I don’t know how to wrap up all these years of volleyball for Claire.
I don’t know how to wrap up volleyball for our whole family for that matter.
This sport has been such a big chunk of life for us around here. There have been years when it has felt like we have been fully submerged in this sport for crying out loud!
From those years watching Max grow into himself on that court. Two years of college volleyball too, the hype and excitement.
And then Claire picking up where he left off. Growing from the child we thought would be the tiniest in the family (back in her gymnastics days), to almost catching Elle in height. (Oh and we can’t forget Elle’s volleyball team in junior high and Grace’s reign as the volleyball team manager in the same junior high a couple years later!:)
All those tournaments that have flung us far and wide.
All the decisions for which club to join.
Dave and I looking at each other with our eyes so wide, in awe of the plethora of emotion on those courts filled with hundreds of girls at Claire’s first big girls club tryout day. Yow, right then we realized girls volleyball was a whole new ballgame from boys! (SO many more teams, so many more choices, and because of this, so much more competition.)
All those coaches and all those teammates who have taught my children so much.
The heartbreak of losses, the glory of teamwork, and of course, the agony of sometimes trying to figure out that teamwork!
All the highs and lows mixed in together.
And this last weekend was the culmination of all that.
Nationals for Claire.
You see, after much thought and worry and stress, leading to peace, Claire has decided not to play college volleyball.
It was such a tough decision for her, so many pros and cons, so much talking to coaches (that has been such a cool process I have to say).
But she made her choice, and a couple weeks ago we had a little huddle prayer together, just the two of us, before the scheduled time when the Point Loma coach was calling for her final decision.
She was a ball of nerves going in, but came out like this:
Of course, as our bishop has wisely counseled Claire deep in her decision-making mode: there are no dead ends. You can always change your course if you decide differently, but the important thing is to keep moving. Keep progressing.
And right now she has decided that that progression for her looks like heading to college without a volleyball attachment. Which is awesome.
But also sad.
Because as you may know, we don’t like to say goodbye to things around here 😉
Life has been in such constant motion we haven’t had a chance to dwell on the end drawing near.
It feels like Claire has been in tournaments practically every weekend. And OH! She has had the best club season.
She adores these girls and they adore her too.
But suddenly there we were getting ready for Nationals this last weekend. (Nationals for 18-year-olds is earlier than it is for everyone else since so many of these girls are committed and need to be working with their college teams by the time regular Nationals rolls around in July.)
And then we were standing in that cavernous convention center, the familiar volleyball courts stretching as far as the eye can see, at home with all the extremely tall people meandering around, watching our girl play in her very last matches.
Her team qualified for the “Open” division of Nationals, which is the very top tier in the country.
While this was a big honor, being counted amidst the very top teams, it also meant they were playing against the very best of the best.
And they sure fought hard.
We drove back and forth from that convention center 72 times (ok, that’s just what it felt like, it was probably more like six or seven) in those three days, and watched volleyball match after volleyball match.
We so lucked out that Nationals happened to be in our own home town this time around with everything else, because it was intermixed with Lucy’s big MCO concert (a practice one night, the real-deal the next two nights…more on that tomorrow).
And a baby shower for my niece.
And PROM (which was a stress in and of itself as explained back in that prom post yesterday over HERE).
Loved that one day we got to watch with Nana and Papa:
And love that this awesome big sister was here to be with us in all the hype:
All the while watching this team work together and have so much fun while they were at it.
Love these pics when these sisters were heading out after the last match of the day making up a game plan as to how they were going to pull of prom prep in the little window of time they had left:
Back at it for the end of the end:
They sure fought hard but lost that single-elimination the last day.
All those seniors with so many years of volleyball under their belts…some heading off for more in colleges all over the place, and others opting out, simple college bound…all hugging and grateful.
….Grateful for the time they had in these formative years of life playing the best sport in the world (a little biased I know:) and learning so many great life lessons along the way.
One last teary team huddle:
The moms all wore our daughters numbers:
(Those are rockstar moms up there I have to say!)
So strange, but as we were standing there hugging up, half of the lights at the convention center went out.
And then they came back on, then went out again.
A few times. They had to stop play so many times that finally on one court both teams sat down in a circle and started playing some sort of game. When other courts saw what they were doing, they all started running over too until there was such a huge circle….all different teams, all different levels, just joining together. It was a sweet moment.
Love these coaches who, like all Claire’s coaches before, have been such incredible influences:
And sure love this volleyball girl of ours forever:
Thanks for taking us on such a fun ride, Claire Bear.