Tuesday, October 23, 2012

First Meet Mishaps

I was so excited and nervous about Devin's first swim meet. He had 8 real practices prior to this first meet, so I wasn't expecting to see a Michael Phelps-like performance. I really just wanted him to enjoy it.

We arrived at Ft. McClellan at 7:45 am and waited for war ups to begin. Swim meets are unlike anything I've ever been a part of. Keeping track of event numbers and lane assignments is a little stressful. Fortunately, I had Coach there to help. He doesn't get rattled like I do. I paid the 5 bucks for the "heat sheet" and highlighted Devin's entries. Then I wrote them on his arm with a Sharpie, because that's apparently what you do. Each swimmer sports his event number, event, heat number, and lane assignment in a grid on his body somewhere. It helps the swimmer keep track of when they swim.

Devin seemed to be taking it all in stride. He admitted that he was nervous, though. Then, warmups began. I anxiously waited to see him dive off the block. He had about 4 previous attempts at practice ever. I couldn't help but smile when I saw him looking better and more confident than ever off the block.

The meet began, and we waited for Devin's first swim which wasn't until event 14. We waited a while. Then Coach took him to the bullpen, the area where they line up swimmers whose events are happening soon. Devin marches out to the pool with the others in his heat and sets up behind lane 5. The announcer calls for the swimmers to approach the blocks. He instructs them to take their marks. The buzzer sounds. Devin dives in - and it was the best dive I've ever seen him do. I see his tiny body gliding through the water. He surfaces, about to take his first strokes, when I realize...something's wrong. His goggles had slid down as he dove in. They were loosely draped around his neck. He finished the race last in his heat. The water in his eyes bothered him and slowed him considerably. But he'd finished.

My Devin is a perfectionist. And, as he made his way back to our seat in the stands, the disappointment on his face was obvious. Poor little guy. He sat down beside me and choked on some tears. Time to put on my momma hat.

I let him talk about what happened. He was upset. I knew he wanted to disappear, but he had three races left. It was time that he start learning some of the lessons that sports can teach us. I explained to him that, sometimes, things go wrong. It happens to EVERYONE. I wanted him to understand that it's not our mistakes that define us; it's our response to them. I asked him what he'd learned from the experience. He answered, "Not to let my goggles come off." He was being stubborn. :-) Eventually, he began to see that he did the right thing. I was super proud of him. Some kids would've stopped swimming. Not Devin. Did the race turn out as he'd hoped? No. But, did he do the best he could under the given circumstances? Absolutely. Who could ask for more than that?

He was still bothered, so we left the pool to get lunch. I thought some fresh air might help. Coach talked with him about not letting one 'loss' keep him from giving his all in the next event. Together, we got the message across. Crap happens. Learn from it and let it motivate you to make the most of your next opportunity. Don't let it defeat you.

He had an oppertunity to swim the same stroke and distance as part of the 200 free relay later in the day. This time, the goggles stayed on, and Devin was all smiles. Maybe he learned something about himself today. Perhaps we can all learn something from him.

Crap happens. And, life can be really tough. When you get knocked down in life, though, you're probably not going to find too many cheerleaders waiting to help you get back in the game. Instead, you'll find out that there are some really miserable people who get to feel better about themselves by rejoicing in your trials. People will gossip, lie, and bad-mouth you at every turn. But, it doesn't matter. You've got another race to swim.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Little Overwhelmed

As of this minute, the post about the Ranburne/Woodland game has been viewed 500 times. Wow.

That speaks volumes to me about the magnitude of that win. I am humbled by how many of you would take the time to listen to what I had to say. And, I feel like there are some things I need to address.

First, I hope I didn't give the impression that there has been a lot of people being ugly to Coach. Overwhelmingly, the support he has received has been incredible. But, how many people who you thought were friends and now refuse to answer your texts does it take to hurt your feelings? Clearly, not many. They are the minority, however.

I have been touched by the couple of WHS coaches who came out of their way to shake Coach's hand after the game. He did not come down from the press box in time to go through the regular line with the team. So that meant a lot. Others, the ones he talks to regularly, have continued to show their true friendship.

There have been some surprises, though. A couple of Coach's former players took the time to reach out and offer their support. And, people who are basically strangers to me have commented about my post. Some even offered some kind words of welcome and encouragement.

One former player wrote, "...I would like to hear your reason [for leaving] from you instead of someone who thinks he or she knows what he or she is talking about, if you would not mind. I understand that your decision was a career move. No one should get mad about that. Most people would never want to be in that position. I imagine it to have been incredibly tough to make that final decision. No doubt you guys are already back to work for next week...Congrats. Huge win and good luck the rest of the year. Hope all is well in your life. If there is anything I can do, don't hesitate."

This young man gets it.

Sadly, there have been those who would let bitterness over something as trivial as high school football harden their hearts. We've had to accept that some of our so-called friends are anything but. A small few have attacked me personally. By now they've realized, I hope, that no matter how hateful you are, you can't change the score. And, they might be proud of themselves, but I feel sorry for them.

I'm not a perfect person. I don't think I'm a great writer. I just write this blog because I've been blessed to get to be a part of something so special. Yes, high school sports. Not in the trivial way that makes winning and losing the Alpha and the Omega. I've been able to see up close how much being a part of it can mean to the young men and women involved. I say it often, but I adamantly believe that sports teach things people may not learn anywhere else. Not until it's too late.

If you don't like what I have to say, don't read my blog. It's that simple. I didn't write it for you anyway. I want to thank those of you who have supported me and shared the links on your Facebook pages. Because of you, so many members of the Ranburne Family got introduced to my feeble attempt to honor what those kids did Friday night. Of course, that opened me up to some people reading it for other reasons. But it's worth it.

We make decisions in life. And sometimes we have to wait a while for confirmation of those decisions. I've felt like the move to Ranburne was the right thing for Coach to do before this weekend, but seeing people reveal their true colors validated it even further.

I just needed to get that off my chest. Thanks!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Biggest Game of Your Life

October 5th, 2012 is a date that has been circled on many calendars since Coach accepted a job at Ranburne in July. To say that Woodland and Ranburne are bitter rivals would be an understatement. And, while it's one of ten regular season games this year, it's also not fair to say it was just another game.

Woodland has beaten The Bulldogs the last 8 times the teams have met. And, in truth, the games haven't even been competitive. Coach went into the week knowing that just getting some dogs in the fight, so to speak, would be a victory for them. Ranburne football is headed in the right direction. The coaches are working harder than ever and so are the players. But, they are still a long way from matching up with the perennial playoff team from Woodland, which happens to have one of it's better teams in 4 or 5 years. So, to put it mildly, the Dogs were a longshot this Friday night.

But, there's a reason you play the game. Just because something is improbable, doesn't make it impossible. And, if anyone could find the chinks in the Bobcat armor, it's my Coach.

It was an incredibly difficult week for Coach Bailey, but not for the reasons you might think. Yes, it was an emotional game for him. He's had his heart broken by people he used to call "friend". He's sent so many unanswered "good luck" and "congratulations" texts this season. He's heard kids who he's done everything for say hurtful things. But, he still loves all of them. While some people in orange were busy running their mouths this week, Coach was dealing with situations far more important that football.

During the week, the Dogs' head coach spoke with the players, and maybe the coaches too, about adversity, about learning how to get back up when life knocks you down. Those players knew they were headed into a battle. And they came out ready to fight.

Coach read me the script for the first two series on Thursday night before the game. And I knew then that he was ready. But, I didn't know if the young Bulldog team had enough in them to pull off the miracle. Then, driving to to field on Friday, I just KNEW. I tried to tell myself it was foolish to think we had a chance. I knew I'd be so disappointed. But, I just had that feeling. We were going to win.

Coach often speaks about how when you're trying to turn a program around, you need one defining moment. A moment where something incredible happens, something you can build on. A turning point. The job of a coach is to get the kids ready so that when their moment presents itself, they're ready for it. Friday night, the Bulldogs were ready. I don't know how they did it. It was incredible.

It was a great night. I hugged Coach on the field after the huge win and said, "You could coach for 50 years and never get a bigger win." He said, "I know."

But while everyone was celebrating the huge win, he and I were talking about other things. Because, you see, the biggest game of your life isn't just one game on one incredible Friday night. It's every game, every day, every minute. Life is precious. And you better celebrate those victories, because you never know what life has waiting for you around the next corner.

I'm so proud for those Bulldogs. They played their hearts out. They didn't lie down. They came out and hit those Cats in the mouth all night long. And, we know they bleed purple, because we saw it all over the field Friday night.

For me, it isn't about "beating Woodland". It's about those kids and that community earning back some respect. But, for the record, we know what your sign said. Notice, we didn't have to have one. For us, winning is enough. We don't have to insult our opponent just to feel good about a win. The only sign we need stood at the end of the field.

It said 14-6 Ranburne.