This summer I’ve been focusing on my golf game, as this fall season will be my most competitive as a senior on my school’s varsity golf team. Lately, it seems that the sheer heat has driven even the most dedicated golfers home to the air conditioning. But here I was on the range yet again in 100-degree weather and with. My coach was working me really hard; he kept putting ball after ball on the tee for me to smack it with my driver, when all I wanted was a break and a cool drink.
When I hit at the driving range, I always keep tabs on the golfers around me. I noticed a little boy hitting, someone just about my brother Will’s age or slightly younger, and I was impressed that he could handle the heat and practice with such attention and patience. It was only as I was leaving the driving range that I noticed he had a walking stick nearby, and his coach was working with him in an unusual way. It was then that I realized that this little boy was blind. I had been feeling sorry for myself practicing over and over again in the sweltering heat, and then, here was this boy taking on such a huge challenge out of sheer love for the sport.
I am humbled by people like this little golfer, swinging his club in the brutal heat, not even being able to see his target clearly, just trusting his swing and believing that his ball will get to where he needs it to go. He is courageous and passionate. Passion is important in life, especially in sports, where the attitude of “that which does not kill you makes you stronger” is so heartily embraced.
I applaud people like my friend Traci Fischer, whom I’ve known since I was five years old because her mother was my Girl Scout leader. Traci is competing in the Special Olympics right now in Nebraska, and her parents are there cheering for her, just as she cheers for the athletes at West Windsor Plainsboro High School North, and just as she did for the Wildcats football teams when we both cheered for our respective younger brothers. Traci has competed in many Special Olympics events, putting her heart fully into the spirit of the games, placing and bringing home medals. She is a person I treasure; she is so sweet and kindhearted, and always willing to take on new challenges with enthusiasm. Her passion for life keeps her going and her courage inspires me.
Another person who inspires me with his passion is my dad. Whether he is working, spending time with our family, or competing in a cycling event, he pours himself fully into the moment. Maybe it is his midwestern roots that help keep his values and priorities straight, but he is never half-hearted about anything. He’s been a cyclist for as long as I can remember. He’s told us stories of bicycling across the country during college, riding dozens of miles a day and competing regularly in 100 mile bike races.
Next month he will be participating in yet another 100 mile ride, this time, as part of a local cycling team, Team La Forza, in the Livestrong Challenge in Pennsylvania. Last year the team raised $16,000 for cancer research and support. This year, the team’s goal is to raise $20,000. My dad has always been there to cheer me on no matter what I was doing — playing soccer and softball in elementary school, cheerleading for the Wildcats, or playing golf — so when he rides for charity next month, you can bet I’ll be there at the finish line to cheer him on.
For my family, this time of year is all about baseball. My dad is a board member of the Cranbury Plainsboro Little League, and my brother, an 11-year-old All Star, plays baseball all summer long. I go to every one of his games, and I have to admit that I’ve really grown to love the sport myself.
I was heartbroken when one of Will’s teammates, Eric Weiss, was hit by a wild pitch during a recent scrimmage, fracturing bones in his eye socket and cheek. You’d think he would be down for the count, done for the season. Not at all. He showed up for the very next game. He couldn’t play, but he sat in the dugout with his teammates to show his support. That’s what you call character. Then, amazingly, the week after that, he came back out to play on the team. That’s what you call courage. He had a special helmet to protect his face, but he was still able to play.
What’s even more impressive is that Eric has been playing some of the best baseball he’s ever played. In a tournament game last weekend, he caught a hard fly ball in the field and he also almost knocked one out of the park, but settled for a triple. He may have been hurt badly just a few weeks ago, but his heart is as strong as ever, passionate enough to climb back on that horse and play the game he loves.
In a world that makes qualities like sportsmanship and courage seem like exceptions to the rule, I feel blessed and inspired to be surrounded by so much bravery and tenacity. With this inspiration, I am out on the course every day, and when my golf coach places a ball in front of me, instead of becoming frustrated in the hot sun, I bring my arms back, swing, and watch the tiny white ball sail far into the distance with hope and newfound motivation.