(Photo above: Bash Girls with DJ, the best Umpire depicted in this story. Please read fully!)
If you haven't read the previous post titled "Preparing Deaf & HOH Athletes: Assistive Technology & Rights", then please do here:
Whether there are issues like what we faced with Lexi and use of her hearing technology, parents/coaches upset over bad calls or a child who has inherited a bad coach....I think NOW is a very good time to remind EVERYONE why we have our children play athletics.
Let me start off by giving a disclaimer: I am a coach. I love athletics. I was an athlete. I'm the parent of two very different children and athletes. I am very passionate at games and practices; when I work with my kids at home...so I get it. I understand what it's like to watch your child be reprimanded. I understand what it's like to see your kid get yelled at, I understand what it's like to get an unfair call or just some refs/umps who are seemingly clueless. I know what it's like to watch your child sit the bench when someone plays over them. And I know what it's like to see your kid strike out.
But, guess what? Life is unfair. Academics are tough. High School often seems overwhelming. College is flat out grueling. Learning to manage your finances requires dedication. Jobs are competitive. Earning a salary is very difficult. Keeping your job in the midst of a family emergency or crisis is so tough. Having a baby? (Sorry men, you can't even touch us on this one!) IT HURTS! Raising a baby? EXHAUSTING. Watching a parent die of cancer while you're working a full-time job, raising a family, going thru tough times at work? MANY TIMES, UNBEARABLE.
Point: ATHLETICS and sports teams are designed to create competitive spirits in our children. Teams allow children to learn to, guess what? TO WORK ON TEAMS! "Defeat" teaches us to accept our imperfections. "Wins" teach us to applaud our hard work and dedication. SPORTS are character building, life lessons ON HOW TO MANAGE LIFE. Children learn how tough they are. How far they can go. They learn respect of their elders. They understand what it means to be a small part of a sum total. A TEAM.
We somehow lose all of that in the midst of our child being disciplined or striking out. We lose perspective when we see our child struggle. Again, myself included.
I just felt like writing to put out a reminder to myself and everyone out there....that this is a blip on the map. These times in our kids' lives are so precious. We have to start accepting failures as PREPARATION for their futures. Myself included.
So in my previous blog, I talked about some folks who handled several games all wrong. I'm going to say it...some crazy peeps who asked my child to remove her hearing technology to allow their kids to possibly "not" strike out to her. That's what it was truly about. And a couple of umps who had two options: 1. shut down the "ugly" in its path, give "warnings or you (fans) must leave"....OR 2. ask a deaf child to remove a mini mic that helps her hear and even her processors which send sound to the implant and allow her safety & an even playing field.
If you read it, you know how it ended. MOVING ON.....
There is someone whom, without a SHADOW OF A DOUBT has always done it so well ... he's been OVER THE MOON so amazing to Lexi during games. He's gone out of his way to be a LEADER OF SENSITIVITY and always reminding all the parents during games ... THIS IS A SPORT, not the end of the world.
He's never had to say those words verbatim...he just EMULATED AMAZING CHARACTER. His name is DJ.
DJ is an umpire we've seen many, many times this past season. In fact, when we didn't have him the final day of our Regional World Series, the entire BASH SOFTBALL FAMILY was heartbroken. We know he calls games fairly. We know he handles himself better than anyone I've seen coaching at the Varsity Middle School level (where I also coach).
DJ is a CLASS ACT. And the day I knew he was ONE OF THE BEST MEN I've met in a long time... was the day when Lexi came into the game as a closing pitcher. Most umps, even knowing about her deafness, would often yell out, no hand signals, etc, to get her the "count" info (2 balls, 1 strike, 0 outs) as she takes over the mound to finish the game. It's not that they are necessarily being hurtful, they just don't get it. That's my job and why I started Songs for Sound.
SO BACK TO DJ. Here's where DJ goes above and beyond. Lexi takes the mound. She's used to trying to figure it out. Suddenly, DJ calls time. He walks out to the mound. He looks at her closely and tells her, face to face, what the count is; he makes SURE she understood him. And I'm watching. I'm tearing up, but hiding it well because I never let Lexi see that. She knows. She glanced over at me with DELIGHT. No one else in the park would know what an amazing "unspoken love and appreciation" moment we had at right then.
DJ then walks over to the field umpire. I'm pretty close as I'm on that side in the dugout. I hear DJ tell the other umpire "She's hearing impaired. Please make sure she can see you and understands you." He didn't yell, nor make a spectacle; he said it quietly and with class...PROTECTING LEXI'S BEST INTERESTS.
My heart was so full. I can't even tell you what the score ended up that day. I don't know if Lexi did well on the mound or what. What I remember is what we should ALL TAKE AWAY FROM ATHLETICS..... THE MOMENTS THAT TRANSFORM OUR CHILDREN'S FUTURES. Those moments of character. The feeling of encouragement. Those feelings they get WHEN WE HAVE THEIR BACKS. The looks on their faces when they work with their teammates to WIN. The improvements in their discipline because they played a sport that TAUGHT THEM TO BE DISCIPLINED! Watching a child's face who needed more confidence than anyone could ever imagine-------watching them ACHIEVE AND BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES!!!!!!
People, listen up. WE MUST START TAKING THESE GAMES AS THEY WERE DESIGNED TO BE... LIFTING UP OUR CHILDREN & REVEALING TO THEM, THRU SPORTS, HOW GOD CREATED THEM TO BE...."MORE THAN CONQUERORS!"