When I was five years old, my parents signed me up for my first organized sport. It happened to be the Fall of the year I entered kindergarten and the sport happened to be soccer. Now, at this age calling it, an "organized" sport is quite a reach. We met once a week, put on our colored pennies and ran around in a big field while a volunteer coach really thought they'd have the chance to corral us. That year, I continued through the seasons and got my first glimpse at a number of other sports. Cheering, basketball, and t-ball were all on my to-do list, and soon I was hooked.
Every week I would look forward to games on the weekend and a practice or two along the week. By the third or fourth grade, I believed I had narrowed down the sports I really wanted to play: soccer, basketball, and baseball. I played all of these until the fifth grade when it was first suggested that I switch over to softball.
I absolutely hated the idea of this but, that spring it happened. I was the first one to be "drafted" onto a team, that come to find out, was the team that always finished last. Even knowing this, I continued to play and learn every position and somehow leading my team to its first championship in years.
This was the moment I learned to love the sport I least expected to, and first met the coach who would change my view on the game. Although the story leading up to this point may not have been the same as yours, we all know the moment we realized, this coach was going to change us.
For me, this coach over my middle and high school careers became one of the most important people in my world now revolving around this sport. He fought for my spot on the middle school team when the coach claimed I was "too young" and wanted to give older girls a spot. He pulled me to the varsity lineup as a Freshman and trusted me to catch every-game behind the plate of the senior pitcher who clearly had the speed and talent to pitch collegiately. He continued to mentor me, step by step as my role on the team transitioned from freshman catcher, to second baseman, to senior captain pitcher.
This coach changed everything for me. He taught me respect and accountability and I'd get out what I put into not only the sport, but all my other endeavors. He taught me integrity, and perseverance. But he also taught me how to have fun while I played. How to step onto the field and play my hardest, but know no-matter the score as long as I did my best it was a good game.
I had never known what it was like to have someone other than my parents be so invested in my success before. Of course, they're going to be there for every game, every carpool to practice and every early Sunday morning tournament. But often times, the coach who leaves it all on the field goes unnoticed. The coach who will sit after a game and cry with you after you played your very last game... the coach that truly made you believe in yourself.
So here's to him. Here's to the blood, sweet and tears left behind. Here's to "the good, the bad and the ugly" as he'd say, and learning that any bruise can be fixed by rubbing a little dirt on it. Thank you for your devotion. Thank you for shaping me in to the player I am today, and continuing to do so for others. Thank you for inspiring me everyday to be the best I could be.