Archives For Opportunity

“I hope Coach Kim remembers the stickers,” my daughter said as she spilled her thoughts from the back seat of the van on our way to school.

Glancing at her stoic expression from my rear view mirror as she gazed out the side window made me smile. It was not the first time, and I imagined it wouldn’t be the last, that she mentioned those stickers.

 

I wished her a Happy Monday, kissed her goodbye, and drove away with a full heart knowing we would reunite to talk about our days roughly eight hours later.

Not having much time to catch up on our daily happenings when I returned home from work and she from school, since I am notorious for always running late, we gathered our gloves and bottled water and found ourselves back in the same van with a different destination: the softball field. The same softball field where we’ve gathered every Monday night for over a month now with her softball friends.

Back when I was asked to coach my daughter and her teammates in their newly-formed 10U softball team, I was hesitant to agree. Who was I to be offering up coaching advice after stepping away from the game for so many years to raise my own kids? Who was I to be dealing with opposing coaches, league officials, parents, and other adults who may or may not be involved in the game for the right reasons?

Over the years, I watched my fair share of baseball, basketball, and football from the sidelines. I observed all the time and effort my husband gave (and continues to give) coaching our children in different sports and I wasn’t sure I had it in me to deal with ALL OF IT.

But then I thought…why not me? Why not now? I know I want this to be about the kids before anything else. I know I want to be involved in my daughter’s extra-curricular activities. So I recruited two outstanding assistant coaches and committed to the adventure.

I wrote my own mike-matheny-inspired-letter-to-the-parents and distributed it our first meeting together. Hands down the most important thing to me is open communication with the players and their parents. Second most important thing is motivation.

Which brings me back to those stickers my daughter’s been thinking about.

One of my assistant coaches is a former standout pitcher and current collegiate softball pitching coach. My other assistant coach is a former stud middle infielder and an even studlier grade school teacher now.

In our earliest lessons, they talked to the girls about the importance of snapping through their hips when they’re delivering pitches. Knowing the attention span and interest of their audience, they explained this concept further by saying, “If you place a sticker on your follow-through hip, your catcher should be able to clearly see it after you deliver the ball. If the catcher can’t see your sticker, you didn’t follow through enough.”

I’m positive my own daughter’s commitment to improving her pitching motion grew in direct proportion to the amount of time she patiently obsessed over awaited the arrival of her glorious sticker.

Today, en route to practice, I’m thinking of all the things I could say to the team about technique, endurance, and hard work.

“I just hope it’s not Thomas the Train or anything,” her voice interrupts, breaking my concentration.

“What?” I respond.

“Or any character from that show,” she goes on. “The sticker. I just don’t want to wear Thomas the Train or anything like that.”

Am I grateful to have taken on this opportunity? You bet I am. It will remind me about what’s important in life. Growing, giggling, and getting better at something while having fun.

Written by Heidi Woodard

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About a year ago, I wrote a piece about how my son was shifting (youth sports) careers as an 11-year old. It was hard to write, not because the words were difficult to articulate, but because it’s a somewhat touchy subject.

Several parents reached out to me following that post to say they had been through the same process (of switching teams) or were on the verge of going through it with their own son or daughter.

I wasn’t able to gaze into a crystal ball back then to see if it would all work out for my son…we just researched what was offered in our area, talked about all of our options, and trusted our gut instincts.

Fast forward one year to now and I can clearly see how great of a decision it’s been for him. But more on that in a sec.

A mom recently contacted me through GiveTheGameBack to say that she was shocked to learn her daughter wanted to quit softball after several successful playing years. The mom was once a softball player herself and gained many valuable life lessons through the sport. She was worried her daughter was already burnt out at a young age before she’d even had the chance to experience her (potentially) best playing days.

I offered several paragraphs of feedback, but here’s the part I really hoped she would contemplate, “My next question is a very important one: How intrinsically motivated to succeed and/or naturally competitive is your daughter? One of the biggest realities I’ve had to accept is that each of my kids, although all ‘formed’ by my own and my husband’s DNA, is unique in how they approach sports.”

Without knowing her daughter’s individual situation, I can’t assume that her daughter has completely lost the love of the game. She could feel burnt out like her mom feared, or want to quit because she thinks she’s inferior, or she might have different priorities in her life as compared to a few years ago, or who knows? I’ve found the only ways for a parent to know how their child feels is to never assume anything and by discussing the child’s goals through open and honest dialogue.

The other piece of advice I added, because I’ve had to grow up along with my kids in my own thinking and behaving is, “If my dad was a Chief Financial Officer and I grew up knowing that he loved math and wanted me to be his prodigy, there’s no amount of pushing in the world that would transform me into someone who loves math.”

Back to my son.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt following last season that he still wanted to play baseball. How did I know? By asking him…many times.

If he would have said he didn’t want to play, I would have pressed to find out what he was intrinsically motivated to do. How would he measure success or growth? How could I help him get there?

My son loves playing baseball (and basketball and football) with friends. He cares if he wins or loses, but his mood and demeanor don’t plummet in the face of adversity. He hates letting people down and loves making people laugh. And I’m not a betting woman, but if I was, I’d wager he has 847 different things on his mind at any given second…and that doesn’t magically shut off with the first pitch.

Knowing all of these things about him, he accepted/filled a spot on a team this summer that brought together a hodgepodge of players, many of whom had played ball for years but also had never competed together before.

His team’s coaches took every game seriously without sacrificing the fun, helped my son and others with their mental approach to the sport, taught them how to recover from setbacks, led by example, and promoted a team culture of mutual respect and reliance upon one another – all of the great life lessons one can garner through athletics.

I have zero doubt my son will remember this summer for years to come…for both what’s taken place on AND off the field.

Through this new team, he has gained a best friend – unexpected icing on the cake! I can’t put into words how amazing it feels to see your kid “click” with a teammate who shares the same quirky interests and who comes from a family very similar to your own.

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My advice to all the parents of youth baseball players this time of year remains the same: Commit to a team that makes sense for your individual child. (No one is giving out scholarships or scouting your 12-year old. This is an age to learn and have fun.)

Don’t get trapped into a fixed mindset or allow fear of the unknown to paralyze you. Adults tend to muddy the waters even with the best of intentions sometimes.

I know I had to learn that the definition of a successful season isn’t always measured in wins and losses. A season lasts a finite number of games. A great friendship has the potential of lasting a lot longer.

Written by Heidi Woodard

First and foremost, Ms. Armstrong, I readily acknowledge that you probably don’t really care what it is I have to share with you. With over 1.5M Twitter followers and an online empire that dates back to 2001, I imagine you have this sharing-of-your-soul thing down pat and aren’t exactly out looking for reassurance from total strangers.

Yet here I am.

Not even sure why I feel the need to type you this letter. (Isn’t the concept of the “open letter” about as outdated as hammer pants? What can I say? I think they’re both worth resurfacing.)

I ran across this Tweet last week and then watched your 19-minute talk that it linked to on YouTube.

Heather Armstrong

It’s taken me a few days to articulate how hearing your words made me feel.

I participated in a Q&A session back in 2011 with other local “celebrities” (if you squint long enough while staring at me, I morph into someone others could possibly consider influential, as long as the A-listers and B-listers are already booked that is) while helping to raise money for a local nonproft that strives to serve homeless and at-risk youth within my community.

One of the many questions posed was “Who would you like to meet and job shadow for a day?”

MY ANSWER: HEATHER ARMSTRONG FROM DOOCE.COM

I went on to explain how I admired your free spirit and unfiltered writing. How I thought it would be compelling to see how you balanced your creativity with your career.

I sometimes questioned the level of depth you revealed, simply because I couldn’t ever picture myself spilling out so much with my friends and family (or even perfect strangers for that matter). I can’t say I always agreed 100 percent with your opinions. Yet I respected you time and time again for bravely and honestly standing your ground with whatever you believed to be true.

Your personal battle with postpartum depression had the power to rob your heart and mind. By sharing your demons, you no doubt freed many others from theirs.

Your innocent, lovely girls and devoted dogs made me smile and I cheered for your entire family. You were living the life we all hoped and dreamed was possible.

And then 2012 happened.

You and your husband’s trial separation period was a little too raw for me to read about. I felt if I continued to gawk at your personal struggles, I was no better than the nosy neighbor who sits out on her porch shooting judgmental glances at unsuspecting passerbys.

I remember one of the final posts I read described you staring down at the dog leash you were holding in your hand and knowing that if you wanted it to (and you assured us all you did not), that leash had the power to make everything go away.

In your talk about why you are now choosing to walk away from sponsored content writing, you serve as the crystal ball into which so many of us mommy bloggers yearn to gaze. We all start off with two things after all: a love of writing and a desire to share our parenting reality through our own life’s lens.

The funny thing about mommy blogging, however, is that we all think we want to reach as many readers as possible because volume typically equates to popularity and opportunities. But, at the same time, we are wary of the fact that earned readership and opportunities may come with unintended sacrifice and consequences.

I guess, more than anything, I wanted you to know that I believe you and Jon started off on this journey together for all the right reasons. I imagine your sudden rise in fame took you both by surprise – equal parts thrilling and terrorizing. I bet you collected a handful of really sentimental memories together with your girls through your professional blogging that you wouldn’t trade for the world.

Knowing you have also felt completely torn apart as a result of your decisions, especially the gut-punching sense that your girls were included in the massive pile of collateral damage, well that’s something that no mom would ever wish on another.

You may have decided to turn a different direction on the professional path you are paving, but know this: You are still teaching all of us who have followed you for any portion of your journey. And for that, I wanted to thank you.

Read about Ms. Armstrong’s journey here and here.

Written by Heidi Woodard