Mamas, let your daughters play sports
Steely eyes on opposing sides watched carefully during warm-ups to size up the strength and skill of those they came to engage in the first game on just the third day of school at McIntosh High. Coach Pearce had little time to select players after tryouts and mold them into the synchronized machine they need to be.
When the umpire declared “Play ball!” tension became action, dust flying as the batter dug in feet like a pawing bull, infielders poised for quick moves as the pitcher fired the ball across the plate.
It wasn’t long until chants gave way to grunts and panting breath of exertion stretching far outside the comfort zone, fielders lunging to intercept the ball with a pop in their glove, hurling bullets to bases in desperation to beat the runner stretching to outrun the throw while spectators roared.
Fire-in-the-belly mixed with sweat and yells of encouragement to teammates but the other school scored; we needed to hold them and catch up.
Each batter reached way down in their gut to find the focus to put the bat on the ball, resolved to sprint faster this time to beat the throw, determined to run like the wind after first base and slide under the throw to touch the base first with their leading foot in a cloud of red dust.
Aches and pains were disregarded in the dugout, sweat-stained faces focused on the field, dirty arms and the occasional bloody skinned elbow ignored as they screamed their joy and slapped an attaboy at a scoring teammate.
These McIntosh Lady Chiefs softball players are the same feminine creatures who will primp for an hour to get their hair and makeup just right to be a knockout in a slinky dress.
While their game blood is up, though, best to stay out of their way as they have a job to do and will run right over you to do it. Better still to give them some distance so in their team mode they can wallow privately in the same indulgent comforts as boys — yell encouragement to each other, talk trash, scratch and fart and belch, and after the games when they are tired, dirty and hungry, eat with the delicacy of feral hogs if nobody is watching.
Not knowing whether they will win or lose, for every game they suit up to battle for their school, for each other, for their coach and for themselves, but after the dust settles and the showers wash away the dirt and sweat, they put away their warrior to re-cloak as teenage girls.
They walk the halls of their school as young ladies proud of accomplishment from hard work well done; sometimes they are the alluring heartbreaker who drives young men wild.
This is a call to younger girls; if you want to keep your feminine side but tap your inner warrior to represent your school, this is one way to do it, and you’ll find opportunities in multiple girls sports at every high school.
At McIntosh High, Coach Pearce wants you on the softball team. The best way to prepare is to start at a young age playing ball with the local recreation league — in Peachtree City call Kent at 678-313-1200 but you better hurry to register for the fall season.
Middle school girls should also play ball on your school team, where fundamentals get honed into sharper skill.
By the time you reach high school, you’ll be ready for Coach Pearce to take you to a higher level, to challenge you and build on your abilities to achieve more than you dreamed you could.
Beyond personal satisfaction and proudly representing your school, you will be storing away memories of stretching your own limits side-by-side with your teammates in tough contests, memories you will hold dear even when your hair turns grey.
As long as kids and young adults strive for excellence in sports, we parents will watch with a kind of vicarious thrill in their struggle for victory, and so it was with me this first game of the season.
Our team fell behind several runs and only in a late inning caught fire, players feeding off each other’s enthusiasm, ending the game by tournament rules with a hard-fought tie.
But earlier in the game, my petite daughter, Melanie, scored the first McIntosh run, a close call in a sliding dust storm and collision with the catcher at home plate, then she jumped up and jogged to the dugout with a smirk of pride.
Just before the summer, when we took photos of Melanie dressed for a dance date, I thought with wonder she must be the prettiest thing I had ever seen.
I think all the Lady Chief parents would agree both the feminine and warrior side of our girls are important parts of who they are, who they are becoming, and we are bursting proud of them.
[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. His email is email@example.com.]