I am still exhausted. Who would have thought watching a daughter win a state volleyball championship could be so wearing? Then what I knew all along hit my consciousness upside the head. I wasn’t just invested in the tournament for my daughter. It was for an entire group of girls who have become almost another family over the last several years.
Although it doesn’t seem that long ago, I remember sitting in a motel room in the midst of winter listening as some middle school-aged girls talked about playing in their first club volleyball tournament. These girls, who met through school and Y volleyball programs, bonded more than any of us expected and developed a common love of the game. It wasn’t that long before, as young kids will do, they starting talking about maybe winning a state volleyball championship some day.
By the winter of 8th grade, the parents were amazed at how these girls seemed to read each other’s mind on a volleyball court and the synergy they created by their focus on working as a team. One or two faces departed and one or two more joined but for at least four years, if not more, there was the same group. Even when school or other programs occasionally split them among different teams, the bond of these girls turned the dream of a championship into more than just a wish. It was a goal and a destination, one they had no question they would reach together.
In addition to middle and high school volleyball, they traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles over the years from Fargo to Omaha to Minneapolis and anywhere in between playing Junior Olympic volleyball. They spent hours in cars, vans, motel rooms and, most important, on volleyball courts, nurturing the dream and working toward the goal. As their senior year arrived this year, they were all together again like when they started out. They also knew that the time was now.
The dream become wish become goal became reality Saturday night. The many tears shed when one suffered a season-ending injury one game short of the championship left them shaken yet even more resolved that nothing would stop them. While younger teammates gained in recent years were invaluable to reaching the goal, there is no doubt the championship and the fire and determination they showed winning it began in a motel room on a cold winter night years ago.
Since that night there have been more than a few tears of sorrow and pain but far more laughter and love. Regardless of personal differences or problems that arise in any relationships and friendships, none of it mattered when they set foot on a volleyball court. There, they were indivisible and would do anything asked of them for each other. As a result, as one said Sunday afternoon, Saturday night was “the most fun … ever.”
To Betsy, Chantel, Grote, Kylie, Sam and particularly my “niece” Erica and daughter Andrea, you proved and learned that, with desire and work, dreams can become reality. Thanks for letting a few of us old folks tag along with you on your journey.