The Swartz Creek High School held their College Signing Day recently. Senior athletes from all sports who have committed to play at the collegiate level were on hand for the ceremonial signing and media event. Some of their college coaches are permitted to be present, while others are not. It is dependent upon which athletic sanctioning body the college belongs to such as NAIA, NCAA and NJCAA. The student's High School coaches, myself included, were all on hand as well as many of their friends and family members. It's a feel good moment celebrating the student-athlete's achievements.
This is the last time she'll ever play on this field.
It is also one of the reminders that these young athletes will be moving on with their lives as is Graduation, which is less than 2 weeks away. Another reminder is Senior Night, where the softball team honors all seniors at the final home game. It is often quite emotional for the players, parents and coaches. This year was no exception. This picture is of myself and Hailey Fox. She will be attending Sienna Heights University this fall where she will be a member of the softball team. It's about a 2 hour drive from home.
I've been through this process a couple times before with my daughters Brooke and Hayley. As I walked them out onto the field on Senior Night and it hits me, "This is the last time she'll ever play on this field." Brooke played 3 years on varsity followed by 4 years that Hayley was on the team. 7 straight years I had a daughter on the varsity team and then suddenly one day it came to an end. The next thing I knew I was helping them move out of the house into a dorm or an apartment.
Well, now what?
Each time you have a child leave home you experience some degree of the Empty Nest Syndrome. When the last child leaves it can hit you pretty hard. It's amazing how quiet the house becomes. This was especially true for me when my youngest daughter Hayley left for Ball State. By far I spent the most time with her over the years than my other two girls. For years we travelled to weekly practices an hour away, tournaments several states away, camps, clinics, training and games year round. And then one day it ended. I asked myself, "Well, now what?" Countless parents have asked themselves that same question before me and many more will continue to do so in the future. We all have different answers. We may already have already had a plan or are just beginning to make new plans. And sometimes we just wing it.
If your daughter is not too far from home you will find ways to visit her. It may be a day trip or weekend getaway, whether she has games or not. She will appreciate you doing so even if your visit is just dinner and a movie or watching TV in a hotel room. If you can't make the trips or it's too far away, today's technology makes staying in touch easy and affordable. And if her coach allows parents to stay in the same hotels as the team on road trips, they likely also let them spend time with you before curfew. That is a great question to ask during the recruiting process.
The goodbyes can be tough, because the girls can become like daughters to you.
I had agreed to help coach varsity after my girls were finished playing. A couple days after I moved Hayley into her dorm I was on the field working with a large group of high school softball players. Many of the girls were friends of Hayley and I've known some of them and their parents for years. I coached many of them in little league, the summer recreational league and in our winter leagues. So, this is my first time through the transition strictly as a coach. Soon we'll play our final game, attend their graduation parties and say farewell. The goodbyes can be tough, because the girls can become like daughters to you. It's a bond that I'm told can last for years. And then we'll start all over again with the new summer team, a mix of current and new players. Below is Hailey's family, varsity coaches and Sienna Heights Assistant Coach Matt Martinez.
I can't believe how fast the year goes by!
Whether a player continues playing in college or not, when they move away from home it is usually very emotional for them. They may become extremely home sick even just thinking about leaving before they actually do. It's perfectly normal for them to feel this way and in time they will adjust. They will learn to appreciate their new freedoms, make new friends and adapt to the cultural and academic differences in college. They'll also be faced with temptations and peer pressure, which is just another part of growing up.
Those who will be playing softball will have an entire new team to get to know as well as new coaches, facilities and trainers. Depending upon the college, they'll have to adhere to the new rules and structure of the program such as mandatory study tables, strength and conditioning workouts, softball practices, meetings with academic advisors and athletic compliance officers etc. They will play some games in the fall, then practice through the winter break. The number of hours per week depends on whether they are NAIA, NCAA or NJCAA.
Once they get through their first semester academically and emotionally, they will probably not have and serious trouble with home sickness again.
When they return to school in January, they may not be allowed to visit home until their season ends sometime from the middle of May to early June. During the season they will miss a lot of school, travelling by bus and/or plane and learn to manage their studies when doing so. Hayley told me she thought the fall was busy, but then she realized it was nothing compared to the spring. Every coach has their own rules and style of coaching which has a significant impact on your daughter's experience. Many players including my daughter often say, "I can't believe how fast the year goes by!"
And then one day they might move back home for the summer. However, they may find opportunities for summer employment or internships in which they may never fully move back home. And if they move into an apartment or rent a house for their sophomore years and beyond, the lease likely is for one year, so they may stay there year round. Once they get through their first semester academically and emotionally, they will probably not have and serious trouble with home sickness again. That's not to say that they won't have moments when they need a hug or cared for during common illnesses. They're just growing up.