Reagan has one more basketball game next week and then her 5th grade season will come to a close.

But what a season it has been.

Stats-wise, I don’t know that I have room to brag. At the moment, our little team’s record is 3 – 6. But there aren’t enough words to describe how much each one of our 12 players has grown and improved over the last 3 months. The wife of one of the coaches told me last night that he said he believed Reagan was the most improved player on the team. I think so too – I’m biased of course, but I’ll tell you why.

Her form has gone from night to day. She is comfortable with the ball, runs better, shoots better, guards better, and knows exactly what she is supposed to be doing and where she is supposed to be doing it.

As I said, our record is 3 – 6, so we’ve lost more than we’ve won. The team won their first game, then ran smack into the most difficult match up of the season, was completely unprepared, and fell apart. I can’t remember that score, but even my niece who plays Junior Varsity thought it was really high for a 5th grade team! I remember watching that game and thinking how long a road lay before our team in preparation for meeting that rival school again. But when we did, we were MUCH better prepared. We still lost, but it wasn’t a blow-out like before and the rival coach was losing his MIND! You could tell he had thought they would waltz into our gym and put another hurting on us and he just couldn’t believe how quickly we had whipped ourselves into shape! I enjoyed watching him rant and rave about as much as I watched our own team blocking them at every turn! It was also, in my opinion, one of Reagan’s best defensive games. I saw her play with more aggression, more passion, than I have before or since.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, she scored her first points and has now scored consecutively for the last 3 games – also making one of her free throws last night, the first time she’s had a free throw opportunity during the season. And she never, never fouls another player. I don’t know how she manages not to, but she doesn’t.

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s only because I’m her mother and I’m so proud, and it’s also because I just don’t have the words to tell you how much this experience has bettered my child.

Our school is very sports-driven. Always has been. Academia is finally catching up to the same level of importance, the arts takes somewhat of a back seat simply because we can’t afford to facilitate all the things we’d like to, but having been around friends with children on sports teams all my life, I never realized WHY they were so dedicated to their kids participation. Until now.

I’m sure there are those parents who just live for the winning and die with the losing, but if they are like me, the whole “team experience” is about so much more.

I have not once, ONCE, since my child started the season heard her come home and say, “I just don’t have any friends” or talk negatively about herself in any way. She wasn’t completely lacking in self-esteem before she played basketball, but I think she was just in that place where most girls are struggling to find where they fit in, what they are good at, and who they are. It’s a place where she’ll stay for a good while, because she’s just at an age where so much is changing. But this has given her such a confidence. And I mean that. There is no arrogance in her about her athletic ability, she is simply confident. And it’s SO beautiful.

She’s also not a sore loser. She gets more upset when she doesn’t get to play or get to do anything she thinks is fun in practice than when they lose a game. She is disappointed of course, but she doesn’t let it hang over her at all. It’s so peculiar, but it shows me that she is turning very team-oriented because if you beat her at a board game, she can get very ill! If her team loses, it’s like she shakes it off easier and is strong for the others. Which is ANOTHER thing that just makes me bust with pride – she’s SO encouraging to the other players. She didn’t start out that way, but it’s an area where she has grown. I think she realized how much SHE appreciates the encouragement and has learned to reciprocate and think beyond herself.

And I guess THAT is the biggest, most wonderful thing she has gained from this experience. Thinking beyond herself. Because we all need to do that a little bit more. It’s a selfish, cold, every-man-for-himself kind of world out there, and anything that teaches us to think of others, work together, encourage each other, and personally grow – well, that’s a pretty amazing thing.

I’m proud of her athleticism. Because I didn’t know she had any, to be quite honest. It’s been exciting to see it come out of her and develop over these last few months.

I’m proud of her attitude. It’s needed the occasional adjustment, and we’re still dealing with plenty of “tweenishness” more days than not, but she’s proven herself to be a good sport and that’s hard to teach so I’m glad she seems to be getting a grip on that early in life.

I’m proud of her consistency. She’s worked hard. She’s come home from school and climbed on the elliptical and gone outside and practiced her shooting and dribbling, she hasn’t missed a single practice, she’s listened to her coaches and taken their direction, and all of it has paid off.

As a sidebar, there have been so many other cool perks of her doing this – things that I didn’t expect.

Like the joy I get watching the other parents when their child scores for the first time. That happened last night and man, it was so cool! And the kids – when they make their first scoring shot – they look so surprised and elated! There’s just no words for watching them finally see all that practice pay off. Sometimes I’ll go watch the Junior Varsity or the Varsity teams play and when I think that the 5th graders I’m watching now will one day, in the not so distant future, be out there on that court in those high school jerseys………it’s just amazing. Watching our children grow up.

I’ve rambled, but I’ve just had so much fun and learned so much and am so thankful for how this experience has helped us all to grow. It truly has been a winning season, in all the important ways.