Hard to believe, but it is that time of year again. First day of June. Kids getting out of school for the summer, summer itself not too far from officially being here...although the weather around here lately is already summer-like and a temporary dismissal of the sweaters, coats and gloves for several months.
On campuses across the nation, it marks a time where the athletes are preparing for the upcoming fall sports seasons. Returning players to campus...along with the newest signees and recruits. A couple of months of bonding, awareness and workouts before the rigors of balancing the classroom, travel, practice and drama that surrounds the college semesters.
The smack of the field hockey stick against the ball. The solid repetition of a orange sphere bouncing against the hardwood, a brief silence and then either the rewarding sound of leather thru net or the clang of sphere off of the iron. The pop created when volleyball contacts with human skin and footsteps.
Sweat, sweatbands, sweatsocks and footsteps.
A time of year when footsteps outnumber fans. Determined paces...in groups or solitary...wiping the sweat away, climbing the dreaded hill and getting the body ready for the cuts, jumps, contact and motions that await against competition in the fall. No pain, no gain. Remembering the pain is a sign that weakness is leaving the body. Realizing that weakness is the difference between a two point win and a one point loss. A time of year when success gained is the result of effort expended.
There will be cookouts, late night pranks in the dorms and the sometimes unintelligible chatter devoted to the secret script between teammates and situations. There will be failures and frustrations and dogged determination to get a little better each day. Taking the extra shots when the body screams for rest. Remembering the stinging, screaming commentary right next to your ear from the coach who wants a little more, needs an improvement here...a better decision there. One more effort from exhausted arms and screaming legs.
But, it is the best years you'll ever know. These 1460 days that make up the 4 years of transition between high school and the real world will give you the friends, experiences, blunders, shining moments and silly scenarios that will fuel the talk and memories of decades to come.
One day, trust me on this one...you'll wake up, groan as the grandkids bounce around you and tell you it's time to get up and play... but somewhere in a brief, flashback mode of self awareness...the recollection of putting one in the back of the net on a sunny afternoon or swatting one into the empty space on the other side of the net will come back to you. You'll smile, ignore the aching shoulder and cranky knees and follow the pre-teen entourage into the kitchen for coffee, Cocoa Puffs and conversation.
Enjoy these days when the rim seems five feet wide and the orb you toss at it is as small as a golf ball. Smile...get out of bed and think to yourself...I guess I am the sum total of my experiences and it's going to be a good day.
Keep lifting the weights, running the hills, working on the crossover and finding the open teammate. Time is a fleeting ghost in the wind that slips by so quickly and leaves you with memories, reflections and great stories for the wide-eyed, knee high Shrek clutching little darlings who can't believe that "Grandmama" could knock that hard rubber ball 30 feet into a protected net or hit ten straight free throws.
And remember this. Don't quit. Don't ever quit. To do so is a blatant act of cheating yourself out of the potential triumphs over adversity and victories over uncertainy.