I often refer to my athletic family which dates back to my grandfather, George Lackey (and his siblings in Lauderdale County, MS), including my mom and her sister, our many cousins, my brother, my four sisters, my own sports involvement, my son and even with my husband (former competitor, soccer/track coach). Now, the tradition continues with my nieces and nephews. I’m the oldest of my siblings, a.k.a. ‘Aunt Lee Lee’ to Zack (21), Luke (19), Emma Kate (16), Curt (15), Gavin (11), Will (8), Easton (7), and Abilene (7). They currently (or previously) dominate in everything from football to basketball, soccer, baseball, track, martial arts, cheer, dance, and gymnastics. I’m proud of their accomplishments and I look forward to seeing what the youngest of the crew will do in the future with Mattie Grace (4) and little Kinslee (1).
A few days before Hurricane Michael ravaged the FL Panhandle (October 10, 2018), I was inspired by what my brother, Will Uithoven, posted on social media when his daughter, Emma Kate (EK) lost in the playoffs of the Mississippi soccer state championship representing the Lamar Raiders. Everyone wants to win all the time, but that’s not reality. I cheer these kiddos on in everything they do, but also experience pride even when they lose. Exhibiting good sportsmanship is what our family was ALWAYS taught and it’s not just for players – it should always apply to coaches, parents, and fans. It takes a big person to win with humility, but ALSO to lose gracefully. (Goodness knows, as a Mississippi State fan, I know all too well the thrill of victory and more often, the agony of defeat!)
By Will Uithoven – 10/4/2018:
“We all have proud parent moments. In some cases, it’s scoring a goal, hitting a home run, throwing or catching a touchdown pass or possibly getting that 4.0 GPA… In my case, it’s about losing and losing with dignity and pride. Last night, I watched a special young lady fall in defeat after giving a good effort for 80 mins without substitution in a high school semifinal playoff soccer match in the heat and mosquito-infested Mississippi Delta at Pillow Academy. For the last three years, she’s been on the other side of losing and consuming the victory and all the enjoyment that goes along with it. Winning a State Championship, regardless of what division you play in, is a special moment. To do it three years consecutively is exceptional. Eventually, the law of averages catches up to you. Last night, my daughter’s team wasn’t the best team nor did they give the best effort. WE LOST. She didn’t just lose, she also won. So many life lessons are learned in losing. This is as good as it gets when it comes to dealing with adversity and picking yourself back up, giving it your all, and making a comeback. What made last night so special to me was, after the final whistle, I watched her make a beeline over to the Coach of Pillow Academy (Amy Coleman) and shake her hand while her team retreated to their dugout to line up for the post-game handshake. Coach Coleman hugged her and told her, ‘great game.’ EK told me ‘Dad, I feel horrible. I was so upset, I couldn’t talk and I was afraid I was going to cry if I opened my mouth to tell her thank you.’ After the handshakes took place, my daughter’s team watched the winning celebration take place, just as Pillow Academy had done on the losing side the three years prior. When she finally walked off the field she came straight to me and walked into my arms and cried like I haven’t seen her cry in many years. She told me what happened with Coach Coleman and she felt really bad because she couldn’t say thank you. I pointed into the middle of the celebration that was going on across the field and said: ‘There she is, get yourself together and go tell her what you couldn’t earlier.’ She did just that, excusing her way through the crowd and reached out her hand to Coach Coleman and said, ‘I’m sorry I was upset earlier and couldn’t talk but I wanted to tell you thank you and congratulations.’ Coach Coleman stopped taking pictures and shook her hand and gave her a hug. That takes some MAJOR guts to make a gesture of that magnitude. I can’t begin to express how proud this makes me. It doesn’t matter if she ever wins another State Championship. I wouldn’t have imagined that she would already have three as a Sophomore, nor that she would develop as a great player or if she even makes it to play at the next level. While I certainly want to see her achieve ALL of her goals, it doesn’t matter because it’s so much bigger than winning or losing. Her team lost last night, but she won as a person; as an athlete… and I won as a parent.”
Just a few days after EK’s team lost, a little ‘disturbance’ in the Gulf of Mexico quickly ramped up to a strong Category 4 hurricane that made landfall close to a Cat 5 just four days later… Michael slammed into the Panhandle, leveling everything in a large swath of coastal and inland communities, destroying the majority of all that existed prior for thousands of families and businesses in that region of the southeast. It was the third largest/most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. in history! Post-storm, we experienced many emotional stages like shock, loss, grief, depression, hope, frustration and all the way back around again on the emotional roller coaster that goes along with surviving a catastrophic natural disaster
It was during those days that I was reminded of the LIFE LESSON of LOSING… and what goes along with it, especially the part about picking yourself up after defeat… Michael won that competition and he beat up the Panhandle pretty good, but we WILL make a comeback and we WILL persevere, rebound, prevail and we WILL do it with grace and humility… with many life lessons learned. I always harp on the parallel of sports imitating life. Bouncing back from Mother Nature’s victory will truly be a team effort and it will be through this experience of defeat that we will emerge as winners, just like my brother spoke about.