Like many people I know, I dedicated a good portion of my life to a sport. Softball consumed 12 whole years of my life. As a little girl, I dreamed I'd play in college and that one day my dad would be watching me on TV rather than watching with me. I got older and this dream faded. While softball was more than worthy of these 12 years of my life, I did not see it in the next four. The dusty softball bag was pushed into the corner of the garage after senior year and the helmets I acquired from the many teams I played for have been set up on the shelf by my nostalgic father.
It has been almost two years since I have done anything but play catch with a softball.Those 12 years though- the coaches, the friendships, the lessons, the values; they linger.
I remember being 12 years old at a softball tournament in Wisconsin Dells. I was playing with a team I adored and we had gone into extra innings in what I remember being an important game. There was a girl on 2nd base and my coach pulled me aside. She told me to do whatever I needed to do but "I need you to get a bunt down the first base line or we're going to lose". My hands were inevitably shaky and I dwelled on letting my team down. For as long as I can remember I was always the teammate up to bat in the last inning of an important game with two outs and two strikes, missing the ball by a long shot or hitting it back to the pitcher. I never seemed to deliver when I really needed to. This instance in my softball career lingered for exactly this reason. Amongst my unreliable hitting skills my coach put the fate of the team in my hands- a responsibility that simultaneously scared the crap out of me and gave me a rushing confidence. To mine and my teams surprise, I laid down the bunt, and for the sake of the fading memory, I think we won.
The outcome of the game matters little in what I am trying to relay. Rather, it is the feeling I got when my coach handed me this responsibility, when the all or nothing, do what you have to do attitude was transferred to me. I see myself referring to this in college more than ever, remembering in tough, aggravating situations that If I put my mind to it, I can do it. It is the value of responsibility and the power of a little bit of confidence on your end and the end of those around you; that is what lingers.
My last two years of softball for my high school are tattooed in my brain. Partly because of the recency, but more so because of the way they impacted me. I had a head coach that pushed me beyond my limits. There were days that I absolutely could not stand him (this I know he won't take any offense to) but many other days that I was incredibly thankful for his discipline and guidance. Whether it was because a ball dropped in four corners, or someone used the word "can't" in a sentence (a huge no no), I did burpees and push ups till my arms felt like jello. We did not get away with anything less than our absolute best and while at the time I whined and complained for him to take it easy on us for once, I look back with many thanks. He assured me, among a billion other things, that I am much much stronger than I thought I was. The importance of discipline and the absolute certainty that hard work goes a hell of a long way, and that is what lingers.
Rewind to freshman year of softball with yet another coach I adored. He put me on varsity as a freshman, something I was proud of, but felt slightly unqualified for and would have continuously felt this way if it weren't for his encouragement and confidence in my abilities. There was one simple phrase I will always associate with this coach and find myself repeating in my head to this day. "Fix it Becker!" he would say again again until ultimately whatever needed to be fixed was fixed. It was as simple as that. You're doing something wrong? You messed up? Fix it. Don't dwell on it, don't worry about it, just fix it. When I've fallen to my demons; wronged a friend, missed a work shift, failed a test, disappointed myself or someone else, I fix it. Fixing it has lingered.
There are days I miss softball with every ounce of my being and days I am sure I made the right decision to leave it behind. That seems to be how life carries, though. We cannot hold onto every thing. Some things are better where we left them, but other things, like the sport that held your heart, are more than welcome to linger.
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