I went to one of my volleyball kids' graduation party this afternoon. I shouldn't say just "one of," because actually she's my favorite of all time.
I think that the relationships we have in life can be categorized into some basic types, including romantic, spouse, friendship, close friendship, parent-child, child-parent, sibling, professional, etc. Some of these relationships I think people need to have more than others. Since I don't have any kids, obviously I don't have the parent-child relationship, and the sibling relationship has been essentially gone since my brother started using drugs as a kid.
Coaching junior Olympic volleyball, you spend a lot of time with the kids, and it's typical (for me at least) to develop a strong bond with certain kids. It's weird, because it's generally a combination of the parent-child, a sibling and close friend. Those are important to me because they're the kinds of relationships I don't have the opportunity to develop otherwise.
I first coached Caity in 2003 when she was 16, playing up a year on my 17's team. I got to keep her for a second year after that. As the setter, I had to depend on her to be the foundation of the teams, and we had to have excellent communication to make sure everything was going well. Because of that role, and because she's just such a good kid, we developed that kind of relationship I described above.
And I can honestly say it's not like any others I've ever had either. It's obviously not romantic, and it's not just a simple friend or acquaintance. She has always seemed like a little sister/daughter/friend combination.
Despite having all of her friends there, she spent a lot of time talking to me. Yeah, some of it is "silly" teenager stuff, but I don't mind. She gave me a long hug and thanked me for "everything" the last few years.
Her mom caught me on the way out and thanked me for coming. She also described a school assignment Caity had to do, where she had to profile five people that had a huge influence in her life, a la the Five People You Meet In Heaven novel. Her mom told me that I was one of the five she wrote about. It took everything I had to not cry a little when she told me that.
Caity is going off to college now, not really a kid anymore but becoming a grown up. According to her mom, I made a difference in her young life. Still, I think the biggest winner is me. Knowing that I was a pivotal person in a kid's growing up is priceless to me. I have to make sure that I do the work to stay in touch with her through college, marriage, children or whatever is in her future. I'm so proud of her.