Imagine you are playing a highly competitive game of squash against your 14 year old daughter…who happens to be nationally ranked. It’s a tournament and it’s the men’s division, as she has to play in the A league. I can’t recall if it was the finals or semi-finals, but we ended up playing each other. I was definitely not the better player.
I was down two games to zero having lost each game 9 to 0. It was now 9-0 in the third game…match point and it looked like I was about to get skunked. Between games, my friends and I, all experienced in playing masters squash (I know, it looks boring but whatever) at the national level, were strategizing on how to beat her. She was tough and I could not get a point, but I kept trying my best.
So imagine, it’s now match point, and you know you are out-matched. It’s your kid … do you admit defeat, give her the last point, or are you a true competitor and fight to the end. All this and more ran through my head.
I remembered the first time in her life she picked up a racket; the coach saw her and talked her into lessons.
I recalled agreeing to only buy her a squash racket if she was still playing in 6 months.
I painfully relived 6 AM car rides to the courts so she could train when it was 40 below and I really preferred a warm bed.
I pictured the sheer joy when she won her first tournament.
I relived my tips on the mental game … never look at your opponent, calm in the storm, just play the point and not the game. Leave it all on the court I would say, be a fierce competitor and a gracious winner.
I remembered how she fought to victory, at 12 years of age, from the exact same position I now found myself in.
I couldn’t give up. So I found something down deep inside me, something that told me to fight, to stop seeing her as my daughter, to see her as my competitor. Something that told me to be all that I told my kids to be.
I fought and I fought for every point. And before you knew it, it was tied – match to either one of us.
It was a bittersweet victory. She was upset and I was sad, in a way, that I beat her but it was a competition. And true to her lessons, she congratulated me and said I played the game better. But I didn’t, I was just the old bull playing the young bull and I had some experience on my side.
It was the last game I ever played with my daughter. She went on to play in the US Junior Squash Open. Twice. Played at the Canada Winter Games. Twice. Remained in the Top 3 in Canada for several years. She became a far better player, far exceeded my skill level and we were never in the same category again. I still wish I had lost that match, but in the end, as tough as it was (and it was tough) I still believe I did the right thing.