Sending my daughter off to college some 3,148 miles away from home was hard; teary-eyed, all-emotional, sad-face hard. Now four years later, I am thrilled to report that my daughter has graduated! So why is there sadness? I have come to love the city of Boston and the excellent friends that she has made while living there. Suddenly there I was a few days ago standing on her apartment stoop saying good-bye to her roommates, saying good-bye to Boston, and I burst into tears. I would say that every hello and every good-bye of the last six years, when my oldest set off to college, has been emotional. It has been emotional in ways that I never expected.
3,148 miles away? Yep. Why did I let my daughter go so far away from home to college? Boston University was part plan and part serendipity.Alyssa played softball and had a love and passion for this sport that burned from deep within her. She started playing baseball at the age of five and then the following year, when she was old enough to play softball, she made the switch. She never looked back. Alyssa started playing competitive softball on a traveling team when she was ten years old. I spent years driving her to softball tournaments all around California, and flying out of state with her each summer.
Five summers ago was the summer between her junior and senior years in high school, and as most parents know that is the time to really be thinking about college choices. As a softball player my daughter was really hoping to continue playing in college. Getting a scholarship would be wonderful, but even getting the opportunity to play would be a bonus.The process of getting recruited to play at the college level is full of policies, procedures, rules and regulations. Who can contact whom; when players and coaches can speak to each other; when you can be invited to visit colleges; how many contacts can be made in a set time period; etc. etc. etc. There are enough rules to make your head spin. Now playing softball was my daughters passion – it was her love, and it was her determination that got her to where she wanted to be. I was the parent that never learned to keep a score book. Most of the parents sat in the stands keeping their own books and discussing each play. I was the parent sitting on the baseline in my collapsable chair grading papers in between plays.
That summer of 2009, Alyssa was playing ball and contacting coaches. She was busy sending coaches her player video along with her stats – hoping to garner interest and a spot on a team. I was the mom that drove or flew everywhere with her, arranged the travel plans, hotels, car rentals, and packed all the gear.
In July we had a two week trip planned. Her team was first playing a tournament in Denver, Colorado, followed by a tournament the following week in Binghamton, New York. Alyssa was very interested in colleges back East, so we decided that instead of returning to California between the two tournaments we would fly from Denver to Boston. While on the east coast we would visit colleges in Boston; rent a car and drive to NYC; stay for a night in Times Square and catch a play; then drive to Binghamton for her second tournament; followed by a drive to Philly to visit friends, all before we would fly back to California.I booked the flights, rented the cars, made the hotel reservations, and Alyssa researched colleges and contacted coaches. We then set off on our adventure.
Denver was most eventful as there are three major recruiting tournaments in and around Denver at the same time. Coaches from all over the country were checking in and watching players. I noticed two coaches keeping an eye on Alyssa and recording her stats. Parents and players are not allowed to speak to coaches during a tournament – so we can only watch them watch and wonder what they are thinking. As the coaches all are wearing their college gear, you quickly learn who is who. Coach Allard from Harvard was one of the coaches watching Alyssa.The weather was horrible! Rain storms complete with lightning wrecked havoc on the tournament schedule. Games postponed – rescheduled to only be postponed once again. Parents stood huddled under umbrellas trying to stay dry, and when there was lightning we took refuge in our cars. The weather was causing the tournament to run days later than expected. We changed our flight plans – but we could only delay the flight by 24 hours without incurring additional costs. We took what we could get and stayed an extra day, but the cost of further changes prohibited us from staying to the end.
With heavy hearts we said good-bye to the team. “We will see you in New York, Good luck with your final game.” The inclement weather had the tournament extending three days longer than originally planned, and like many other players, we could not stay for the final day. We drove straight from the playing field to the airport.
Funny thing though – when we got to the airport, and we were standing in line to check our bags, Alyssa realized that we were standing in line just a few people behind Coach Rychcik and his assistant coach from Boston University. We were going to be on the same plane as these coaches! That brought instant excitement to a 17 year old softball player and her mom. My daughter decided that she needed to take advantage of this opportunity and speak with them. We headed to the gate. At the boarding gate we saw the BU coaches talking with Coach Allard from Harvard! She was also on our flight – apparently the coaches were unable to stay ’till the end as well – the changes due to weather did not work for them either.
Coach Allard had been watching Alyssa play softball during the tournament. Alyssa had a 10 a.m. meeting the following morning with her, so we did walk over and introduce ourselves to her. She was wonderfully friendly. She told us that she enjoyed watching Alyssa play, was looking forward to our meeting the following day, told me were to park the car, and how to find her office.
Hmmmm… but now how to approach Coach Rychcik? That was Alyssa’s dilemma – she did not think it would be appropriate to bounce form one coach to another while waiting to board the plane. Additionally, the Boston University coach did not know her.
We boarded the plane. We disembarked. We followed the masses to the baggage claim area. Coach Allard gave us a smile and a good bye, while coach Rychcik walked over to an ATM machine. Alyssa seizing the opportunity followed and stood right behind him. Once Coach Rychick turned around, Alyssa extended out her hand to shake his and said, “Hi, I’m Alyssa, and I play softball for the Strikkers. I would love to meet with you. I am in Boston for a day and a half. Can we meet?”
The coach shook her hand and said sure come to his office tomorrow afternoon. He gave her an address and a time to meet.
The meeting was set. All because we ended up on the same plane as the coach. A plane that we were not originally meant to be on. That is serendipity.
We met with Coach Allard, who to this day I have the utmost respect for. She was wonderful in our conversations and very helpful to my daughter. While Harvard was not to be in the cards, she gave us her time and shared her expertise. She had watched my daughter play both in California and Colorado. In fact. later that fall she stopped by to say hello to me at a Southern California tournament.
Coach Rychick was also great – and a year later my daughter was playing softball for this man. When you send your daughter 3,000 miles away you want to know that you are placing her in good hands. Coach Rychick always made me feel that he cared for these kids (Yes, they are still kids to me) as players, as students, and as young women.
That was our first visit to Boston. We walked the Freedom Trail, checked out a few old cemeteries, ate cannolis from Mike’s Pastries, and lobster rolls from Legal Seafood. We had a huge fight over Alyssa being navigator to my driving in a new city. It was a stressful time for me in that my marriage was crumbling. This was the summer my husband left for the last time. But while I knew a part of my life was ending, this was just the beginning of a wide open adventure for my daughter. I was doing my mom-part of helping my daughter find her wings to fly.
And fly she did! Boston University gave my daughter an opportunity to play softball and offered her a degree in Nutritional Sciences. That is why my daughter traveled 3,148 miles across the country to go to school. That is why this momma let her go so far.
In the end there was so much more at Boston University for Alyssa than softball. She played ball for two years, and then decided to focus on other opportunities that BU and Boston had to offer. She became very involved the BU’s Community Service Center. Some of her many activities included coaching a Special Olympics team, running weekly food deliveries to shelters, traveling to Iowa City to work with young adults, and getting a job on my favorite food truck, Bon Me.