Sooner or later, every sports parent has stomach clenching moments. Those times when your stomach is in knots for your child as he faces competitive challenges.
By the time my kids were in high school, I was nervous for every game, but there were times when the knots worsened and became a sick thud in the pit of my stomach. Can you identify with any of my top 6 stomach clenchers?
The summer before her junior year, my youngest, Holli, returned from a Mexico missions trip with a broken toe. Not a good start to her varsity debut.
She began the season two weeks behind her teammates and at her first practice back, sprained her ankle. That set her back another 2-3 weeks. More tears and disappointment.
When she was finally cleared to play, she had to fight for court time. At one tournament she was so discouraged at her playing time and performance, that she disappeared after a match and we couldn’t find her.
Her dad finally found her crying in a far corner of the campus. I felt like crying with her. Her disappointment was heartbreaking.
It was a tough battle for Holli to work her way into the rotation. She ended the season strong, but the setbacks at the beginning almost had her beat.
2. “Will I be replaced?”
My son spent his junior year as backup QB. He worked and waited patiently for his time, and in his senior year, he earned the starting spot. After a couple of great performances, he had a tough game. Pouring rain, a muddy field, and a bogged-down offense resulted in an ugly loss.
After the game, my husband, who was one of the varsity coaches, heard the head coach talking about replacing TJ at QB. How could they, after he’d worked so hard? I knew it would devastate him.
I think my stomach stayed clenched for several days, until the coach called TJ into his office, gave him an “I want you to succeed” speech, and assured him he had not been replaced. Yet.
Of course, my stomach re-clenched at his next game. I knew that another bad game could end his QB career. But TJ had a great performance and once again proved that he deserved the position.
There’s a p.s. to that story. The following week, TJ had an emergency appendectomy and his senior year of football was brought to an abrupt ending.
3. “You talking about MY daughter?”
When my oldest daughter, Cristi, was a sophomore in high school, she played volleyball. At 5’4″, she didn’t see much time on the court, and we were happy when she got in the game.
During one game, when she was subbed in for a player, the dad of one of the team’s “stars” yelled loudly from the bleachers, “Oh no, what are you doing!?”
Perhaps this was more of a mama-bear moment rather than a stomach-clencher moment, but it definitely got to me and after the game, I approached the big-mouthed dad and firmly told him, “I know my daughter is not the best player on the team, but she works hard for every minute she gets and I would appreciate it if you would keep your comments to yourself! Things like what you said hurt her and me!”
He was too stunned to reply, and I walked away before he could think of something lame to say.
4. “I hate volleyball!”
By the time Holli was a senior, she felt confident that she’d be libero for her volleyball team. It was what she’d wanted for 3 years and now it was about to happen.
Or so we thought. Two games into the season, she came home from practice devastated. Her coach had decided to give someone else–that someone was one of her best friends–a chance at libero.
She walked in the door and went to her room sobbing,”I hate volleyball! I never want to play again! I’m going to quit!”
Thankfully, the next day she was back at practice, ready to fight for her position. However, the coach went ahead and started the other girl at libero for the next game. I arrived late at the game because I couldn’t bear to watch her face as her teammate was introduced as starting libero.
Holli put up a positive front, supported her team,and the next game she was back at starting libero. Where she stayed for the rest of the season.
P.S. Today, she is playing college volleyball and is learning anew what it means to fight for a spot!
5. I couldn’t watch
In my son’s senior year, he faced another challenge to his starting spot, this one in basketball. He’d been starting all season, but with the coach periodically threatening to replace him. As winter homecoming approached, TJ was not sure he would start. It was a big night at the home gym, and being pulled from his starting spot would have been a huge disappointment for TJ.
On game night, I was afraid to go inside. I sat in the car, stomach clenched. I could hear the announcer from the gym, the noisy crowd, and I wondered, “Will he start in his senior homecoming game?” I couldn’t stand to watch the team introductions for fear he wouldn’t.
I was greatly relieved a few minutes later to hear his name announced as one of the starters. I went in to watch, still nervous, but at least unclenched!
6. Heat stroke?
Cristi, my oldest, started playing softball at age 8. In middle school, she started catching and continued through college.
Playing catcher in the extreme heat of Northern California was a challenge and I remember worrying about how hot she got under the catcher’s gear. One time, the heat got to her so bad that in between innings she went into the dugout and threw up in the garbage can.
Is she all right? Should she be playing? Maybe she should sit out for awhile! Fortunately, her dad was coaching, so I trusted him to see that she was okay.
And, um, yeah, she continued playing.
Those are just a few of my stomach clenchers. There have been many over the years. And you know, the funny thing is, I can look back on those moments now and see how they all worked to make my kids stronger in character.
How about you? What stomach clenching experiences have you had?
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