Youths’ drive and competitiveness serves to inspire

I was conducting an interview with an Indianapolis couple about their spectacular garden — a lush space they have created in unity since the mid 90’s — when he uttered the words, “Jamie has a wonderful sense of texture and place.”

Maybe it was his sincere but factual delivery, but it touched my heart, and I’ve continued to think about how loved and encouraged Jamie must have felt that he earnestly complimented her gift of design.

The past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to cheer on the Center Grove Middle School North volleyball team in action — most specifically because of a seventh-grade niece named Nev. Sitting in the stands with her four younger siblings, parents and grandparents cheering every set, every pass, every power serve and spike, I especially enjoy the mini-cheers among the teammates — those three hand-claps, stomp your feet two times, then clap your hands under your lifted leg as you take a step back to your position.

Watching Nev play instantly took me back to my 12-year-old life, more than 40 years ago, when I looked to my coach and teammates and was still developing into who I was as a person.

When watching the games, I’m not only glancing at the scoreboard, but I notice the coach’s calm demeanor, encouraging instruction from the sidelines and nods of approval. I notice the eye contact, team shoulder huddle-hugs and encouraging hand touches between the teammates when they gain a point or win a match.

But I also notice the young women quickly running over to each other, making eye contact and the pat on the back when an error has been made — the “it’s OK, let’s move on and keep playing” gesture.

I wonder if these young women know that whether they choose or are chosen to play high school volleyball or even college, right now, on their middle school volleyball team, they are learning, developing and practicing a life-skill they will use for the rest of their lives.

They are training how to win and lose gracefully. How to love and encourage those around them, whether they serve for eight straight points or pass a ball out of the court. They are actively learning when trials or challenges come into their lives — and they will — how to “it’s OK, let’s move on and keep playing.”

They are learning not only to be strong, competitive athletes, but team players.

So kudos to the young women on the Center Grove Middle School North volleyball teams, their coaches and parents, and their opponents. You inspire me.