The Nike ad. You know the one. The “You can’t stop sports US” one. My eyes and cheeks are still wet from the tears that sprang out from my ugly bawling. And yes, that happens not infrequently nowadays. The pressures and conversations and, and, and, and...they’re all a lot. But that ad, and the power I see behind it, got me back to this keyboard to write for the first time in more than three years.
I won’t kid you. How I approach this missive is swirling in my head. I’m not sure what to include and what not to include, how it’ll be perceived or not perceived. I know, though, that I’m ready to write. So I’m writing. This ad and my tears are a vehicle only.
I birthed two athletes. Longtime readers know that they also write, create, and make music. Their time on fields and courts, though, ties all of those lessons from the other arenas together. We’ve all heard it before. Sports and their competition, whether with oneself or against others, whether as a team or individual, builds character, teaches, and grows humans. So when the World Shut Down in March, and my babies’ sports shut down with it, we all broke a little.
Within a week or so of us teleworking and their virtual school shifting, H picked up and started doing workouts with them. He had them out front in all sorts of weather, running sprints, doing drills. Their respective teams and coaches started sending workouts, trying to find substitutes for the practicing in person they wouldn’t get back until well into the summer. One of their teams even tried to make up for lost camaraderie by Zooming with pros. It was certainly a rush to talk to the Real Deal, but I think that we parents were more excited by it than the kids were.
In the long run, the kids got a break from their sports of choice. They went from 3-4 practices and games weekly to nothing official. Papa Workouts were great, and a blessing of shared time and hard work, but put simply, they just weren’t the same.
That feeling on which the Nike ad played is what was missing. They didn’t have it accessible to them. Training hard is training in the wind if you don’t know when you’ll get back to the pitch, the field, or the court. So when our county opened up enough that small group practices could start again, we struggled, but knew our babies had to get back to it. We worried, because H’s mom lives with us, and at 85, she’s squarely in the vulnerable population, and we still don’t know exactly how risky it is if any of us is out of the house.
And then No.2 was back on the pitch. He loves soccer. He’s been in cleats since he was four. He has never once asked to skip a practice or complained about going. Never. So 2 practices in, I could see the joy in his eyes, in his movement, in his step. He came off of the field excited and happy. It was just one coach and him for an hour, and he relished it. She, too, started a few times a week, working out hard and in a way she hadn’t worked before. She came off of the field talking about what coach told her and how she was supposed to work out in between. She grew, we could see, in strength and motivation in just a few weeks. She was ready.
It was an odd thing, this break. Imposed by global circumstances none of us has ever seen, we had no idea how to handle it. We didn’t know how it would affect any of us, really. We knew nothing, and that was for me one of the most difficult things about it all. So my running theory is twofold. First, when we were safe enough to go back, the Beans got back something they knew. Soccer and lacrosse are theirs, their spaces. They own them, and they thrive in them. That was a glorious gift, to get that back. Secondly, the break itself was a gift. They were granted permission to step away from a routine that was, well, routine. Coming back to their joys in a different light, after time away, reminded them, however subconsciously, how much they love their respective games. That break gave them joy.
Athletes all over are starting back. The pros are in bubbles and playing for virtual fans. Youth sports are figuring out what distanced tournaments look like. Gyms are getting creative and operating at 6’ apart and virtually. People - humans - want and need to move. Athletes need to perform. Competitors need to compete.
I’m not entirely sure my words here capture what my Beans have found again - or maybe what they’ve discovered, truly, about being an athlete. They walk lighter. They tell us about their coaches’ instructions and advice. They are back, and they are better for it.
Both photo and video are from seasons past.
On an aside, I am better for having put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. I haven’t written in way too long, and I feel it. So if you’re a longtime reader, thank you for coming back. A new friend? Be patient with me. I have no idea what direction my writing will take me at this point. I certainly miss fashion, but I’m encouraged by some of the shifts the industry is taking. I have lots of thoughts on family, children, and faith. This blog - as demonstrated by its platform - has been around an incredibly long time. I don’t have update plans or migration plans. I don’t know how often I’ll write, but I will.