One Game Short

As I write this blog, the Alabama 5A High School Girls' Volleyball championship game is being played and my daughter Kayleigh is not playing.  Her team is not playing. Even though they finished the season with 52 wins and ranked #1 in the state, they lost in the semifinal game last night.  My daughter cried. My heart ached.  Losing hurts. And watching my daughter lose hurts even more.

Six years ago my daughter Kayleigh decided to play recreational volleyball. We were living in Las Vegas at the time and we had a group of friends who enjoyed getting together on Sunday evenings and playing sand volleyball at one of the local parks.  Kayleigh and one of her friends decided it would be fun to play and so we signed them up at the local rec league and sat through multiple games of girls basically struggling to get the ball over the net any way possible.  Competitive is one of the last adjectives I would use to describe these games.

And then life happened and we ended up in North Alabama and were introduced to what true competitive volleyball looks and feels like.  Suddenly I realized Kayleigh had never really played true volleyball. But the coaches here decided to give her a chance.  She is tall, athletic, and learns quickly. Their gamble paid off and Kayleigh became a consistent defender, hitter, and top contributor for one of the top volleyball programs in the state.

I believe volleyball has been a genuine part of Kayleigh's healing and growth.  It has taught her hard work and discipline.  She has developed lasting friendships with her teammates.  She has developed athletically, mentally, physically, and emotionally. She has learned.  She has felt the thrill of victory and the sting of defeat.  She has grown up. She has flourished.  And through it all, I cheered from the sidelines with pride and humility. Proud of who she is and humbled that I was chosen to be her daddy.

Kayleigh's season came to an end last night - not just her volleyball season but a season of her life. She is no longer a struggling, insecure, somewhat awkward middle schooler trying her best to get the ball in the air.  She has grown up.  She is a young lady.  And over the next several months this life season will come to a surreal end as she takes her next step into the real world.

I can't say Kayleigh is the only person who has cried in the last 24 hours. Tears have fallen on my cheeks as well - not just because my inspiring daughter's dream of winning a state title fell one game short but because my baby girl is growing up.

Some days I miss those Saturday afternoons in a hot rec center when everything seemed less intense. But then I realize that God has taken both of us on a journey that has shaped who we are today - a journey that gives me the confidence that no matter how many mistakes I make as a father God's ability to clean up is bigger than my ability to mess up.   

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