I recently took one of those personality tests for a personal branding seminar at work. You know, the one where you answer a long series of philosophical double-barrel questions, and in return, get a combination of four letters that tell you everything you already knew about yourself.
My personality profile is called “The Defender”. Apparently, I should have looked at a career in law enforcement or the judicial system instead of journalism…or maybe I’m just destined to be a pissed off soccer momma with the uncanny ability to string a coherent sentence together.
Regardless, the Defender reared her fiery red head this afternoon when I told my daughter her soccer season is over even though there are three more games left on the schedule. “This is not your fault,” I told her.
The blame lies entirely at the feet of adults who should know better. Adults who have been entrusted to teach children values and life skills beyond pass, shoot, score, but who seem instead to get more satisfaction out of belittling the youth in their care and knowingly offering false promises.
Over the past year, I’ve watched my daughter go from a player taking the field with enthusiasm and joy to one whose shoulders droop at the prospect of another game. She used to race down the field so fast, she looked like she was flying. Now, at best, she jogs and holds onto the edge of her jersey like a security blanket.
I’ve given her pep talks. We’ve watched inspirational videos about confidence. I even bought her “confidence bracelets” for her birthday as a visual reminder that she is worthy of her place on the team.
I thought it had finally worked last week when, after my “You’re Worthy” speech, she took to the field mid-way through the first half with confident strides, charged down the field and took a strong shot that, if not for the unfortunate placement of the crossbar, would have been a perfect goal.
She came off the field with a smile on her face and a spark in her eyes I hadn’t seen in a long time. Then she sat the bench for most of the second half. When she finally went in, I saw some of that “show em what you got” attitude was still there. She ran fast. She was aggressive.
Coach pulled her after two minutes…no explanation, no feedback, just an implied “You’re not good enough.”
Her shoulders fell. Her head sagged. She dropped to the ground on the sidelines, punched her bag a few times and sat with her head in her hands for the rest of the game.
The conversation she was having with herself went like this:
“I’m no good.”
“I can’t do anything right.”
I know this because it’s what she said to me after the game as tears rolled down her face. That beautiful near-goal from the first half completely wiped from her memory.
So, for the time being, we are done with soccer. I can’t watch her confidence being chipped away piece by piece anymore. As her defender, I have to stand up for her and take her out of a situation that is emotionally damaging.
I love her too much not to.
This afternoon, we talked about toxic relationships and action plans. We’re taking control and getting out of a bad situation. Fall tryouts are in two weeks. We’ll find a new team then.
At the news that her season was over, all she did was sigh with relief and smile.
The adults in charge, the ones who think “Coach” is a title akin to “King”, and who can’t figure out how to turn that word into an action verb almost broke my girl. They trampled her spirit and played with her dreams.
But she is my girl, and I will build her back up. She’ll find her way again, and she will remember she is worthy.