Confidence Inspired

My 8-year old daughter performed her first public speech this past Monday. She did so in front of a school assembly of 500 of her own peers. Nervous Day for Daughter…more so for Dad.

We’ve heard over and over that “Public Speaking” is the number one fear among adults (ahead of dying and the thought of the Cubs winning the World Series…the latter will never happen, so no worries).

So, factor that fear into the formula of an 8-year old reading an excerpt from a book in front of all of her friends plus another 450 souls that she encounters in the hallways every day at school. Oh, yeah, no nerves at all. From me I mean. Sarcasm.

Delaney is a bit shy. Not an introvert, but just so afraid of embarrassing herself. She has an angelic voice but refuses to sing in front of any humans (she’ll sing to our dog). She’s a terrific reader, but had, until now, never volunteered to do so in front of anyone without the last name “Smith” (although that could be one heck of a large group if we could pull us all together one day). But, last week, she bounced through our front door and stated proudly, “I’m reading at the All School Assembly next Monday.”

She’s been exuding more and more confidence over the past few months. I can see her growing up before my eyes. And, I’m going on the record to attribute this to one major event followed by a succession of events that played off that event.

I’m her Dad, one of two people in the world that know her best. And, I’m right on this one.

The event occurred on the night of June 17th (just shy of 6 months before I received the aforementioned confirmation that her confidence is soaring like a softball over the outfield fence). If you read this blog post on a regular basis, well, thank you, and you’ve heard this story before, so I won’t repeat. Here’s the shortstop…er snapshot version. Delaney made a game saving play in a Championship Game of a Softball Tournament to force extra innings where her teammates scored enough runs to win in their final at-bat.

From that point in the softball season till the end, Delaney couldn’t wait for the ball to be hit to her. She bounced from the on-deck batter’s circle to home plate. She begged me to play “Fall Softball.” Of course, I allowed it. Shocking.

She found her thing. She found that thing that we all try to find where we’re in our comfort zone. For me, the most comfortable place I’ve ever been is behind the plate in full catcher’s gear and behind the mic speaking about the players in front of me. Each of us has our thing where the world slows down, we forget about all else except for what’s in front of us, and we do our thing.

Delaney found hers.

Now, I’m not saying she won’t have other “things” and I’m not saying she’ll be an All-American Softball player (I might have mentioned that a time or two in the past…maybe). What I am saying is this… She now knows that she is good at something. And that has boosted her confidence in other life skills as high as her batting average.

Here’s yet another example of why Youth Sports are such a great thing. Kids learn how to win…and…lose. Kids learn what it’s like to be a part of team. Kids learn so many things, but one of the greatest things about these games is it forces kids to find something within themselves that maybe, just maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise found.

I’m not trying to be the Softball Prophet here, but what I do know is this. The sport is good for my daughter. She found something inside her that I don’t think she knew she had. I knew she had it, but it doesn’t matter what I know. She needs to know it, and now she does.

I was there Monday. She approached the microphone the same way she approaches home plate. With a courageous stride, eyes UP, attention fixated on the task at hand, the 8-year old All-Star delivered. The student body applauded. It was a hit!

Delaney’s Dad