Tuesdays With Ryz- Quicksand

This weekend, my daughter, Maeryn (8), played in her second “green dot” tennis tournament.  Now, as an 8-year old playing in this division, she is playing against girls who are almost all 10-11 years old.  While she possesses more of her mother’s determination, looks, intelligence, focus, athletic ability…you get the idea…she is only 8 and this is one of the first competitions at this level for her.

Even though she has been trained by an amazing coach, and is, by all accounts, a great young tennis talent according to people who actually know tennis (and definitely not my biased fatherly opinion), she has never faced quicksand.  Let me explain.

In sports, quicksand happens to all athletes.  Every single person who has played competitive sports has felt quicksand.  It is that moment when one mistake or bad break happens…then another…then another…then another…and it mounts to the point where you feel like you are drowning.  You have trouble breathing.  You feel like the world is crashing around you. Even if you aren’t Uncle Rico, you probably are nodding your head realizing you may have experienced or, unfortunately, may be currently in this situation in your life.

Before Maeryn’s first match on Saturday, I talked to her about this, not knowing if she would need to recall and rely on my advice during this tournament (foreshadowing).  I asked her if she knew what it was and she did.  Then I asked her if she knew that it can appear on the tennis court, and I must have transformed into a Halloween costume with multiple heads, because she looked puzzled.

I explained it to her and told her that if it happens, you can get out of it just like regular quicksand by doing 3 simple things: stay calm, take slow, deep breaths, and remember what your guide instructed you to do.  The first two translated well in tennis, and the third was basically telling her to remember the basic instructions her coach has been teaching her that helped her get this far.

Well, Maeryn reached the Finals on Sunday against a soon to be 11-year old.  She lost the first set 6-4, but had the opportunity to win the set but fell short.  Some unexpected delays and court changes happened and she quickly found herself down 4-0 in the second set.  That’s when I saw her starting to sink.

She started to drown in quicksand and all we could do was watch.  Unforced errors.  Not able to move.  Unlucky breaks.  It all started to cave on her.
She fought through it as hard as she could, but ended up finishing second in her bracket.  Heartbroken and embarrassed, she came off the court.  In the car, I asked her what she felt.  She said one word to me, “Quicksand.”

“I couldn’t breathe, Dad.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t do anything.”  We tell Maeryn that you either WIN or you LEARN…you are NEVER a loser.  On this day, she learned what it felt like to be in quicksand.

In life, we all face quicksand.  We all experience moments where we feel like we are drowning, that there is no way out, and that we are doomed.

A bill is due and there’s not enough money in the account.

A child has misbehaved at school.

We forget a deadline or make a mistake at work.

Someone is diagnosed with disease.

Our car breaks down.

Our heart gets broken or we are going through a divorce.

We didn’t get the job we wanted.

We failed a test or didn’t turn in an assignment.

These elements seem to mount and build, pushing us further and further down into the abyss.  However, NOTHING is insurmountable.  When moments like these happen, we need to remember to remain calm in the chaos that may be going on around us.  We need to breathe and focus on what it is we are trying to achieve or get through.  And, most importantly, we need to remember the basic elements we have been taught through our faith, our own self worth, self confidence and support of others around us to help us get through it.  The struggle is real and this is easier said than done, but doing it helps get our feet on higher, more solid ground.

Maeryn learned a lot about herself, about life, and about how wicked smart her Dad is over this weekend.  Even when you watch your step, you cannot avoid the perils of quicksand.  Falling in and feeling the struggle does not make you a loser.  It helps you learn more about yourself and how you can fight through adversity.  For a Dad on the sidelines watching, it definitely showed me my daughter was much stronger and tougher than I gave her credit for.