Why is it that a lot of superstition comes out in sports?
Is it just that you want something to hold onto as you hope for the very best outcome?
I’ve never been much of a superstitious person, but I kind of became one one day in Cambodia back in October.
As we were making our way down a gorgeously carved hallway in one of the temples of Angkor Wat (back HERE), I ran into this little priest man with the warmest most inviting smile I had ever seen.
He wrapped a little orange bracelet around my wrist as he gave me that warmest ever smile and pronounced some sort of blessing.  Over the months over there in China my mind somehow turned that little bracelet into a “good luck charm.”  
To me it kind of symbolized luck (or blessings) that all of that China business would make a positive impact on our children (and on us!).  There was a lot to worry about there.  I’m a worrier by nature…I’m really good at worrying 🙂  Safety and language and the little spirits Dave and I were nurturing in such a foreign land.  A couple of my biggest worries in China were that 1) the classes my kids were taking would transfer here as our counselor had promised over and over again (I worked so hard to line everything up and get it all checked off and verified, but had heard horror stories about kids having to re-take classes, etc.).  And 2) I worried about Max’s volleyball and prayed that it wouldn’t take an irreparable hit from missing the club season.  I worried Max would come home too rusty and out of shape and that he wouldn’t get to play as much as he wanted.
(Small worries in the whole scheme of things? Yes, but things that weighed in on my mother’s heart in China that somehow got wrapped around my wrist with that orange bracelet.) 
Maybe in a way worrying is a good thing because it sure made me cross my i’s and dot my t’s on all the details.  Dave and I worked out with Max at the gym.  He joined the basketball team there to stay in shape.  He did recommended workouts from his volleyball coach back in the states.  I emailed our counselor back home until he asked me politely if it wouldn’t make better use of my time to be out shopping for Chinese trinkets rather than worrying 😉
So we worked and prayed and experienced and that little orange bracelet came right along on the journey.  
Well, that combination of hard work and of course my orange bracelet from Cambodia {ha!} paid off because Max had a pretty awesome season.  
It was so fun to think about the fact that only a few years ago he was here:

…and evolved to here:

And his serve was here:

 …which evolved to here:

He went from here:

(feet still on the ground)

…to here:

And he went from here:

…and here:

To here:

(Check out those hands…they mean serious business blocking that ball.)

…and here:

His smile went from this:

…to this:

And his hair went from this:

to this:

to this:

(you can’t see him very well but he’s in the glare in the upper left corner with a buzz)

That pictures was from when the team took state his sophomore year and he was kind of a swing player between varsity and JV, so he got to be part of all the hoopla)

He’s attended more national volleyball tournaments than I can count…

 …has had the chance to travel to a bunch of great places…the most exciting of which was Hawaii.

 He’s had a whole lot of advice from his Dad 🙂

…received some nice awards…

…doubled to prom with all his teammates.

And had some pretty awesome court celebrations.

So it was hard to imagine that this was our last year.

But soon after we returned from China, my bracelet still wrapped tight around my wrist, that last season began, ready or not.

At first these boys had a little trouble connecting and we wondered about whether they could help each other find their stride, and they sure did.

It was so fun to watch them first really figure each other out at the tournament in California over spring break.

(more about that back here…it was an awesome tournament)

Through the season we spent a lot of time with the boys and their families…from dinner at our house:

(all the parents take turns hosting for home games)

…to hanging out in smaller groups that ended up at our house to hanging out with their parents on the bleachers cheering our hearts out.

Fun to see all the good buddies at the games too.

…and great family too.

Toward the end of the season it was “Senior Night,” which I’ve been there to watch for four years.

It was just weird that this was OUR child’s senior night.  It was fun to get to tell a little about Max along with the other parents telling about their kids before the game started.

Dave always seems to be socializing too much after the games to join in our pictures.

These boys played their hearts out all season and were ranked up there with the best.  
They got a bye for the first round of state, and went into the second game pretty confident.

This team they played was good (their coach was Max’s coach at “high performance” a couple years ago and he was really good.)

 We won the first two games and all of us parents were starting to breathe easier…

…until we lost the next two.  We were all dying as we went into the fifth set (which only goes to 15 if it’s 2-2).

The game was neck and neck the whole entire time.  You have to win by two and it got to 14-15.

Then 15-15.

Then 16-15.

Then 16-16.

Hearts pounding.

We pulled up to 17-16 and then just like that we took that last point and won the game!

We were all dying and the kids were sooooo excited.

But this was my favorite part:

These boys knew that it could have just as easily ended with them losing.  I just love, love, love the expressions on all those boys you can see as they went to shake hands with the other team.

Max with his biggest fans:

The nerdiest of the team parents {ha!} went to wait on various street corners (where we were assigned) to cheer on the boys who were on the bus en route to the game.

This was probably Max’s very best game of the season.

 It was so fun watching him play.

Love these kids who come out to support.  Especially that middle one:

Let’s zoom in on her for a sec. here…

Yep, she sure loved watching that brother of hers almost as intensely as her mom and dad did.

Running onto the court after the three-game sweep:

So then it was on to the semi-finals.

And more street cheering as the buses drove by.

The only picture I have of the game is here on my brother’s monitor where he had it streaming through (they stream the semis and finals on the internet).

I didn’t take any pictures because I was way too nervous standing there on the corner of the bleachers biting my nails 🙂

There was so much commotion going on.  We had some mix-up with one of our best players who was taken out of the game half way through.  We couldn’t get it together and we lost 4-1.  It was sad but I had kind of gotten my heart ready for it so I survived 🙂 (please don’t take this too seriously, I know it’s just volleyball…some readers get a little bit fussed up about how I word things sometimes!)

But I WAS kind of into this sport I tell you!  I would like to have a video of myself…I’m sure I would crack myself up.  Dave was the same.  We couldn’t hardly even sit by each other on these last games because both of us were too nervous.

And really, being nervous makes it pretty fun when you win.

Not quite so much when you lose, but this team was from the all-boys private prep school who beat us at their tournament a few months before and was ranked either one or two.

To wrap up the season, we had our traditional team dinner in this beautiful spot:

Most of the moms:
(the dads were way too scattered to take a picture)
So much nostalgia as the coach gave out the awards, related some funny stories and presented the slide show from the year.

That was the end of the greatest volleyball season ever to be played in the history of volleyball (again, don’t take me too seriously!) Now for a little bit of bragging for posterity’s sake:

Max and the team setter won the “All-Tournament” award in both of their tournaments in the season.

And then we got word that he made first team All-State.  We were so happy for him!

Through all this hoopla of a season, Max had decided not to do Nationals this summer.  He was graduating and so excited for BYU and possible summer school up there.

But near the end of the season he was contacted by a few people from a pretty elite team asking if he’d like to join them.  I think the temptation for both he and Dave was a little too much and Max decided to go for it.

So although this boy’s high school is all wrapped up, we’re on to Nationals one last time this summer.

He’s worked pretty hard learning new drills and sets, and is having a pretty great experience being on a steep learning curve.  He had one tournament in California last weekend and now it’s on to Nationals next weekend.

Dave and I will be there cheering him on.
I hope my orange bracelet doesn’t unravel by then! 

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  1. I know exactly how you feel. My son plays basketball and I am the biggest fan in the stands! I get so nervous and so excited for every game. I loved the pictures of "then and now." It is so rewarding as a parent to see your child progress from being "good" to being amazingly AWESOME!!!! Congratulations to Max. I love volleyball. Best of luck in nationals!!! I was also wondering if he will be playing for BYU? -Lisa

  2. I am just barely entering into the competition phase with my kids- my son started archery a couple years ago (he's 11) and he just started seriously competing this year. At that first tournament he was up against one of the best kids in the state, along with kids from 2 neighboring states as well, so I wasn't holding my breath, but I knew he'd done well, so my heart was still pounding like crazy at the medal ceremony. It's awful because you really have NO idea how they're stacking up against the other competitors until the awards! He got third place, which was awesome for his first "real" tournament. I have a feeling I'm going to need to master some kind of breathing/relaxation techniques or something. And my daughter does gymnastics…heaven help me. 😉

  3. Recently went to a professional soccer match for the second time in my life and my emotions were in such a turmoil, I had to remind myself that it was such soccer after all. I know what you mean!

    Will Max try to Play for BYU? And will he be able to train during his mission?

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