I grabbed the pink umbrella wedged next to one of the car seats, shook it open and tried in vain to shield myself from the driving sleet and hail stinging my face. I was dressed for 48 degrees and rainy – boots, rain gear, ball cap -- but was not prepared for what felt like a winter storm.
Crazy weather for Ohio in late May, but not unprecedented.
As I trudged along the asphalt path leading from the overflow parking lot into Diamond Community Park for the start of the Big Dog Lacrosse Festival, I couldn’t help but again be amazed by the energy and enthusiasm this sport generated seemingly every Saturday.
Ahead, I saw the usual cluster of team tents with girls of all ages and sizes running around playing impromptu games of tag, goofing off with their sticks or just sitting on their bags in small clusters laughing and giggling. Behind them was the usual array of vendors – lacrosse companies, food stands, live music and more.
In the middle of it all, I found my daughter, huge smile on her face, seven (yes, seven) stick of licorice in her right hand, talking and laughing with her teammates as they “prepared” for their 9 am game. The weather was a non-factor to her.
As I was about to suggest we step under the tent to keep dry, a guy walked by wearing jeans and a hoodie that read “Hey, ReLAX!”
He smiled and said “Hi,” before continuing on his way.
I just shook my head and decided to go with the flow.
For the next eight hours, I watched my daughter and her friends play lacrosse (three games), eat an ungodly amount of junk food and laugh, a lot. When it was all over, it took all of my negotiating skills to pry her away from her teammates so we could go back to the car and warm up.
As we drove home, I asked her what, exactly, it was about lacrosse that she liked so much?
Her answer was enlightening – especially to us in the parks and recreation world. She said, in a nutshell, she loved lacrosse because:
1) The girls on her team were so nice. They made her feel welcome and part of the team from the day she joined.
2) Her coach was awesome. He didn’t care if they won or lost, just that they played hard and tried to get better. He was also constantly telling my daughter (and all the girls) how good they were doing and how proud he was of their effort.
3) The Saturday LAX Festivals are fun, fun, fun. It doesn’t matter if they win or lose because there’s no championship bracket. And, the vendors and team tents and live music make the whole day feel like one big party.
I couldn’t help but smile. Her list reads like a best practice manual straight out of a column from Fred Engh at the National Alliance for Youth Sports or any one of our other contributors over the years. To me, it’s proof positive that what you do for a living is exceedingly important and, when it’s done right, effects meaningful change in the lives of real people in our communities. How awesome is that?
As we turned out of the parking lot, my daughter smiled and said, “Dad, I’m hungry. Let’s stop for a burger.”
I couldn’t help but smile and agree. Besides, I figured, it’s good to put a little money back into the community – Diamond Community Park had certainly been good to us.
Till next month…
Rodney J. Auth