When you think about softball players and their parents, most people picture a father and his daughter: they practice together, he drives her to games, and they watch their favorite sport on tv together. He pushes her when she needs to practice or needs to stop making excuses for herself. In many cases with lessons, I have never even met the athlete’s mom, or I might see her occasionally. I don’t think my pitching coach met my mom more than once. Regardless, mom’s are so completely integral to our development as people and as athletes. They are the unsung heroes of our lives.

In my case, my mom did try valiantly to catch for me when I was younger. At the time, I remember asking her constantly, “when will dad be here?” In retrospect, I realize that was probably not the nicest thing to say. There she was, going way out of her comfort zone to help me, and I was asking for dad. What we have to realize as athletes is that the younger girls are now the first generation of women who have to opportunity to have moms who have played sports at a high level. That was pretty much unheard of before. So the moms of my generation came with totally different (and equally important) skill sets. My mom never sat through a whole game that I pitched because it made her very nervous. That never upset me. Do you know why? Because when I got home from that game and was inundated with homework, I will never forget my mom reading my required books to me as I got ready for bed. I’ll never forget her letting me sleep late when I was run down and in desperate need of another hour of rest. I’ll never forget her packing my lunch and favorite pre-game snacks.

Moms know how to listen and be empathetic when you need it most. I have a tendency to put a little too much on my plate. While I was away at school, I took on a lot. In addition to Division I softball, I kept a 4.0 GPA, was editor of the literary magazine, and did volunteer work. I also had a lot of pain because I did not realize that I pitched an entire year (or more) with the cartilage in my wrist torn. I remember calling up my mom very upset and not knowing how to keep up with everything. My mom drove all the way from home to my college that very day (and my mom doesn’t like to drive long distances). Think about all of the things that your mom does for you that are probably outside of her comfort zone to help make you better and to make your life more comfortable.

Now that I am a mom myself, I feel like my mom and I relate on a much higher level than we ever have before (and we have always been close). She is still my closest confidant, the one I always go to for advice, the one who makes me laugh, and the best friend I could ever hope for. I want you, as softball players to see all that your mom has sacrificed for you, and realize that you are blessed beyond measure. I want you to see how she has shaped the very molecules of your existence to help drive you to be the best you can be. I want you to realize that you might take all of her efforts and love for granted sometimes. But not today. Tell her you love her. Tell her how much she means to you. Let your heart fill with gratitude for having her in your life.