My youngest boy, David, just started playing volleyball this past season. He had never played before. There are no school teams offered at his former elementary school and so he didn’t really have the opportunity to begin the sport at a young age. Happily, the Barrie Elites’ coaches saw potential in him and recruited him to play with their club. That – changed so much for David and for our family.
In one season, David has not only learned so many volleyball skills, but he has also had the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a part of a team. I have learned what it is like to be a “Team Mom”. There is nothing like it. To know you belong to a team, to cheer with other members of the team, to celebrate wins and to recover from losses is something that holds no parallel. These a life-lessons that can change a person forever. David is not the same person he was at the beginning of the season. He has made new friends, he is so much more confident, and he is happy. Team sports have been so good for him.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Volleyball itself has been wonderful for the fitness it brought David, the self-esteem, and brain development via court strategies. Volleyball alone, however, did not do that. It was his coaches. It was the other parents who supported him. It was his sister who invested her own time into David to help with the team.
Coach Lisa recruited David late last summer after baseball season was over. Well, she encouraged him to try out for the team. She felt confident that his height, his coach-ability, and his positive attitude would bode well for him. She has been one of his biggest cheer-leader ever since. “Fantastic game, David,” she would say to him. “Awesome set, David”, she would add. “You have done incredibly well, David”, she would encourage him. It just never stopped. Now, as any parent knows, those words of encouragement didn’t just land on David’s ears and heart – they also landed on mine. I was happy. I was proud. I was encouraged. What more could a Mom ask for than to see her child gain skill, confidence, and hope? He is better prepared to handle challenges today. And I am more settled in knowing this. If I am out of commission for a while, he will be okay. He handled the news of my cancer well. In fact, he encouraged Katya to think positively. He supported her. He was, and remains strong. It seems to me he was coached well to be positive, to never give up, and to be there for his team. Lisa “bumped” up David’s self-esteem.
Coach Stephan also helped with the team. He was equally encouraging of David. Even when the chips were down with his family, Stephan kept going. Amazing tenacity and positive outlook. “Good job, David”, he would say. “Fantastic game, David”, he would add. “Nice serve, David”, he would reassure. To continue to contribute to a team and it’s young players through personal adversity is a true sign of strength. Stephan helped “set” David up to continue to grow as an athlete and a person in the face of adversity.
Coach Anne was the head coach, the head guru, the big guns per se. Even with this rank, I think she was the real softie. Firm, but fair. I didn’t know what to make of her when I first met her as I was not familiar with the world of volleyball, nor organized sport. Lisa introduced Kevin, David, and I to her at our first parent meeting in the fall. It was a very crowded room and I was “THE” shortest person in a room full of volleyball players — all tall!! Needless to say, I was a bit claustrophobic. I was intimidated. I felt very small. “Stacey, this is coach Ann”, Lisa introduced to me. Ann offered her hand and a warm smile. She was friendly, yet professional. Her voice was soft, yet direct. And that’s how she continued. Balanced. Imperturbable. She played David every game. She also subbed him off when she felt it was appropriate to do so. That’s the way games are won and the team deserves wins. David accepted it. He knew he was tired and that the team needed a more experienced player to get the win. He accepted her decisions and respected them. Coming off the court, Ann would say to David, “Well done, David. Good playing, David. You are awesome, David”. She made him feel good about himself as he was pulled off the court. Ann, “spiked” his self-awareness that he could find a balance between what skill he had and what skill he still needed to acquire.
The bump, set, and spike lessons the coaches taught to David are lessons that I took on vicariously. I watched, listened, and learned. I may not have played, but I participated. Other parents may not have played, but we all learned. And we learned to support each other – together.
Last night was one of the final games of the season and it was the kid vs parent game. I needed to play. I don’t play volleyball, but I felt I had learned how to play sitting on the side-lines and cheer-leading on the boys. I bumped, I set, and I spiked – not well, but I knew the theory. The parents cheered our new team on. We played together. We counted on each other for support and for hits. Although we only won one game, we had fun. It was wonderful to work together. This was another life lesson. It wasn’t new, but it most certainly was a new context for me.
As we left each other that night – I ached. I had no idea what the next day would bring, let alone the next week. I still don’t have answers regarding my forth-coming treatment schedule or routine. That volleyball game brought closure to a season that had brought David and our family so much joy, hope, and friendship. I did not want to admit how sad I was to see that end. It would never be the same again. It was such a very ephemeral time. I will always remember that game – to be able to play with my team – my kids, my husband, my new friends – was such an honour.
And so – to coaches Lisa, Stephan, and Ann – I wrap my friendship around you and thank-you for this gift of “this season” you have given to my family and I. You made a difference.