If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I love softball. If you’re new–hi, welcome, and guess what? I love softball. My softball journey is long and complicated and beautiful, but here’s the Cliffnotes version: I fell in love with softball when I was fifteen (I’m almost eighteen now, for some perspective). I had never played an organized sport before, but I worked super hard every day and got my skills from zero to being able to hold my own with girls who had played travel ball for years. I played two seasons of rec ball, got hurt/coached 8U/decided that I was meant to be a missionary in the US working with kids through sports after college (go here for more on this), and then played two seasons of travel ball last year with a metabolic disease that’s like a cross between asthma and mono–all the while planning to play ball in college and then, post-college, build a ministry through coaching. Now I’m here, January 2017, facing my third and last season of travel ball, and I’m injured again: I caught a ball weirdly (right on the spot on my thumb where I had surgery in 2015) at a camp in Tennessee last weekend. I won’t know until Thursday whether I re-tore the ligament that I tore a year and a half ago–which would mean surgery with a six-month recovery time–damaged it, or just bruised it.
I think that deep down I’ve known for a while, even before I ended up in the dugout with ice for the rest of the day on Saturday, that I’m not healthy enough to play softball in college. But I didn’t want to admit it; I couldn’t imagine being at college and watching the softball team walk by on their way to practice and know that I wasn’t part of it. So I kept pushing myself, killing myself trying to play, because I just couldn’t let go of that dream. It finally sunk in this weekend that my softball playing career is about to end, and that makes me so depressed, because it was not long enough.
See, before I injured myself again on Saturday, I was holding my own. The other girls at the camp play big tournaments every weekend; they fly to California in the summer to play at PGF Nationals. I play two or three tournaments a season, and none of them are further than two hours away from my home. Those other girls have been playing since they were little; I’ve been playing since I was fifteen. They all appeared perfectly healthy; often I can’t breathe, walk, or stay awake. And I was still just about as good as them. And I feel like life isn’t fair, because I know I could play college ball if I was healthy.
The field is narrowing. Over the last few years, I’ve been through so many different scenarios in my head, but it’s time to make a decision and this is the reality: I’ve been accepted to three colleges. One of them is very interested in me softball-wise, but for various reasons, I probably wouldn’t have been able to attend there even if I was healthy; the other two coaches, despite my best efforts, don’t seem to know I exist. I’ve considered volunteering as a team manager or something, but am I even healthy enough for that? I think it will be all I can do to stay awake enough to study for class.
Is He pushing me harder towards coaching? I love coaching, but I also love playing. I think it’s still a struggle of identity, a lot; I want people to perceive me as an athlete. But overall, I honestly just LOVE playing softball. I’m tired and mad and sad and feel like I can’t catch a break. I don’t know what’s happening and I really hope that I can look back at this one day and see His hand through it all. One of my dreams is being destroyed. I just need faith that He has something even better coming.
I thought I’d have an amazing testimony to tell little softball players one day: I started playing when I was fifteen, and I was injured, and I never had any private lessons, and I still played college ball–you can do it, too! And I still think I’ll have an amazing testimony to tell little girls, and everyone, but maybe it will sound more like this: sometimes God wrecks your dreams and replaces them with His own. It’s confusing and scary and sad, but the end result turns out better than anything you could’ve ever dreamed. Have faith.
It was probably two years ago now that I wrote my youth minister (at the time) an email asking about college sports–he was a high school athlete and is still passionate about sports. I was really just asking if he had any recruiting tips, but his answer was much deeper. I’m glad, because it’s is something I’ve gone back to time and time again–in particular, the line that’s typed in bold.
If this is the Lord’s calling on your life I’m certain He’ll provide opportunities for you to advance your career, but if it isn’t I pray that the Lord opens and closes doors for you. I’ve learned a lot, but one thing is certain: we are only truly at peace doing what God has called us to do. Anything else just fails to offer the same peace… You’re a child of God, so either you will be blessed to be a part of the game you love for the rest of your life or you’ll be blessed to be part of something else. Either way I would continue to pursue and enjoy the game you love with the right perspective.
So what happens now? First, I’m going to kill my last season of travel ball (hopefully–if my hand is okay). Then maybe I’ll minor in sports administration, or be a team manager for my college’s softball team, or maybe I’ll take a break for a few years and just throw in the backyard with my brother when I come home in the summer and at Christmas. And then I’m going to start my career as a coach in earnest, and I can’t wait. It will be amazing; it will.
I’m grieving. I’m coming to terms with the fact that my dream of playing college ball is probably not going to come true. But maybe that means it was just that, all along–my dream. Not His dream for me. Maybe all this time–these last three years of getting up at five AM to work out and watching softball games on Youtube every day and posting countdowns to tournament days on my bedroom door–I’ve been working towards something completely different and I just didn’t know it yet. Maybe this isn’t the end–maybe it’s just the beginning.