Mel and Volleyball

      Melanie had secretly whispered to me the other day that she was trying out for volleyball, but she did not want me to tell her Dad because she did not want the pressure and the hype that might accompany it.  I arrived a little early for pick-up, so I was able to see the last end of the try-out.  

      There was my little girl, fidgety in the midst of bigger, more athletic and more boisterous girls, obviously ill at ease but trying to mask it.  Her efforts seemed half-hearted and her performance, unimpressive, to say the least.  

      The sight broke my heart. It reminded me of myself at the same age, trying to muster the courage to play sports, but lack of practice, self-confidence (and innate skill?) relegated me to being a benchwarmer.  What a difference it would have made if somebody took the time and the effort to engage me in a little one-on-one.  I have no illusions that was all it would have taken to make me the star player, but at least it would have boosted my confidence enough to make me a worthy part of the team.  Was history doomed to repeat itself?

      I realized that all these years, I have been so used to my kids’ independence— they did their homework and studied for their tests on their own — that I assumed since they didn’t ask for my help, then they must not need it.  Well, this was one occasion when one of my kids obviously needed it.  Now trying to offer unsolicited help to a cocky 12-year-old without hurting her pride is a very touchy subject.  I knew I had to be very casual and non-preachy about it. 

      When she got into the car, I asked her how the try-out went.  

    “Okay,” was the rather unconvincing and unenthusiastic reply.

       “How do you think you did?” I asked? 

       “Not good.” Pause. “Actually, I sucked,” was the gloomy answer.

       “Hmm, maybe it would help if we practiced some at home. Who do you want to practice with?  Chessa, your Dad, or me?”

      “Well, Chessa probably doesn’t have time, Dad gets so obsessed about the game, so I guess that leaves you.  Besides, I like playing with you, because next to you, I look good!”

      An insult!  That’s a good sign!  At least, my offer of help wasn’t rejected outright.  

      Later that afternoon, I tossed around some balls with her.  Ronnie joined in later (having been forewarned by me not to make a big deal about it) and soon they were in the thick of things.  I could see Melanie perking up and getting more confident each time she hit the ball.  Her sense of satisfaction and achievement shone through.  I had the feeling she would do a lot better with tomorrow’s try-out.

      The result of the try-out will be released next week.  There are a lot of girls vying for the spot.  I don’t know how much help Mel’s impromptu practice did to her game, but I do know that it was a step in the right direction.  Whether she gets accepted into the team or not, she will have learned that it takes a lot of practice and hard work to achieve her goal, and she can always count on her family for help.  I am just glad I learned my lesson in time.  Now I realized more than ever how easy it is to overlook your kid’s cry for help.  I am just praying that a mother’s instinct, a hands-on approach and a measure of good luck will be enough to weather the rough seas ahead.

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