By: Greg Stewart, Coach, Westfield Shamrocks Rugby Club
Driving home from the Girls Rugby Game tonight, a song came on the radio written by Scotty McCreery. I now realized why I coach rugby, why I volunteer to ref games and do all the necessary things to make sure that kids get an opportunity to play rugby. See, I love this game. In his song Scotty wishes he had a button to stop time to get more time with the good stuff. I get to hit the button everytime I attend a practice, watch a game a see a kid score their first try.
Coaching mostly Girls/Womens teams has given me a different perspective. I do not know how hard it must be for the parents to let their little ones join a rugby team, I don't know the back and forth at the dinner table insisting rugby is not a thing that girls do, only to be trumped by your daughters insistence to play and finally you give in.
When you are in the midst of rugby season, especially as a parent, running low on sleep and time you can lose sight of the magnitude of what you are doing. You are exhausted. It costs so much money but also so much time. Your car stinks, your yard goes unkempt and your house is a disaster. Some days you think you cannot wait until your daughter grows up. When you finally get a weekend to yourself. When your laundry room doesn’t smell like some wicked cross of feet, farts and stale beer .
But in the here and now, with all the long days and short weekends, with your head down working to make things in life work —one day you will look up. You’ll be taking your rugger to the pitch for the last time. You’ll pack the kit in the kitbag, and just like that, all the years you spent on the pitch will come to an end. Of all the things you won’t miss, like early morning drives to Rugby Tournaments, countless loads of laundry and the hurt your rugger feels after a tough loss -- I guarantee that there is a few things you’ll wish you could get back.
For those of you that had a daughter that came to you in 4th grade and asked you if it was okay for her to play rugby, Then you going on the line to figure out what she was talking about. You will remember the first game. She was a little scared, but she was so sweet playing in the coed game and winning "Man of the Match". When you talk about her, you’ll think about how this once fragile pre-teen daughter with braces was so kind and cute. How she found the sport and in an instant changed. She has a drive now you never thought possible, her need to compete, train and become a leader. Each year her passion grows stronger, she got stronger, she honed her skills, Or maybe you will remember the first try. You’ll remember the happiness she had when she was pressing that try and the celebration with her teammates. You’ll miss those first few years when she needed you for everything, help with pumping the ball or to carry the water to the pitch because her kit bag was too heavy. You’ll miss her dependence on you.
You’ll miss the time together. Right now it seems like the laughing and fighting in the back seat will never end. But you won’t remember that. You will remember the night packed into the hotel room where everyone was so tired from the countless 7s games and that everything was funny and everyone was giggling. You will remember the car rides to a game brimming with excitement, and the anticipation of what the time would bring. You’ll remember driving home one night, when you looked in your rear-view mirror and saw them sleeping in the backseat. You’ll hold onto that moment, because for that brief snapshot of time, as a family you were all together.
You’ll miss your new family. The other parents whose checkbooks wear the scars of regular season, select side, EIRA camps and Rugby Weekends in Chicago. The adults, just like you, who use their vacation days striping the pitch, setting up socials and running touch along the sidelines, getting certifications on cold winters weekends, attending planning meetings, call out meetings and coaches meetings. Those grateful grownups with whom you can gather around the watering hole and compare notes about refs and player development. The people who are walking the same long road as you. Some of these strangers you meet will become family, but in the years after your daughter hangs up her boots for the last time, you’ll find you too have aged out of your field-side pass. You’ll miss that sense of inclusion.
You’ll miss the talks in the car after a hard loss or a great victory. You will miss being in the middle of their chaotic lives. You will miss the stories about their day while washing the kit to be ready for the next game. You’ll look back and see that you were not always just chauffeuring the kids from practice and games, that those moments were where you learned who she is and who she wanted to be. You’ll hope when she looks back upon their childhood, she will remember all the days and nights you spent beside them and see then too that it was always about more than a game.
You’ll miss the joy in the small wins, and you’ll relish the memories of the big victories. You’ll remember how proud she looked with her first successful conversion, and you’ll remember how anxious you were waiting on the trainer to decide if she was hurt or injured. You’ll miss the high-five coming out of the try zone or the hug walking off the pitch. But just as much, you’ll miss the mutual celebration of all things big and small, and you’ll miss being the place they sought comfort when the game didn’t go as planned.
But you’ll miss the smaller everyday things the most. You’ll miss the pile of dirty boots at the back door. You’ll miss the voices in the basement spent busy game planning. You’ll get restless in the spring when you aren’t hitting the road to watch the next great game. You’ll look at the free time in your schedule, and realize that seven years went by in a blink of an eye. You’ll see that time you sacrificed on the road and pitch were the most wholesome years of your life. In that moment, you will understand that your children’s independence is now a result of all you gave and for that you can be proud.
So to the mamma’s who are tired of the piles of laundry and to the dads who long for the day when the new rugby boots and kit isn’t part of the monthly balance sheet, remember why you are sacrificing. Remind yourself in those moments of stress that there will be a last time, and it is coming sooner than you think. Right around the corner is the day she will hang the boots up, and in the fabric of those memories will be the moments you watched your child grow.
Cherish the season you are in now. One day your daughter will walk off the pitch one last time, and you’ll find yourself replaying the minutes and years that brought you here and wish you had a button to press to give you five more minutes of the good stuff like Scotty McCreery sang about.