Wild Weekend

I slept with 20 young women this weekend. Not only were they beautiful, they were athletic, charming and well behaved. Actually, I slept with 22 women this weekend but two were, ah, more mature. One was my wife; the other was the team chaperone.

My wife was the only one with whom I shared a bed (and there’s much to be said for mature women, my dear). The others I “slept with” were scattered about our house, mostly in the basement in sleeping bags or curled up in comforters on the floor. (The chaperone had her own bed, however, a requirement for “mature” sleepers.) About the house were our youngest daughter’s college rugby team.

We had plenty of floor space but too small a hot water tank. So Karla had enlisted the neighbors to share their showers after Saturday’s matches. One neighbor, when called, said he didn’t know his wife had made the commitment and that the bathroom needed a little straightening first. We howled. These are rugby players for God’s sake!

The team was invited to play in the prestigious Cherry Blossom tournament at the last minute. Even if they found a hotel, they couldn’t have afforded it. So when Hunter called and asked if they could stay at our home, much to my own surprise I immediately said yes. I don’t normally acquiesce to inconveniencing myself. But as we so rarely hear from Hunter, I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to actually see her. Face to face, it would be more difficult for her to cut conversations short.

The visit paid off in some ways and was costly in others.

Hunter is not a born leader. She usually shied away from leadership responsibilities, or the possibility of failure. She told us this weekend that she completed the application for AmeriCorps but didn’t send it in as she was afraid she wouldn’t be accepted. This from an intelligent young women with social work experience and a heart of gold.

But this year, she was elected captain of the rugby team. As we watched her interact with the players, laying out the strategy before the matches, calling plays during them, and then leading the debriefing afterwards (the chaperone said women athletes “need to process”), she seemed comfortable in her role. She was already an accomplished athlete, helping her high school basketball team make the state semi-finals. But as she put it this weekend, “In basketball I never wanted to take the shot with the game on the line. Now, I want the ball. When we need to score, I’ll call a play for me to get it. I’ve never felt like that before.”

She got the ball often during the weekend, scoring three times. Even though she’s to graduate in May, she intends to keep playing. She’s been invited to try out for the U-23 team that represents the Southern states.

We were more proud of her new found confidence. Struggling to figure out what comes after graduation, rugby and the leadership experience it has given her could provide the boost she needs.

But this was a rugby tournament. It ended as have others for Hunter – in the hospital with a shoulder dislocation. The first time we ever went to see her play, we found her slumped on the pitch having dislocated the shoulder as we drove up. The second dislocation was two years ago. She could no longer avoid surgery – surgery that made a recurrence only a five percent possibility.

But she was on the short end of that bet. They popped it back in at the emergency room. She’s sore today. Her orthopedist says surgery is likely again. A surgeon friend says rugby could be out of the question.

Did she have enough time to learned the most important lesson rugby may have to teach her? That she can be a leader. That taking on more than you might be comfortable with is a way to grow. That occasional failure is only a byproduct of trying your best. With the game of life on the line, will she want the ball?