Archives For College

I couldn’t think of a better way to follow-up my coaching series (which featured insights from a baseball coach, a soccer coach, a basketball coach, and a volleyball coach) than to share recent and upcoming experiences that are connected to my former softball coach and teammates at Creighton University.

I had the privilege of providing color commentary for the Creighton University vs. DePaul University final regular season conference softball game on Mother’s Day.

It was a memorable experience that I won’t soon forget.

Big East commentary_Woodard and Ryan

Heidi Woodard and Jake Ryan prior to the start of the Creighton vs DePaul softball game on May 8, 2016.

Although my focus was obviously on the game at hand (unfortunately, the Bluejays lost 2-0 to the Big East regular season champion Blue Demons), I couldn’t keep my mind from drifting to the six C.U. seniors, particularly in the bottom half of the seventh inning of that game, who I knew were three outs away from seeing their collegiate playing days come to an end.

I remember what it was like to have to say goodbye to my coach and fellow teammates after they had influenced my life in a way that is indescribable with mere words.

senior day goodbye

Coach and Heidi Geier back in 1999

Brent Vigness

Coach and Heidi Woodard in 2015

There were five of us in the class of 1999 (self-nicknamed the Fab Five) who competed and grew up together for four years. We each entered into college as All-Stars from our respective teams, had our butts collectively handed to us as underclassmen, learned to elevate our game as we matured, and progressively raised our squad’s performance until we left the field as conference champs.

We won, lost, bickered, supported, belly ached, belly laughed, and most importantly believed in each other. As a result, we found a way under Coach Brent Vigness’s leadership, to improve year-after-year before recording our final out against the eventual College World Series Champion UCLA Bruins softball team in the NCAA Regionals.

fab five

Young and fearless: the very best friendships and memories are the ones that last a lifetime

Over the past 17 years, the Fab Five have grown up. We’ve returned to our home cities, married our spouses, started our careers and our families, have celebrated triumphs, and endured losses.

Sadly, the recent loss of a teammate’s mom prompted my reunion with these wonderful women this weekend. Val and her mom, Sandy, are pictured above in the photo of me jumping on my coach. Sandy passed away on April 26, 2016.

Isn’t that how life tends to work? It doesn’t wait around patiently for you to make the time to prioritize people. It slaps you in the face with a wake-up call when you’re least expecting it.

I am counting down the hours before I can see my teammates again and scream out their names in gratitude for the chance to hang out for a few days. I have missed past opportunities to get together…and I know I won’t be able to fly across the county at my every whim in the future…but THIS TIME, well THIS TIME I’m making it work.

Life has moved on with or without our permission. Loss will bring us together again. Love and laughter will remind us how much we mean to one another, even after all these years.

Every athlete will remember the memories made with their teammates over everything else. Crossing the figurative finish line is something to be proud of, but stories are told from one generation to the next about enduring the race itself.

Lastly, before I forget, yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the longest game in NCAA softball history: a 31-inning epic battle between Creighton and Utah. Even crazier than that, both teams turned around after a 20-minute break to play the third longest game in NCAA history – 25 additional innings. These doubleheader games took place in 1991, while I was still an overly confident high school player. 🙂

Thanks for allowing me to take a trip down memory lane.

Creighton Softball Timeline in the late 90s
1999:
Earned an NCAA Regional Appearance; lost to eventual National Champions UCLA Bruins in tournament elimination game
1999:
 11-3  MVC* record. Repeated as Regular-Season Conference Champs and won MVC Conference Tournament (31-28 overall record)
1998: Head Coach Brent Vigness earned MVC Coach of the Year Honors
1998: 16-2 MVC record. Won the first Regular-Season Conference Championship in Program History (33-15 overall record)
1997: 10-4 MVC record (32-30 overall record)
1996: 6-12 MVC record (17-24 overall record)

*Creighton moved from the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) to the Big East Conference in the 2013-2014 season.

Written by Heidi Woodard

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I am parenting three pretty great people at the moment. My boys are ages 12 and 10, and their little sister is 6 years old. I think I’m in a phase where I might be so physically exhausted most days from running around, however, that I’m not exactly giving them my A game. So I decided to write them a letter to explain my current inadequacies and beg for their forgiveness while promising better days to come.

 

Forgive me for my lack of hustle, kids.

Forgive me for my lack of hustle, kids.

October, 2014

Dear Mr. Know-It-All, Mr. Mind Wanderer, and Miss Thang,

Do you remember what it was like when you were young and naive and didn’t put 2-and-2 together that not EVERY mom was as clueless as yours is in the kitchen? The days when frozen snacks like chicken nuggets, pizza rolls, and toaster strudels didn’t seem like a total cop out?

I made a fatal mistake in letting you sleep over at your friends’ houses. I recognize that now. Hindsight is always 20/20. I see that look in your eyes when you return home and try to mask your disappointment, fully cognizant of the fact you will not experience that level of culinary fulfillment until the next invitation is extended.

Cooking frustrates me. Why spend more than one hour on something that A. no one will like, or B. people will like so much that it disappears in 8 minutes flat? It’s like the precious artwork you bring home that you later find in the recycling bin. You pickin up what I’m putting down?

I also feel the need to address your nonstop extracurricular activities. I see the moms of your teammates stand outside in the bitter cold, as daylight is smothered by dusk, watching every practice drill. Me? I often find myself getting lost in cyberspace, taking multiple hits of Vine videos from the comfort of my van. Just like an addict, I sulk a little lower with every passing onlooker. DON’T JUDGE ME.

 

The mom who unplugged, while I watched Vine videos.

The mom who unplugged, while I watched Vine videos.

 

Plus I work a full-time job in insurance. I can’t even begin to explain to you what that means other than by saying it’s like standing in line waiting for the chance to eat your favorite cafeteria food (pizza, french toast sticks, nachos, you get the picture) but the line is 8 hours long. When I get home at the end of my shift, the couch is my favorite cafeteria food. And I am ready to consume it.

I figure I’ve got six to eight years ahead of me before you’re in college and I become the mom of all moms.

My care packages are going to blow your mind. I will have worn dad down by then about all financial matters. After all, he will have put up with me for nearly A QUARTER CENTURY by the time you’re in college.

Since I will no longer have to drive you to anything and can just show up before tip-off, the first pitch, whatever (assuming you’re still playing), I’m going to be that chill mom you always wished for. Balancing a drink in one hand and a hot dog in the other, you won’t even know I’m there.

I’m going to remember what it’s like to hang out with your dad again. You’re going to turn around one day to introduce us to your advisor, and we’ll be pinching each other in awkward places that will make you cringe.

Just you wait. Bonfires will still involve s’mores, but there will be stories that you’ve never heard us tell you before. I will tell you about dad giving me my first wine cooler in his parent’s basement. He will tell you about the book he always wanted to write detailing all of the dumb things I’ve said in total seriousness.

My tears of laughter will morph into tears of sorrow knowing that you are running a pace that I can’t keep up with, yet I am so proud of you for maintaining.

You may strip me of all my energy now, but there is no other way I’d want to spend it.

Love, Mom

Written by Heidi Woodard

If you know someone who knows someone who knows Theresa McDermott, please pass this along to her.

I intentionally let a few days pass before writing this post to you, Mrs. McDermott. I figured you and your family needed time to unwind and reflect on the last four years, your son’s amazing senior season, and that heart wrenching final game.

I mean, it’s not everyday that you go from feeling top of the world to bottom of the barrel in a matter of minutes: 40 minutes to be exact.

After all of the well-deserved accolades achieved by your son, Doug, throughout his collegiate career, I have got to imagine that you and your husband, Coach “Mac,” are still pinching yourselves to ensure it wasn’t all just a dream.

Although I’ve never met you, I believe you and I share a few things – albeit small things – in common.

I also married my college sweetheart and love him even more today than I did on our wedding day. We too went on to have three children together: two boys and a girl – the same ratio as your kids in the same birth order. My husband coaches our oldest in basketball just like yours does. There are times I want to simply sit back in the stands like every other parent with no connection to the coach, but I can’t because I’m watching the man I love mentor (and yell at) the boy I love. Although you didn’t graduate from Creighton like I did, I am willing to bet you bleed blue like the rest of us by now.

As I sat and watched Creighton get beat (sadly, beaten) by Baylor last Sunday, I thought about what it would be like to be in your shoes…or in your seat to be more specific.

Theresa McDermott captures one final memory of her husband, Greg, and son, Doug, sharing the court together.

Theresa McDermott captures one final memory of her husband, Greg, and son, Doug, sharing the court together.

Watching you want to comfort your son as he subbed out of his final collegiate game, but knowing in your heart that you couldn’t, tore me apart. I imagine the feeling wasn’t all that different from how you felt over two decades ago when you had to sit helplessly on the sidelines as little Dougie received his immunization shots. Or just a few years back when he wasn’t seen as the all star standout – far from it – on his high school team. Or at any point in his lifetime when he felt a little lost or homesick and simply wanted his mom.

Coach Doug McDermott subbing out his son, Doug. It was the final chapter of Doug's esteemed collegiate career.

Coach Greg McDermott subbing out his son, Doug. It was the final chapter of Doug’s esteemed collegiate career.

Watching you fully realize that this was the last time you’d see your husband and son embrace on the court as coach and player, well, it choked me up. I was fighting back the tears along with you.

I know that being #3’s mom on that particular night is just one hat you wear.

You have two other children who you’ve nurtured and supported. I assume that Doug’s transformation into the confident young man we witnessed time and time again on the court was a gradual and powerful one for you to go through. I am guessing your younger son is a people pleaser who is very proud of his big brother and considers him a hero of sorts, but also refuses to take any crap from him. I’m willing to bet your youngest sat back, took notes, and can’t wait to show the world what she’s made of.

I am confident with these assumptions because that’s how I view my own three kids.

I know there were lots of days and nights when you were raising them on your own while your husband pursued a profession at which he clearly excels. He is blessed to have you in his corner and has thanked you in the media enough times for me to believe that he realizes a good thing when he’s got it.

You must be extremely proud of Doug and Greg for what they’ve meant to Creighton University, as you should be, but you should also take pride in the way you’ve helped support your family.

Thank you for being an inspiration to many moms like me who you’ve never met.

Sincerely, Heidi Woodard

 

Editor’s correction: When you own and operate your own blog, you can give yourself fancy titles like “Editor,” right? I’ve had two people kindly inform me after I published this post that Doug McDermott is Greg and Theresa’s middle child (I mistakenly implied he is their oldest son). Nick McDermott, the couple’s oldest son, still looks “up” to his younger brother. He graduated from UNI and excelled at golf. Thanks to everyone who has read this piece and continues to share it.