This week my daughter Madison competed in her last golf tournament as a member of the Franklin Cougar golf team. When she sank her last putt my career as a player’s father ended as the ball rattled around in the cup. The end of her career as a student athlete brought a smile of relief to her face. Never again would she feel the pressure of competition. Never again would she have fight off the swarm of butterflies in her stomach nor the long afternoons of practice.
Her last putt ended an era in my life. As a father of four beautiful student athletes I have sat through hundreds of softball games, soccer matches, volleyball matches and basketball games. I have witnessed my little girls serving the winning point, and I have sat in frustration of those longer afternoon when they never got off the bench and into the game. I have enjoyed the thrill of victory, and the stunned silence of losing the big game. (Interestingly my girls often recovered much faster from losses than I ever did!) I fear too often I forgot that it was just a game!
This week as I walked the last holes following Madison, I witnessed an intense struggle between two of her competitors. The Cougars were well behind going into the final round so there was little pressure on Madison, but she was playing with two members of the two teams fighting for the tournament championship.Both of the young women representing their teams played with remarkable skill. They walked the course with a steely silence and at times a glare at each other. I fear competition often brings out the worst in us.
Like myself their fathers were walking along to witness their daughters fight for the honor of their teams. One of the young ladies began to feel the pressure and she began to press. In golf bad things happen when you try too hard. Sadly short putts rimmed out and drives sliced into the woods. With each errant shot, I could sense the frustration of her dad. As we walked up the eighteenth fairway, you could sense that the pressure was mounting.
The young lady stood up to the pressure a hit a remarkable shot squarely on the green. She stood over a birdie putt. You could tell from the expression on her face that she knew the magnitude of the shot. Her putt came up about two feet short but well within range to finish with a par, which was a very respectable score on this finishing hole. Madison putted out hitting a knee knocking three footer to finish her golf career with a smile of relief. I smile and celebrated the moment with her.
Meanwhile the young lady competing for the championship stood over the two footer. She studied it from all angles. She stood over her putt and slowing putted. The ball looked like it was destined to dive into the cup only to turn slightly at the last moment and came to a stop on the lip of the cup. In stunned shock the young golfer dropped her head and grimmaced. When she looked up you could see the frustration in her face. Even though she had played a remarkable round of golf, you saw the look of a loser in her eyes. Slowly she walked up and tapped the putt in and the tournament was over for her.
It was at this point that my heart really broke for her. Her dad too was stunned by her failure. As she stood on the green in shock, he stomped around the green like a little boy in frustration. As his daughter walked off the green he walked close to her and said something to her. I could tell my his hand motions he was critiquing her technique and explaining to her what she had done wrong, and then to my surprise with a wave he stormed off like he was late to an appointment. My heart broke for her. Being the father of four girls I knew she needed a hug not a coaching lesson. She needed her dad to do what only dads can do–she needed her dad to love her win or lose.
We must never forget what is really important in life. Wins and losses in the big scheme of things really don’t matter, but loving our children, especially when their world crumbling right before our eyes is what really matters. Champions in life pursure life with abandonment because they are deeply loved by their Father in heaven and by their dads and moms who greet them when they step off the field of competion.
Hugs can make a world of difference…try it!