One of My Heroes is 14. And 1/2.

And she’s my kid.

One of the phenomenal things about being a parent is meeting and living with people who are of you but not you. My older daughter, who is the middle child, was very sweet baby, her round face and bald head and bright blue eyes reminiscent of the Gerber baby. Now, at 14.5, she is bigger than me in every way. She moves with authority and self-possession. She’ll admit I have more (barely more) muscle definition in my arms, but we both know she could take me in a heartbeat out of sheer ferocity.

My son and I looked through her elementary school yearbooks one day. He paused over her 2nd grade photo and said, “Look. There it is in her eyes. It started then.” And it’s true. Her pale, round face, darling bob with bow, her pretty dolly mouth, and eyes glinting with the hinting of fire.

At 5, she loved horses. She took weekly lessons until she was 10. The trainer said, “She’s a natural. She could really go somewhere with this.”

At 10, she earned her first degree black belt in Taekwondo. The instructors said, “She’s a natural. She could really go somewhere with this.”

At 10, she started playing soccer, on a boys’ team. Coaches of other teams would say, “We’d love to have her play on our team.”

By 13, she’d devoted herself to basketball, and in her 8th grade year, she played on 3 basketball teams because coaches said, “We’d love to have her play on our team.”

By 14, she made high school Varsity basketball.

Her AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball coach met with us last weekend to help her build potential plans for earning a college scholarship. He’s a tough man and a demanding coach, and she loved and appreciated his “Give me more” style. We sat at Panera, and the coach sent through his well-planned outline, pausing to tap her open notebook from time to time, saying, “Write this down.”

She is all ears. Her noise, her bravado, her willfulness, her fire: all subdued in the moments of coaching.

It’s easy to be impressed with her athletic ability. But you know what, go to any tournament, watch any game. Some kid out on any court has noticeable ability. What’s most admirable to me about my daughter is not her ability but her coachability. She listens and responds. She doesn’t ignore or forget. This beautiful response to feedback and correction (which, I should add, doesn’t translate at home!) springs not only from a desire to please the coach, but also from her infinite driving fire to be better.

As the AAU coach listed off things she can do to improve her game (which included everything from documenting training to conditioning DVDs to summer camps to being careful about choices in friends and postings on social media accounts), he said something that resonated deeply with me: Training has to be uncomfortable.

And why practice in a way that is, on many days, wildly uncomfortable? Coach put it this way for my daughter: “Training has to be uncomfortable or it doesn’t prepare you for the realities of the game.”

She’s accepted this. She’s willing to get knocked around in practice so she can stand her ground when it counts.

 

 

 

 

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