The texts came in throughout the day yesterday.

This isn’t a camp – it’s a boot camp!

I felt light-headed after the warmup.

This is SO hard! Can I leave early?

Low angle view of four volleyball players playing volleyballAnd then, when I arrived an hour before the end of day one of volleyball camp, my daughter looked at me with the wide eyes of a teenager in disbelief, as if to say, “What are you doing here so early? We have an hour left!”

Such is the life of a soon-to-be eighth grade girl.

I love my daughter and all her whimsy. Her funny expressions, her goofiness, her sense of style, her beautiful thick hair and gorgeous twinkling eyes.

She is tan before the summer is even in full swing. She has a zeal for life and a love of friends that transcends her years. She has more energy for hanging at the pool with her squad than I have in a full day.

In short, I love this girl more than words can say.

But yesterday, what a ride.

First, I have to give her credit for even going in the first place, knowing no one before she walked in the door. That in itself is incredibly brave, and would have inspired butterflies in my stomach for sure.

The volleyball camp was the one thing Eliana requested for the summer, to prepare her to tryout for the team at school next year. It’s three days long, odd in itself, especially when the days are this long, 9-4.

We opened the door of the arena to find no air conditioning on a 92-degree day. I waited until she seemed comfortable, then left.

The texts started perhaps an hour later, heartfelt, emotional updates so I could track her progress. Agony, it seemed, until she admitted she’d made friends and in fact one of her school friends was there with her. “We have a friend group already,” she said.

Beach volleyI talked her off the ledge of leaving early a few times before settling on an hour early pickup. And when I arrived, she gracefully extracted herself from the group and climbed into the air-conditioned car.

“Ohmigod, that was such a long day!” she said.

I heard about the sweltering heat of the gym, the crab-walking and bear-scramble on the mats, the nausea that welled up after the warmup, the two other girls who puked, the four bottles of water she downed and the orange crush she bought from the machine because it was colder than the water.

I heard about how the caramel corn I packed in her lunch melted so she couldn’t eat it and how the pudding spoiled. She was starving.

And yet.

She had fun.

She made friends.

And yes, the volleyball parts were pretty great.

“So are you going back tomorrow?” I asked, incredulous at the swing of emotions, the turn of the tide.

“I think so,” she said.

I dropped her off a little late this morning to soften the incredible thickness¬†of the day. Haven’t heard a word and it’s already quarter past eleven. That’s a good sign.

Of course, it’s 70 degrees today and breathable, so I’m sure the gym is manageable. And, one day of hard-core athletic training leads to an easier next day of the same and onward.

The mother bear in me wanted to go inside and talk to one of the counselors about how rigorous they ran the girls yesterday, but my daughter stopped me. “Do you have to say anything?” she pleaded.

No, I guess I don’t.

She got through it, just as I did, just as we all do, and she is better for it.

Five young women taking an oathI told my daughter that she would feel so proud for seeing the camp through to its end, and I believe she agrees. In fact, this morning, we talked about signing her up for other camps during the remainder of the summer.

When we can push past the discomfort, we really can find the fun.

I remember my days on teams – tennis, pom pon, and nowadays, swimming at 6 am with a coach to guide me, rowing at 6 pm along the Detroit River.

Nothing pushes you more, harder, than being part of a team. The good, the bad, the perseverance happens when you aren’t just in it for yourself, but rather have the motivation and the support of others around you, to do it well and do it together.

A win down the length of the green sparkling water of my river doesn’t happen just because I pull my oar in perfect form. It’s all eight of us, in unison, breathing in, breathing out, every muscle and sinew it in for the better of all of us.

Sports represent so many things – victory, yes, and challenge, but something about the culture around us, our home, the nature of gathering in community to emerge with a win.

That win can be something small – a smile from the stands, a slap on the shoulder, a reassuring hug. It can also be big – I knew I fit, I finally belong.

And this, I believe, is the secret behind why we push through the nausea. Because on the other side, we feel like we’ve reached the mountaintop.

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