Archives For Parenting

“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

Advertisements

I am blessed beyond measure to have both of my parents actively engaged in my life. They’ve been that way for as long as I can remember.

It was only through age and experience that I learned not everyone has as rosy of a relationship with their parents as I do with mine. I do not take a single day or moment with them for granted.

img_5253

Dad and Mom

Now that my own three kids span elementary school, middle school, and high school, respectively, I thought it would be the perfect time to ask my mom and dad some questions about what they thought I was like growing up.

You never know unless you ask, right? Here are their answers almost exactly as they were typed out for me by my dad. You’ll see he’s a huge fan of unnecessary punctuation…..especially…..ellipsis…..everywhere!

Question 1: What was my most dominant personality trait as far back as you can remember? How would you have described me?

Answer: You have always been a confident individual who can back up your attitude. Also, you were never afraid to experience something new…examples- singing- diving or anything.

Yes, I legitimately gave singing a shot. Anyone who has heard my epic mumbleoke performances on Q98.5’s Pat & JT Show likely just spit out their drink in disbelief.

Question 2: Did I give you the time of day when you wanted to have conversations with me?

Answer: I’d say “yes” or so it appeared so…..we used to have conversations that I thought might be helpful & you would listen…. not get much feedback from you though.

Question 3: Did you like all of my friends? How did you attempt to steer me toward certain friends and away from others?

Answer: You attended (a public school) for a few years & were exposed to some dandys & I convinced your mom that a parochial education would be your best route. There are dandys who attend both types of schools, for the record, but we were overall happy with your friends…most were pretty good kids- so we thought.

I remember being deathly afraid of an older girl who routinely bullied me at my first school. I don’t think my parents have any idea how HUGE of a relief it was for me to go to a new school. It was at the smaller parochial school where I was a fish out of water, but I loved it. I was the non-Catholic, North Omaha transfer who had to learn how to recite the entire Hail Mary and how to shorten the Lord’s Prayer (still remember what it felt like the first time I didn’t stop after the “but deliver us from evil” part).

Question 4: Was I ever scared and, if so, about what?

Answer: After you fell when bike riding & got scraped up, you were leery of trying it again. Sort of like after you fell in one of you first track meets running the hurdles….I truly believe all these years later that could’ve been your best event………..I know you hated it though……….sort of like the high jump. I think as you got older……apprehension – not necessarily ” scared “….occurred more for you. You wanted to please us- teachers- etc.

img_5564

Thanks for believing in my potential, dad!

 

First and foremost, I did hate the hurdles and I also had a healthy distrust in my ability to ever figure out proper high jump form. Through CONSTANT encouragement from my dad (and slight badgering), I stuck with high jump and ended up winning a gold medal in all classes my senior year of high school. That singular moment remains to this day one of my most memorable athletic accomplishments. I said “peace out” to hurdles and never regretted a single day. Ha!

Also, my dad’s observation about how I began showing more apprehension as I grew older due to my desire to please authority figures, well that blew me away. How very true. Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda’s are part of every (wo)man’s life I suppose.

Question 5: When did I make you the most happy or proud?

Answer: I could go on forever on this. When you graduated with honors from Creighton University (the first in our family to graduate college since your Aunt Mary). When you brought your first report cards home, when you first started competing in organized sports ( for not only being a great competitor but also a great teammate….I think you understood at an early age how important it is in life to treat others nice & respect what they contribute. ) As a male, I was totally amazed at your athletic ability.

Your induction into the C.U. Athletic Hall of Fame was the icing on the cake as well as the Female Student Athlete of the Year Award you earned your senior year.

All your awards made us so PROUD & I’ll never forget – out of the blue…. you singing the Star Spangle banner – a cappella – before one of your high school basketball games.  As it turns out, your decision to marry Ryan was the right one & I’m proud you chose a good man to spend your life with.Also you two should be commended for having some pretty darn good kids-HA.

Question 6: When did you feel the most disappointed in me?

Answer: I’ll never forget THE LOOK you would give when things didn’t fall your way…you know the pouting when you were called for a foul you didn’t think you committed. A very small disappointing phase you’d have on occasion.

I was disappointed  in myself when your mom talked me into letting you go to that dance when your were 13-? you wanted to go sooo badly & I caved.

Question 7: What advice would you give me as I approach 40 years old?

Answer: Praying to God will help. Trust your instincts when tough decisions need to be made……so far you’ve done one hell of a job.Nobody has all the answers. Continue to enjoy life as much as you can……if you want to see something truly amazing -just stop by anytime to view the new sandstone pavers I put down over the weekend. The crowd has been thinning out so parking shouldn’t be a problem.

My dad: One of the kindest, funniest dudes I know. He worked his butt off this weekend beautifying the back yard while my mom was out of town. My mom: One of the most understanding, determined women to ever grace this earth. Her flower gardens would blow your mind. They are quite the pair together.

Written by Heidi Woodard

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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