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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Struck Strikes Out :Struggling with 'When it's over'

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

River Valley senior Alissa Slota struggles to hold back the tears while heading to the bench after fouling out of the final high school basketball game of her career last week. Her dad, Perry, is in the background fighting the same emotions as his daughter. Photo by Reta Todd
Sometimes, the striking beauty of sports can be as gut-wrenching as it can be celebratory, such as represented by the photo (right) accompanying my column today.

Snapped by photographer Reta Todd, whose quality work has enhanced these sports pages this school year and heightened our presence in the River Valley and Galva-Holstein areas, the poignant photo encapsulates the heart and soul, and the ups and downs of athletic competition.

The player fighting hard to control her emotions is Alissa Slota of River Valley, a standout, senior student-athlete who has just fouled out of the last basketball game she will ever play for the Wolverines.

Any of us former athletes readily remember the emotions dashing through our heads when we played our last high school or college game. Suddenly, it hits you as you walk to that bench, or out that gym door, or ball field gate - my athletic career is over.

In a split second, you think of all the memories, the wins, the losses, the cheers, the coaches, the fans, the many trips and sacrifices your parents and siblings made for you along the way... and it's overwhelming.

Most revealing in this touching photo is that Alissa's dad, Perry, is the man in the middle in the background with his eyes welling up in this priceless scene. This photo speaks volumes and volumes to the "price" parents pay to follow and support their sons and daughters through their adolescent athletic pursuits.

How many of us parents have sat in Perry's seat, walked in his shoes, and felt the same, riveting emotions as we watched our child play and then end their high school athletic careers?

I'm sure Perry is thinking, just as Alissa is, about the hundreds of games Alissa has played and Perry and wife Barb have watched throughout her career. All the shooting hoops and preaching fundamentals in the driveway at home, in the gym, and in the countless hours and miles endured together participating in youth, junior high, and high school basketball.

And suddenly, it's over.

Just like that.

On top of all this, a parent's thoughts immediately turn to the impending "doom" racing in of a child soon to leave the nest, whether it be to college, the work place, or any other relocation into the adult world.

Like other parents, I grieved as my two oldest children "flew the coop" and left town to find their path and their careers. I fret now about my two children still at home and how fast time flies and that they, too, will soon graduate and leave the nest.

A few years ago, I read an article about how, when a child reaches age nine, that his/her time at home is already half gone. Nine! That chilling thought has stayed with me ever since.

This column in no way is meant to embarrass Alissa or Perry. As the photo reveals, it's all about the deep love and caring parents have for their children and how, when our kids hurt, we hurt right along with them.

It's all about family, folks. Family and sports. What an incredibly powerful combination.

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