Archives For Sports

It’s JUST a Game

March 1, 2018 — 2 Comments

It’s JUST a game of dribbling, passing, shooting, boxing out, rebounding, fouling, pressing, losing, and winning.

It’s JUST a handful of months out of the calendar year devoted to lifting, conditioning, ball handling, and pushing oneself to achieve more than the day before.

It’s JUST a day here and a night there spanning several weeks gathered together with coaches and teammates sharing meals and laughs.

It’s JUST watching film, checking tweets and snaps, and scouting your competition.

It’s JUST putting yourself out there in front of fans who will both celebrate your successes and ruthlessly judge your every move, decision, and game stat.

It’s JUST a span of three days out of 365 total throughout the year.

It’s JUST something you can’t really describe until you experience it.

Here we are, baby. State basketball is right around the corner.

2018 bracket

c/o @OmahaHSHoops

I’ve written before about the Bellevue West Thunderbirds advancing to the big show. I’ve interviewed their head coach, Doug Woodard, who also happens to be my father-in-law.

Yes, in the grand scheme of life and with everything happening in our world, it’s easy to question how young adults playing a game can mean so much to so many.

Yet the older I get, the more I appreciate the unbridled joy of it all.

TBirds 2018

The 2018 Bellevue West TBirds celebrate their District Championship.

It is a privilege to be able to witness young people working towards and achieving a common goal together. Away from screens, virtual gaming, and online judgment.

This is not only their experience. It is shared by young fans looking up to them with wide eyes of admiration. It is shared by a community that rallies behind them in their chase for the ultimate title.

Nico 2018

Junior Nico Felici cutting down the net while young fans watch.

This is the time of year that you never truly know what can happen, which is equal parts exciting and terrifying.

This is the time of year that you see young athletes’ dreams within reach. When you cheer ferociously for your own team. When you nod your head in admiration for the talent they play against.

This is the time of year when older generations – myself included – live extra vicariously through their offspring.


Myself, my oldest, and my husband post-District win.

Only eight teams remain in Nebraska’s NSAA Class A competition and, in one week from today, that group will begin the journey of survival on the hardwood.

Good luck to Millard South, Omaha Central, Bellevue West, Kearney, Lincoln Pius X, Creighton Prep, Lincoln East, and Omaha Bryan.

Written by Heidi Woodard


“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

Last Christmas, my husband and I decided to bite the bullet and purchase an in-ground basketball hoop for our three children as well as their neighborhood friends.

Unbeknownst to them, I like to call it my hostage hoop.

I call it that because it is easy for me to see that the years of them all being safe and sound hanging out in our driveway are slipping by at a painful pace. They don’t realize nor do they care that I consider this space, this hoop, their one true play zone where I am still able to watch over and protect them.

I am holding their childhoods hostage as long as I can.

The thump, thump, thump of their dribbling and the swish, clank, clank, CLANK, swish of their shots provide the music – a symphony of sorts – for our family’s summer playlist.

Yes, there are occasional (always) fights…fouls not being called, points not being tallied up correctly, an errant elbow thrown here or there…but mainly it’s an activity, from a shrinking pool of activities they share in common despite their ages, that they gladly do together. And that makes me both happy and sad.

I wonder what it will be like when my husband and I look out at that same driveway and only see the hoop staring back at us? When the sounds of dribbling, laughter, arguments, and celebrations are silenced?

For now, I don’t want to look that far ahead. Rather, I will look back and cherish all of the beautiful memories and blessings that have been bestowed upon us over the years.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. – George Bernard Shaw


hoop dreams

The hostage hoop.

basketball hoop installation.jpg

Both boys helped in the installation process, not necessarily willingly.

Hoop dreams 2

There is little struggle greater in life than a boy trying to shoot a layup against his much taller brother.

Hoop dreams 3.jpg

Taking full advantage of as many daylight hours as possible.

Owen and Jaycee

Little sister defending the crossover.

Owen and Ryan 2.jpg

Back when they didn’t mind showing public affection to one another.

mom and Owen

Back when I realized I was no longer looking down at him when we spoke.

Owen and Ryan

Officially taller than dad. 8th grade year.

Owen bball Halloween 2015

Keep on dreaming big, kid.

Owen Austin baseball

Yes, I know I jumped from basketball to baseball. But how did these little guys grow up so fast? I remember when they only needed their shoes to be tied and a bag of Big League Chew to guarantee a good day at the ballpark.

Owen Austin Heidi

Now here we are…zipping through childhood at warp speed.

Austin baseball catcher

The time he was so excited to try on catcher’s gear.

Jaycee softball catcher

The time she was so excited to try on catcher’s gear.


The reason why little sister’s future boyfriends better watch out.

Owen Austin Jaycee

Times were a little crazier when they were small, but ironically, looking back, they also seemed slower.

all kids 2

It’s hard these days to keep up…and that’s not for a lack of trying.

Owen Austin Ryan

How lucky they are to have a great dad guiding them on their life’s path. How lucky their dad is to have them as his sons.

Owen Austin Ryan 3

The three Atlanta Braves fans.

Written by Heidi Woodard