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Sunday, May 8, 2011

A mom's letter concerned about her daughter's future

Happy Mother's Day to my mother and all my friends who read this blog who either are mothers, have mothers or married to mothers. I think that accounts for everyone.

Today on this special day, I want to share a letter with you.

I keep a lot of letters with me, good or bad, from my almost 27 years in this business. I am appreciative of the time the people put into writing me to tell me I did a wonderful job on a story or any coverage I did or even telling me I could have done better on something. I can't take anything personally if it's negative. After all, not everyone has to agree.

In late June 1993, I got a letter from a mother of a really good soccer player who was an All-County standout at her high school. I will not divulge the name of the mom who wrote this letter nor will I divulge the beautiful daughter she was writing to me about considering that beautiful young lady is a mom herself and is also a Facebook friend. At an appropriate time, I will contact her to let her know this was her mom who wrote this letter 18 years ago to me ... if she doesn't read it first and figure it out.

Let me set this up as best as possible -- I had written a column on this young lady, who was an underclassmen for her soccer team. But she had a problem with her knees and had to wear braces on her knees to play. Immediately, I don't remember what the reason why she had to wear the braces, but she was still one of the best players on her team in spite of those problems.

Her mom wrote me this letter and it really came out of the blue and came from her heart. I know it did. She truly loved her daughter and I imagine 18 years later, she loves her immensely.

The envelope it came in was addressed to me as "personal and confidential," but I think 18 years later all is cool. Here's what this letter read:

Dear Mark,

I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to speak with you regarding my daughter and the nice article you wrote about her in the paper this past month.

It is extremely difficult to write this because I'm very concerned that I state my reasons properly, so as to not have you misinterpret my meaning.

Let me begin by saying that I thought your article was thoughtful, accurate and very touching. I'm extremely pleased that someone noticed my daughter "the soccer player" despite the braces.

She loves soccer; suffice to say she eats, drinks, and sleeps the sport. She is working constantly to improve, and best of all, she is the consummate team player, always thinking "team" not "me." I, as a parent, am most impressed with her attitude toward the sport, her teammates, and life in general.

Having said that I wish to request one thing of you. Please, if possible, in any future articles you may write involving her, do not mention her knees. Please don't take this to mean that I'm in any way upset or disappointed in the article you wrote, on the contrary, it was touching.

The fact of the matter is this year, she will be a junior at her school, and this is the time that colleges will begin looking in earnest for players. I'm afraid that with the volume of girls they want to look at, and the limited amount of time in which to do so, that if they hear of a girl with a knee problem, they, very possibly, won't even take the time to look at her. ("One less to check out.")

All I want is if a coach comes, sees her, likes what he sees, then he can check out if her knees are a problem or not. But she deserves to have that chance. As far as I'm concerned, she has the talent, speed, and aggressiveness to be an asset to any school, but she needs the opportunity to be seen. I'm afraid that if they hear about double knee braces, etc., her name will be crossed off the list before she has a chance.

Mark, I deeply appreciate your interest in her, and yes, she has overcome a lot, but truly, she is back to 100 percent. In fact, I think she's faster than before. I feel that it was a sensitive human interest story, and you did it tastefully and were very complementary regarding her spirit and determination.

Please understand, this is very difficult for me to sit down and type this, but I felt that if I could just take a few minutes to explain this situation, you would understand.

Whether or not she does anything considered noteworthy only time and continued play will decide. If she does, and you feel it warrants a line or two, fantastic! All I ask is that her knees not be mentioned for the above reasons.

I don't want to take up anymore of your time. I know how busy you must be. But thank you for taking a few minutes to read this, and I truly hope I did not offend you in any way for that was not my intent.

Thank you again, for your article, and your time.

Now to be honest with you, I never was or felt offended that she wanted me to stay away from her daughter's knees (writing about them, that is). It was a feature/column and really, I wanted to emphasize in that story that she was battling this problem everytime she stepped out onto a soccer field.

But I was never going to harp on that for the remaining time she was on her high school team. "So-and-so, who plays with braces on her knees, scored two goals and assisted on another ... " That's not how journalists roll. We have a job to do and we have to tell the story in just so many words.

After a while, most people don't even bother to look at the impedements, especially when it comes to someone who does so well working around them.

The bottom line here was that college coaches DID come calling for her a couple of years later and she went on to have a nice four-year career for her team and actually made the All-Region teams her junior and senior seasons.

Today, that beautiful, young lady is nearing her mid-30s and is a mom herself to a little boy. And I know she thinks the world of him ... just like her mom did with her a generation ago.

I have kept this letter in a folder called "stuff" with other letters and cards I got over the years. I have never shared this letter with ANYONE in the last 18 years. The only person I ever shared it with was the woman who wrote the letter even then, I told her a year after she wrote it in not so many words I had her back.

So in my mind, I wanted to go back to understand what a mom will do for her kids to make sure they get the best for them. It's easy to pinpoint material things, but that's just a small part of it. And it's understandable that a mom doing just normal everyday things will inspire their kids to be as good as the woman who raised them.

But to make sure that their child has at least a scholarship opportunity by being protective in a kind way by not mentioning something that would look questionable to recruiters? That's going to another level of motherhood.

And as I stated, it worked out well in the end.

I am glad in some way I may have played a little part in her going on to play soccer in college. And I am glad her mother took the time to write me that thoughtful, kind letter 18 years ago, thinking about her daughter's future in the process.

That's a passionate, loving mom.

May all moms be as passionate and loving as her ... and now her daughter.

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