Never Say Never

Never say never.

It’s been weeks since I last sat down to type away my thoughts from this crazy summer.

With the impending return to school and the air starting to get a little cooler in the early mornings and evenings, I figured it was about time to get my final thoughts on paper.

Although it was really nice to have my little three-day vacation after the World Championships ended, I am now aware that real life must go on!

So, to sum everything up, I only need three words.

We. Did. It.

All of it. We made it.

I am speaking from a mom and family standpoint, from a business standpoint and from a softball standpoint.

I look back and honestly ask myself, “How in the hell did we pull this off?

Never Say Never

I am finishing this summer as a World Bronze Medalist in the sport that I hadn’t played for eight years. My family was there. And I mean my FAMILY … husband, kids, parents, brother and sister-in-law, nieces and nephew, mother and father-in-law, brother-in-law, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents and best friends.

When the most important people in your life share in your greatest moments, and hardest moments for that matter, life is full and complete.

I had 10 weeks to get ready to pitch after an eight-year layoff. And I mean LAY OFF. I didn’t coach a single camp or throw a single time in those eight years. The only thing I did was grow and deliver three healthy kiddos, and try to keep my sanity!

So to say I was starting my return to the field from scratch is a pretty accurate description. I will say, although it was extremely frustrating not being the pitcher I once was and not being as reliable as I was in years past, I can take a step back and be thankful I was still able to stand on a pitching rubber without falling over! I was able to at least get out there and compete.

I took a chance. And man, I am glad I took a chance!

Our team, per usual, decided to do things the hard way. We lost a pretty important game to Venezuela, which took us down to the “one-life” category. That meant, in order to medal, we needed to win every single game from there on out. And we did. We ended up playing on Championship Sunday for the first time in my career.

The last three teams standing were Japan, the USA and us … the trusty old Canucks. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. After we secured at least a bronze medal against the Netherlands on Saturday night, I sobbed uncontrollably. In all my years with Team Canada, I had never won a medal. And with the way my career ended, I never thought I would.

But I did. WE did. Our TEAM was simply awesome.

The crying of happy tears couldn’t be stopped, no matter how hard I tried. I was such a blubbering mess, I clipped myself with my own cleat and went tumbling down with some teammates because, well, I was just uncontrollably happy. I think of the tears I cried after we lost the 2008 Olympic Bronze and then I think of the tears I sobbed from winning a World Championship Bronze — and man, words can’t even describe how thankful I am to have had an opportunity to trade up tears!

On a personal note, I had the best time, but there were still things that sucked. I gave up four home runs in three games. That’s about as many as I would’ve given up in three summers in years past. Clearly, I still am thinking about those stinking pitches!

One of my most cherished moments of the tournament was in the game versus Japan after I gave up the second home run in just three pitches. Our catcher, Kaleigh Rafter, walked out to the mound and threw her arm around me. I had given all I had, and although it hurts to know that at the end of the day it wasn’t enough, I had support. With my perspective changing a little bit since the last time I played, there was major comfort in knowing that getting absolutely shelled on the field wasn’t going to determine my self-worth off of it.

My daughter would still walk around the park, lying to everyone she could about her mom “being the best softball pitcher in the world,” (obviously, she doesn’t understand the rules yet) and my kids and family would still love me no matter what.

Now that the dust has settled, I have so many takeaways.

1. You are never too old to do something you have a passion for. And I know, I know, I know I am not old! But I am 35 and have three children, and relative to my teammates, I am ancient. If you asked me three years ago if I thought I ever would be standing in a stadium, pitching for Canada in the Bronze medal game at a World Championships, I would have laughed. Hysterically. As far as I was concerned, that life was loooooong gone.

2. Teamwork has always been, and will always be in the forefront of life. I can’t tell you how much I love being on a team. I love this team. The impact and relationships built from being on such a team never dies…it was proved when a bunch of teammates came out to Surrey from my 2004 Olympic Team and the feeling when I saw them was indescribable. Those are my peeps. The ones I went to battle with. My family away from home. This team had a similar feel. The rest of my life will be on a team — my family and my kids are my new team. I’m lucky to have incredible members at our gym and I absolutely love being on our TrAk Team. Spending time with those that have the same goal and same values, whether it be in sports, as a family or in your career, is incredibly rewarding.

3. Sport has the ability to change lives! I saw it with my own eyes at this World Championships. More fortunate teams were giving equipment to teams that were in need, and restaurants in the area were hosting teams and giving them meals on the house. The love and spirit of sport were on full display in Surrey, and that doesn’t even include what sport does for the individual. I know I would not be where I am today without growing up in softball. My life lessons reach far and wide and every aspect of my life is impacted because of the opportunities softball has given me.

4. There are always ways to make yourself better — even when you are seemingly on the top of the world. After this summer, I learned even more about what “support” means. This summer gave me an opportunity to once again see how fabulous my husband is by allowing me the opportunity to play. I am striving to be a better wife, because of him. Our Coach at TrAk, that would be James, showed me unbelievable teamwork by holding down the fort, all so I could play. I want to be a better coach because of him. My friends, Cal and Peyton, came to the Worlds on a whim and showed me what friendship really means. Tons of other friends watched our games on the computer from afar, and I want to be better friends because of them. My parents and mother and father-in-law showed me what it means to be selfless by keeping the kids while I trained and while the tournament was going on. I want to be better parents because of them. I had the chance to look around and see the best in people, and in turn, it makes me want to show everyone the best in me.

Through this whole endeavor, I would like to thank Softball Canada for allowing me the opportunity to play my most favorite sport, once again. They definitely took a chance on giving me a call. They were nothing but supportive and I’ll forever be grateful.

Thank you to my hubby for his help and for the things we do at TrAk. It still blows my mind that I was in good enough condition to train to play at the highest level of my sport, with very little time to prepare. Just by following the same strength and conditioning program as all of our members at the gym, I somehow ended up with this crazy opportunity this summer! And thank you to all of our members at TrAk. Your support and understanding about our crazy summer went above and beyond anything I could have dreamed up.

I’d like to thank my kids for hanging in there! It wasn’t always pretty. By the last few days of Worlds, Grace would come up to me misty-eyed asking in a very concerned voice, “When is softball going to be OVER?” Will had to be pried from my grip a few times when it was time for him to go and I needed to stay with the team. Tears were shed and we had some hard moments, but they were my source of light throughout the whole summer.

And thank you to everyone that followed my journey. Thank you for all the messages and emails.

The support was deep and meaningful and it turned doubtful moments into confident ones.

Now, I’m off to watch the Olympics. Softball is back in for Tokyo in 2020. I’ll be 39 years old.

Never say never.