Today I post about my youngest daughter. This weekend she hung up her soccer cleats for good with the end of her college career. I blogged about the end of soccer for both girls last year, but at the time we didn’t know this girl would have a surprise opportunity to play a fifth year.
She took it.
I have mixed feelings about the prominence of sports in the lives of our children today. The most popular blog post I have published to date concerned this topic of kids playing sports. You can read it HERE. Even a year later, I am still watching, listening and mulling things over in my mind.
- I think I am observing unrealistic expectations in parents. As I stand on the sidelines with other parents, it feels like most are setting sights on college scholarship dreams, yet most children in youth leagues will not be a student-athlete beyond high school, according to NCAA statistics. Most parents of high school athletes (90% or more) will not see their child play college sports. I know that, but I fear they don’t.
- I also think I am seeing sports take precedence over education as I watch parents protest about “too much homework” interfering with their kids’ sports activities. When in college, most will not be athletes, so the ability to write well and make their way around math calculations will matter a whole lot more than the athletic ability a child has today. (As if to prove my point, the NCAA link above has a typo in the chart title. Ouch!)
- Last, the whole “full scholarship” misconception drives me a bit nuts. After tuition is covered, there is a significant amount of money parents and students still need to pay – and loans needed – to cover additional costs for apartments, plane tickets, food, student activity fees, the remainder of the tuition bill, etc. In addition, full scholarships are not the norm in most sports.
But college scholarships did happen for both of our daughters. I am grateful for every dollar soccer removed from their bursar bills. For the daughter I am spotlighting today, however, I am mostly thrilled for what soccer has done to develop her character.
Long, long ago when her twin sister started playing soccer one season ahead of her, this daughter hung back. She had to watch her sister first.
She was filled with fear.
Fear has always been a propensity for this one. She was afraid of the wind when she was a toddler, afraid of burglars in elementary school, afraid of what people thought of her in high school. Then, after smashing high school scoring records, college dreams were dashed when she succumbed to the pressure of living up to the record-breaking expectations she felt were placed on her. And she also believes she was struggling to do life without her twin sister by her side for the first time.
She had to take a year off.
But in that year she didn’t lay around. She drew close to her mom and God. She bravely attended a different school and got great grades because she worked hard.
After two more transfers (yup), an opportunity to play soccer came knocking on her door again.
She took it.
Out of shape, lacking confidence, her journey of struggle made public, she stepped onto the field again anyway.
Her sister was once again on the team with her, which helped.
They were together again.
Then, surprise! An opportunity to play a fifth year of soccer came knocking on her door.
She took it.
Without her sister.
And this weekend, she walked off the field in the best shape of her life, having played, having been a leader, having done things on her own terms between herself and God.
There is no perfect daughter in this picture (or son, or parent). Struggles still remain for this sweet woman. She would be the first to agree. But a large amount of the fear she struggled with in kindergarten has sloughed off as she has fought to face her fears and has walked in faith that what God says about her is true. And she has kept the faith. Those who know her know she loves God.
- I am pleased with the opportunities sports provided my daughter to develop her character.
- I am proud of my daughter for never quitting even when others would have done so.
- I am proud of her for walking through doors of opportunity.
- I am beyond grateful to God for taking care of my youngest girl and making sure she came out okay on the other side of this college athlete phenomenon so many dream about.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
(2 Timothy 4:7)
Picture Explanation: Our youngest daughter playing soccer over the years, and for the final time last night — all 90 minutes. This really is the end of her soccer career this time!