***There is more to this story than just volleyball. Scroll down to read about our terrifying experience in Mancos and what we learned from it.***
The thing about JO Volleyball is you get to watch a group of girls improve in their volleyball skills over the course of just a few weeks. And in my family's case, you get to watch two little girls who happen to be related, who often get asked if they are twins (which they absolutely hate), learn to like each other a little bit more. I also got to try out some creative hairstyles for my girls who usually won't sit still for it (and we certainly don't have time for that on school mornings). And I got to craft some fun and funky hair flowers for the whole team. Even if we were not the most winning team, we were certainly one of the best looking.
Now, at the beginning of JO Volleyball, the girls simply attend several practices and then they have "tryouts" in which they are grouped based on ability. Teams are formed, the best players placed on A teams, strong players on B teams, good players on C teams and so forth. My girls were selected for the E team. They did not want to be on the same team, but they made the best of it when it was all said and done. Tyler came home from practice one day and said, "That girl was rude. She said to me, 'I don't know how your mom can stand it. You two fight all the time.'" She was talking about herself and Rachel. I had to laugh a little, even though unfortunately what "that girl" said was too true.
At the girls' first tournament, in Blanding, Tyler was the only player who could get the volleyball over the net on her serves. Needless to say, their team did not do very well.
Their second tournament, in Moab, was better. All the players had improved a little, and more of them had better serves. The thing that I appreciated most, though, was that my two girls were friendly to each other. I think they had fun playing together, and they especially had fun eating dinner afterward at Pizza Hut and then playing with each other on the ride home that night. It does a mother's heart good to hear her girls being friendly and respectful to one another.
And doesn't Rachel's hair look darling? It was supposed to be a volleyball, but she and I ran out of patience, so I only braided the top:
At the tournament this past weekend, the girls played in Delores against four other teams in a Round Robin Tournament. They only lost to one team, and they won at least one game in the match, and came awful close to winning another of the games, which would have made them the champions.
We were beyond thrilled to take second place, anyway. The girls played really well. The highlight of that day was Rachel finally got a serve over the net. Then, she did it again! She even scored the winning point in one of their games. Go, Rachel! They definitely earned their prizes that day:
One more story about JO Volleyball:
I didn't post pictures of the Mancos Tournament. It's not because I didn't take any, but when I look at those pictures, they really weren't very good. Tyler and I had kind of a unique experience getting to the Mancos Tournament. Rachel had been sick that week, so I decided I better not bring her to the tournament. Our tournament did not begin until the afternoon; the A and B teams had been playing all morning in the same gyms we would be playing in, with our tournament starting at 1:00. Tyler and I were a little late leaving home that morning. I knew it would take a little under two hours to get there, and I wasn't 100 percent sure how to get where I was going, so I will admit I was exceeding the speed limit a bit but not really enough to draw the attention of the police.
So, it was a little unnerving when the car in front of me pulled to the side of the road, and then I recognized the flashing lights of a highway patrolman behind me, so I pulled over as well. The policeman zipped past me, and I assumed at some point I would probably come across an accident, and I hoped it was not before I got to Mancos, therefore slowing me down further. There was no sign of an accident when I pulled off the road into the "business district" of Mancos. Then I saw another police cruiser, right on my tail. That was more than unnerving, but I was positive I was not speeding, so I simply continued on.
I was lucky enough to find a spot directly in front of the high school. I handily parallel parked and then proceeded to get my stuff out of the van. During this process, I watched as one police car blocked the road ahead of me. Then, another blocked the road directly behind where I was parked. The police officer in that vehicle got out and redirected approaching traffic. Then, he pulled out an assault rifle from the back of the vehicle. This is the point where everything was starting to feel a bit more than unnerving.
Tyler was moving along quickly ahead of me, as we tried to ascertain which building to enter for her tournament. She had seen her friend's family park behind us and now she was trying to catch up to them. "Tyler, stay close to me," I called to her. She looked back in irritation. She was only a few feet away. My hands were full of folding chairs, my camera bag, a water bottle. I couldn't exactly grab her, but part of me wanted to. I tried to stay calm. We approached a group of people who informed us that there had been a gun threat; there were supposed to be teenagers with guns in the area who had threatened another kid or something. Apparently, the threat was in the building we were supposed to be entering.
"Tyler, please stay by me," I reminded Tyler again. But she preferred to be with her friend, Lexi. I was way beyond unnerved. This whole thing was feeling very unreal. I can still remember quite clearly the emotions Columbine evoked in me, and I was nowhere near that school at the time.
The policeman with the gun approached us and informed us we needed to get inside. At this point, we were seriously wondering if we should just get back in our vehicles. We decided to let him usher us into the other gym, not the one where the girls would be playing in their tournament. Immediately, he locked us in. Behind us, we watched another policeman conferring with one of the women to whom we had just spoken. She was close to hysterical, "My daughter is in that gym (the one in question)!" she was saying. "No, I don't want to go in that gym, but I don't want to go in the other one, either. I need to be able to wait for her. I need to know what happens."
All along, I needed Tyler to be close to me. My hands were shaking. The gym we entered was packed with people. The A and B teams were just wrapping up their tournament, and as they finished their games, they started to be really irritated about the fact that they were locked inside. I, on the other hand, was happy to retreat into the crowded, enclosed gym, away from the windows. If the threat were in the other building, as long as Tyler and I stayed inside, in the midst of this tightly grouped mass of people, we would probably be okay. I texted Britt, who was snowmobiling with friends nearby, that we were in a lockdown. I called home to get Amanda's cell phone number. I texted her to let her know we were there, but locked in the wrong gym. Then we waited.
It was probably fifteen or twenty minutes later, the cops returned and unlocked the doors. We were not entirely sure the threat had passed, but they told us we could go. We found the rest of our team in the other gym. This gym was actually much more open (i.e. exposed) than the previous one we had crowded into. The air still seemed a little charged. But we found a spot to sit near the team and waited for the tournament to begin. Several minutes later, a policeman arrived. They stopped the games that were being played at that point, and he announced that the threat was over.
He explained: Some juveniles had gotten into a disagreement the day before at the school. A group of students threatened another student that they were going to "get him" the next day at the volleyball tournaments. The kids in question did show up with weapons and did intend to shoot the kid to teach him a lesson, but the weapons in question were Airsoft (pellet or BB) guns. There were at least two rifles and two handguns, and they do look like real guns. I know this is true, because I have one son who loves to have Airsoft wars with his friends, and I know the weapons look and feel like real guns, not to mention they hurt like h*** if you get shot with one. There is a whole new layer of fear for me, that someone would misunderstand what my kid and his friends are doing with their "guns" and those kids would end up being in the crossfire of real police weapons.
I still remember the heightened sense of reality and at the same time the underlying blurry unreality as I was moving toward that school, with Tyler bouncing along ahead of me.
"Stay close to me!" I am calling. She does not fully understand the danger. She knows nothing about a place called Columbine. I know more than she does. I need her nearby. I need to be able to shelter her, shield her, if I can.
It is also true of life in general. There are things I know, experiences I have had, that my children cannot fully understand. We need to stay close to each other. We need to be able to take care of each other. I am so grateful that the threat that day was not nearly as terrifying as it could have been. I am also grateful that I have a close family, and that we can watch out for each other, even when we do not know or recognize all the dangers out there.
Was that a long enough post for you? Just something I felt like I needed to share.