Professional mom seeking clarity, balance and a well deserved glass of wine.
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You’ve probably seen her — decked out from head to toe in team schwag. She’s the first to volunteer to be the team mom. She’s the odd one who has a snack duty template at the ready in Excel. She packs a mean SUV and she shuttles her kids from one field to the next with the skill of an Indy car driver. She’s committed the rule book to memory and could go head to head with any “Blue” out there. She’s never without her backpack — you know, that oversized beast of a bag that contains enough medical supplies, feminine products, Advil, blankets and cocktail mixers to triage the wounded and then throw a small party. You know her…she’s a softball motha!
Little did I know, when my 5-1/2 year old daughter decided to attend a tryout one early Saturday morning, that I was destined to become one of her ranks. I was a complete novice. I watched in amazement as she and her counterparts volunteered to be Team Mom, handling uniforms, snack detail, opening day costumes, first aid, scorekeeping and, damn, if they couldn’t also make a mean bow. If this wasn’t intimidating enough, at the end of the season All-Stars happened. Let me just say, I was certain they were all certifiable for giving up every weekend all summer to cart their kids to some godforsaken field in the middle of Armpit, CA in pursuit of softball hardware (aka: a giant plastic trophy drenched in shiny golden something or other that would eventually become a dust bunny playground). Thank God my daughter didn’t make All-Stars that year because I was ready for a motha of a break.
Then, a short twelve months later, she did make All-Stars. Good-bye summer! If that wasn’t enough, after a whopping 45 days off it would then be time to sign up for Fall ball. (break over)
It’s all well and good when your kid shows promise in this sport until you realize that to take her skills to the next level you’ll need to make the jump to travel ball. We took the leap in 10’s and I can tell you, travel ball makes All-Stars look like a walk in the park. (really should have appreciated how good I had it then)
With travel ball comes a whole new set of rules, parents, coaches, egos, equipment, lessons and, well, ‘travel.’ I thought two out-of-town tournaments was bad in rec ball…ha ha ha foolish girl! Little did I know I was about to embark on a cavalcade tour of every softball field from here to east of the Mississippi. (A word to the wise…bring your own toilet paper)
Rec Ball parents tend to get overly excited and fiercely competitive during games and tournaments. Funny, but it’s usually more about them than the kids. And sadly, bad behavior, bad language and poor parental sportsmanship is more common than not. Don’t get me wrong, not all parents are like this…but there are quite a few. In travel ball a strong coach sets clear boundaries and parents are no longer in charge. And, if you can’t follow these new rules, you can take your kid and go! NEXT!
GLOVES AND STICKS
If I had a nickel for every pair of cleats, socks, uni’s, Under Armor, eye black, sliders, gloves, sets of catchers gear, bow nets, balls, bags, wagons from Costco, coolers, Gatorade, Subway and, don’t get me started on bats — Mr. Confessions and I would be living in a mansion in Beverly Hills. Maybe not, but you get me. Who’d a thunk that gloves and sticks would be so expensive?!
FEES UP THE WAZOO
I remember the first time I heard that a teammate was taking “catching lessons.” I laughed and thought, “This is a thing?” Several thousand dollars later, I can confirm that, yes, this is a thing. Admitedly, valuable and essential, along with hitting lessons and conditioning fees and team fees and various other fees one encounters when one’s child plays travel ball.
After twelve years as a softball motha, I joined the ranks and, to many of my friends, am considered certifiably crazy. This travel ball thing becomes a lifestyle and, for many, the entire family participates. Siblings, grandparents, pets — we look like a travelling band of gypsies, especially when someone realizes we’re at the wrong field and everyone turns their car around to race to the right one. Because you spend so much time at the field, you end up taking care of a lot of regular life stuff that others take for granted. A small list of things I never thought I’d do at a softball field: breastfeed, change a diaper on a picnic table, do my nails, balance my checkbook, sleep, Christmas shop on Amazon, scare away the homeless, have an anxiety attack, craft an important client presentation, have a client phone meeting taking notes in purple crayon, argue with my spouse, cry, jerry-rig a visor with a paperclip and laugh until I’m completely out of breath. And, I certainly never thought vacations would include scrubbing uniform pants and God awful smelling socks in the hotel laundry room or that sitting in the hallway drinking beers with other motha’s would replace after-dinner entertainment.
Just when you’ve gotten to the point where you can do this softball thing with your eyes closed, the college recruiting process starts. Sadly, many colleges start looking at softball players in 7th and 8th grade. For real! I had no idea what this was all about. Thank God for other softball motha’s who can get you up to speed, and quick.
I deemed this new phase “time squared.” You’re time at lessons, practices, friendlies, tournaments and showcases is now compounded with the additional time spent on your kids personal website, recruiting profile, one pager, updating schedules and emailing college coaches. But, only if your goal is a college softball scholarship. Granted, this is all “supposed” to be your kids responsibility. With all the AP and honors classes, extra cirricular school activities, mountains of homework, trips to the chiropractor, practices, lessons, and games my hats off to them if they can pull this all off alone.
FOR THE LOVE OF SOFTBALL
I have to admit, for all of the aforementioned ramblings, the money and time and stress and lack of tropical family vacations, once she’s off to college I am going to miss this crazy life. I couldn’t imagine never having met all the phenomenal friends we’ve made along the way. When they say it takes a village, in softball, it truly does.
Once she’s gone to school, I know I will wake up on Saturday mornings at zero dark thirty, ready to throw on my clothes, pack up the cooler and get to the field on time, only to realize that I don’t. Remembering that she’s playing on a field across the country in front of softball motha’s she doesn’t know and I have the day/weekend/summer to myself. Tears stream down my face as I write this because for all the lost weekends (as we so fondly refer to them) and time and expense and travel, I wouldn’t trade any of it. I consider it time well spent! Watching my daughter and her teammates play the game they love is one of the greatest joys of my crazy life. I can’t imagine not living like a softball motha!
All other mothers of athletes, I salute you!
Stay sane, my friends.