The team moves as a unit, wearing the same clothes, often with the same hairstyles and even, on occasion, with the same walk or swagger.
They laugh together, lean on each other, share embraces and confess their inadequacies.
“I was terrible,” one of them said, while she took a restorative homemade brownie from a friend.
“You’ll get ’em next game,” her friend suggested. “We’re back on in 15 minutes.”
We took our daughter to a regional volleyball competition in Pennsylvania recently, where teenagers from all over the area trekked in packed cars to bump, set and spike together.
The weekend presented an opportunity for our children to play a sport they love, while it was also a chance for parents to squirm, squeal and celebrate alongside them.
The younger generation exuded joy and confidence. After every point in teenage volleyball, the girls cheer, offer a quick huddle and then return to their positions on the floor.
Our team developed its own ritual after long points in which it emerged victorious. The players all jumped straight up in the air, then met in the middle of the floor to celebrate the hard-won point.
When they’re not on a volleyball court, these children mostly move around individually, even if they can stay in touch with friends and family on their phones and through social media. They don’t take tests together, they don’t study together — most of the time — and they don’t have a common goal. Sure, they might all wish each other the best but, ultimately, they learn on their own and succeed individually.
Modern team sports which, admittedly, take an extreme commitment of time and money, have also created opportunities to make memories, to grow together and, for the moment at least, to share a goal that is bigger than any one person.
That, of course, isn’t limited to sports. That can be true of a music group where everyone creates the kind of live performance that reverberates in audiences’ minds long after the instruments are put back in their cases and the musicians return to their homes and their homework.
The unbridled and shared joy in the moment is akin to witnessing the flames of a dancing campfire high in the mountains on a starlit night. During these matches there are no tests, no boyfriends, no worries about college, no concerns about acne, no wardrobe misfires and no helicopter parents. There is only the euphoria of the moment, the ecstasy that comes from pulling together and going toe-to-toe with another team and, at least in that second and for that point, emerging victorious. It’s not even about winning the gold medal or even a match.
My daughter’s team defeated one of its opponents easily, winning two games by a wide margin. The other team, however, won several exciting points and, despite the lopsided score and the unbalanced skill sets, celebrated every point with the same energy as if it had achieved something remarkable. And who’s to say it didn’t? The games presented ample opportunities for victories that were independent of the final scores.
Parents were as emotionally spent after exciting matches as their children, as they cheered, clapped, pranced nervously along the sidelines, and hooped and hollered. They basked in their children’s successes and encouraged them to find a way to triumph, where the margin of victory often seemed to reflect perseverance and determination as much as it did genuine skills.
In our lives, we have become so focused on our goals for tomorrow and plans for our future journey that we don’t always get to stand up and celebrate the moment. All weekend, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and a community of new friends celebrated a common goal of finding and sharing the best in each other.