Family Dreams, Volleyball, and City Champs... Again

A family that prays and plays together
There is a perpetual conflict in my household between distractions of the world... and God and family. I am so grateful for the many times when the Lord blesses us with a brief marriage between the two. Yesterday, the boys' CYO volleyball team entered the championship game undefeated, and came home with the trophy. And when I say "boys" I mean the Chief (Coach), Professor, and Crash all practicing, playing, and victorious together. A truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The Chief saw his opportunity this year to have both of his eligible sons playing on a championship team and he did it. What an amazing experience for the guys... and for our whole family. Even Cookie got in on the act. After her disastrous and abbreviated club season, Chief decided to make her manager of the boys' team. She is a phenomenal player so she was able to challenge them during practices; and she has a lot of spirit... their biggest fan during the games.

Great job, Coach!

Keeping it Catholic.

CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) participation can be a challenging thing sometimes. A lot of Sunday games. Organizational snafus. Tendency to schedule events at the same time as major liturgical celebrations. Strange rules. Communication difficulties. Lack of Christian identity at various levels. Coaching can truly be sacrificial in this group, but really, parent coaching is the best way to keep it Catholic and well-run for the kids. Ultimately, CYO provides a perfect potential scenario for truly Catholic competition. As parents and coaches, the only proper response is to run with it!

Every one of the Chief's practices started and ended with prayer. And before every game, the boys gave a token of faith and friendship to their opponents. "Catholic goodie bags" that held a large holy card of St. Joseph (one of the patrons of the school for which they played), a laminated card with St. Thomas Aquinas Prayers before and after Mass, bookmarks with the Promises of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary and of Mary to Christians who pray the Rosary, and a piece of strawberries and cream Scripture candy (a favorite of my kids).

Catholic "goodie bags"
The Chief got the idea from the Puerto Rican and Hawaiian teams at US Junior Nationals last year. The boys on those teams brought baggies of their native candies to hand to opposing teams; that small act went a long way in establishing good will. I wasn't sure how some teenage boys would react to giving and receiving holy cards and such. I was surprised to see that the act itself had a very positive effect on both teams, regardless of the contents of the bags.

Of course, there were a fair number of kids who left their bags on their benches. But the greater number took them home and many were appreciative.

Keeping it Competitive.

One important element of CYO sports is providing the opportunity for kids of all abilities to participate in sport. The difficulty to this approach is that, because so much of youth sports today is success driven to the max, people naturally abandon a program that fails to challenge and improve their kids. Finding a way to keep sport competitive and consistent with CYO principles can be a challenge for coaches. Congratulations to my handsome Chief for bringing out the best in these boys; body, mind, and soul.

(I must confess that we had the advantage of having a couple of the most talented individuals in the state on our team. But the Chief has coached those boys since they began.)

Keeping it Real.

I am good for nothing (or very little) at championship matches. I spent last year in the gym bathroom. It wasn't my preference initially but it had a lovely effect on my nerves. This year, I managed to stay in the gym for most of the games but did leave at a critical point. I walked next door to the church, searching desperately for a way to get in. The neighborhood didn't seem to be the safest so I can understand that it was locked up tight, even on a Saturday afternoon... but I was still disappointed.

I know you're in there, Lord, so I'll just love you from out here. I don't mind if they lose. YOU know how I feel about that. But I mind that they mind if they lose... and I'd love to see all my boys celebrating together today. You know how I feel about that, too. And You know all about my emotional constitution. So I'm just going to sit here and watch your beautiful birds play in that bird bath for three minutes. Then I'm going to go back inside and watch my boys play like a good mom should.

Chief washing bird bath water and blue frosting off of Cub


Professor started this season with conflicting emotions. He has played higher level ball and wasn't going to feel deprived by not playing with this team.  Not that he feels above everyone else... just that the world is opening up before him and he feels himself drawn to use his time in other ways. For example, he found it frustrating that practices conflicted with the Pro Life Youth Congress phone conferences and games interfered with much anticipated events. At certain points, he saw volleyball as an impediment to greater goals. Yesterday, he made sure to thank his Dad for putting this team together and creating this opportunity for our family and the team. And it was sincere and joyful gratitude.

Crash was the youngest member of the team and under usual circumstances, would not have had the opportunity to "play up." Things worked out and for him, it really was his Dream Team; playing with the older brother who he looks up to so much, and for his dad who he describes as "the best coach in the world."

It's been a good weekend. As we arrived home from the game, a rather simplistic prayer of thanks came to my lips...

Things don't always work out the way I like, Father, but I am not tempted to complain today. Thanks.

Next stop... Confirmation!!

Posted on May 21, 2012 .