As tears ran down her very dramatic face, she begged me to let her quit dance. "Mommy, I hate this."
"Well," with a roll of my eyes, "finish out the year, and then you can quit."
As a little girl, between the ages of 5 and 7, we tried t-ball, soccer, gymnastics, competitive cheer, and dance. Katie would try things and just not love them. At the time, this little girl had moved out of her tiny trailer with only her momma, became a new big sister (twice), had her once "far away" father return and then leave again, switched schools, and her biggest fan, my grandfather, pass away after a long illness.
Kaite's behavior was that of a damaged child. She was anxious, nervous, and would only act out at home (where it was safe). She fought with me and yelled frequently at Tim. She was mad. Mad at the world and was too little to understand, she was only 8.
On a random day in the 2nd grade, she had played volleyball in gym class and came home pleased with herself. That summer, in desperation to find something she liked, I sent her to a volleyball camp at a local college. She went in everyday, and didn't say too much when I picked her up but I did notice she went back without complaining. On the last day, I went in to pick her up, as they were giving - everyone - a trophy. After everyone received the good job, participation award, the coach said, "And now we want to recognize the player who seemed most outstanding this week" (Or something like that - I mean this was 10 years ago), "Katie Edwards." WHAT???? I thought. WHAT???? I remember that day her standing in her bright pink room with a medal around her neck and a small trophy in her hand that read "MOST OUTSTANDING" and a big smile, bigger than I had seen in quite some time.
Katie's smiles have always seemed to be a much bigger deal than my other kids because she works very hard for them.
Volleyball gave her exactly what she needed, exactly when she needed it.
Throughout the years volleyball made her work. She had some very high highs and some very low lows.
Through volleyball we were introduced to more drama, conflict, and bullying, than my country girl self could have imagined. She has been picked on, talked about, and injured more times than I can count. But, she kept wanting to go back. Always, going back.
In 2016 I sat in a Dr office in Beckley and heard a man say, "No wonder it hurts, you've been playing on a fracture for three months. You're done for a while." Katie looked at me like I would still let her play, because most often I do let her play with injuries, but not this time. This time, she would lose a season.
Beckley volleyball is extremely competitive. Girls have to fight for their spot every year. Nothing is guaranteed and the best way to improve and gain security is to work in the off season and play travel ball. This Dr's words meant she would be on crutches for the entire travel season.
A week later, Gracie broke Katie's finger in two places and it required emergency surgery and 3 additional months of rehab, one hour away, three times a week.
The combination of the finger and leg breaks meant we were in a mess. She had to be homeschooled for 6 weeks because her school was not handicap accessible at all. She gained 15 lbs and her old scared 7 year old self came creeping back.
That year she traveled with the team she should have been playing with. We went to every game in every state (yes, we did that), and never once played in a game. On the way home from the last tournament, she sobbed. She cried like I had never seen her cry. She wanted to quit. She was ready to give up. It was too much.
I allowed her to be upset and want to quit for about 3 hours. AND THEN, No. No you may not. Get up.
The next week we went and met an angel from heaven, Kacy - the acupuncturist, who saw Katie's story on facebook and messaged me saying she could help. Katie had been off of her leg for 3 months, with no bone growth. Her knee specialist was basically done and ready for surgery. Katie's finger was still recovering from surgery but it would never be the same. Katie was beat, in every sense of the word. Kacy saw her, her heart, and her potential. She treated Katie for 3 weeks. We went back in for an MRI, and suddenly, GOOD NEWS - Something was happening. Her bone was healing.
That summer Katie went to therapy 3 days a week and worked in gyms privately once or twice a week. She lost some weight and tried out for the high school team, where somehow, she made varsity. Katie made varsity, for a couple of reasons you guys, 1). She was willing to work 2). Her coach, Bre, saw what could be instead of what was - and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Over the next few years, she had to redefine herself, figure out a new position, work through her own anxiety, and get in shape.
All because of volleyball.
When Katie had no purpose (she felt), volleyball gave her a reason. A reason to get up. A reason to try. A reason to do better, be better.
So . . .
When I signed Katie up for you, I thought she would leave with the same feelings I had with my sport, softball. I thought I was signing her up for years of wonderful memories with the same girls and a chance for lifetime friends. I thought you would be a way for her to connect to other people. I was very wrong. You were much more than that.
You were the what picked her up when she felt like she couldn't move. You gave my child confidence and courage beyond what I thought was possible. You, volleyball, have raised her well.
I will forever play back the memories of watching her grow on your courts. I will forever look at these pictures and know, it was never about the games.
People I'm sure would watch me cheer embarrassingly and think it had something to do with the points, no not really. I cheered because I knew what you were doing for her soul. With every opportunity she had to walk away and quit you, she didn't.
Seeing your child's first love is a strange thing, especially as it comes to an end, but feel good about what you've done for her. She is stronger because of you. She is confident, because of you. She has learned how to fight, lead, and grow, because of you.
You've done your job.
I will miss you so very much. My heart aches thinking today could be the last time I watch her on that court (thanks corona for potentially cancelling travel ball), but I am so thankful for the time spent and walk away regretting nothing. Not one dollar spent. Not one tear shed. Not one injury. Not one rehab. It was all worth it.