, I said “I do” to not only my husband, Ryan, but also to a lifetime of basketball.

You see, for those who don’t know, my husband is the son of a legendary basketball coach in and around the Midwest, Doug Woodard. My father-in-law has coached for an eternity. I’m sure there’s an actual number of years I could plug in there, but the past 17 years have been at Bellevue West High School leading the defending Class A State Championship Thunderbirds team.

doug woodard

Doug Woodard and the Bellevue West Thunderbirds. Photo c/o Omaha World-Herald

Before Bellevue West, he dedicated his time and talent to Omaha Roncalli Catholic High School. It was at Roncalli where he coached both of his sons and where my husband and I met in one of those weird classrooms that brought together a perfection-seeking honor roll girl with a slightly cocky boy who rarely opened a book outside of the classroom. It was at that same high school where Ryan and I played our best years of basketball, not knowing back then that we’d one day have three kids of our own learning how to play a game they love.

Before Roncalli, Doug coached student athletes at Bellevue Christian High School. And he still hears from those same kids even now, over two decades later, which is equally amazing and inspiring to me.

And I’d imagine that, before Bellevue Christian, Doug was thinking of ways to transition from playing a sport at which he excelled to coaching his own kids and other people’s kids on the proper ways to pass, dribble, box out, rebound, and shoot (in my husband’s case, ESPECIALLY shoot).

My sister-in-laws both played summer basketball for their dad and then went on to compete at my collegiate alma mater, Creighton University. Considering they have basketball in their blood, I am still amazed that the Woodard clan accepted me – a collegiate softball player – into their hard court crew.

The Woodard cheering section at the 2014 Nebraska High School Boys State Basketball Tournament.

The Woodard cheering section at the 2014 Nebraska High School Boys State Basketball Tournament. What? Doesn’t everyone wear matching shirts in March?

Ryan has now coached our oldest son and his teammates, the Junior TBirds, for the past six years and will both mentor them and learn from them in their final season – as eighth graders – next year. I think I’ve had nearly all of those boys in my kitchen and driveway at some point. I’ve watched them transition from simply learning how to dribble the ball to orchestrating moves that I know I personally would not be able to defend.

Last night, Ryan sent out his end of season thank you email to all of the players’ parents. He told them he will be discussing their son’s player evaluations one-on-one with each boy this weekend. He will guide these young men on what he considers to be their strengths as well as areas they can improve upon over the summer.

These players have one more year to work on their game before moving on to high school, a leap that history has proven some boys will make and others may not. I want to cup each of their faces in my hands, look at them straight in their eyes, and say “Enjoy every moment because they are some of the most fun and fastest fleeting you will ever experience in your lives.”

Ryan doesn’t hear it nearly enough, but I feel really lucky to be married to him. When it comes to the influence that both he and his father have on young men’s lives both on and off the court, I feel like the apple does not fall too far from the tree. I can confidently say that I married into a good bushel.

One downside of having basketball in the blood? Our own children will never have perfect school attendance…at least not on those years when grandpa’s team makes it to the state tournament!

Here’s wishing all of the state qualifiers good luck this year down in Lincoln.

Boys Class A State Tournament Bracket

state basketball class A

Boys All Classes Tournament Brackets

In terms of high school memories, I'd imagine it doesn't get much better than this. Photo c/o Lincoln Journal Star

In terms of high school memories, I’d imagine it doesn’t get much better than this. Just ask the 2014 State Champs Bellevue West Thunderbirds. Photo c/o Lincoln Journal Star

Written by Heidi Woodard