Sports Memories: A father’s love of his daughter in sports

Published 8:55 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

Sports Memories by Tom Jones

I was home for lunch on a warm late March day in 2006 when the phone rang. When I answered, it was our social worker on the other end with a birth mother who had given birth to a baby girl and wanted to know how we wanted to spell Alexis Ann. My wife and I began our journey into parenthood that day through adoption.

Tom Jones

Last night we had the pleasure to be a part of parent’s night at Albert Lea High School. Our daughter, Alexis, along with all the other Tigers in the girls’ basketball program got to recognize their parents. We did the same in October for volleyball and my tears were flowing that night, too.

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One day after we brought Alexis home and two weeks after she was born, her adventure into sports began as she went along with my wife, Nancy, to her first track and field meet in Owatonna where Nancy was leading her Austin Packers team she coached and continues to coach in a meet.

Her first trip to Albert Lea High School was that fall when she went with me to volleyball games that I worked at in her car seat. It has been a second home to her ever since.

She started her journey into team sports through t-ball, coach pitch baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer through various programs in our town. I had a friend who was in town visiting and watched her play an Off The Wall Soccer game at the City Arena and commented she sure could cartwheel down the field. She was on third base with me umpiring/coaching on a very hot night during the t-ball championship when I had to call her out at the plate in what would have given us the championship. After t-ball and coach pitch baseball she played fast-pitch softball. One special night occurred in Kasson when we looked far out past the outfield fence and could see her grandparents’ LeSabre parked watching the game.

A special memory occurred in sixth grade when she had started volleyball before the school year had begun. My mom was in her last days at Thorne Crest and we went to visit her. I told her Alexis was here and she had just finished volleyball. Somehow, she mumbled, “Hello honey … that doesn’t surprise me.”

These were the last words I heard her say. At my mom’s visitation, we were greeted by her new sixth-grade volleyball coach, who had brought a card signed by the team. My parents loved watching Alexis and her brother, Spencer, play.

In third grade she found out about the cool uniforms the traveling basketball team had for third and fourth graders and asked to join the team. I was told by Paul Kenis that she could, as long as I helped coach. Thus began a six-year journey of traveling basketball, which I had the joy of coaching her and her teammates.

Along the way to last night’s recognition, she encountered some physical roadblocks. While playing basketball in elementary school at a park near our home, she broke her finger. In 10th grade, she was defending a girl from Winona on a fast break and went down with a torn ACL. After six months of recovery, she got back on the volleyball court for half a season. Her junior year of basketball started well, but a trap by two Owatonna girls right in front of me sent her down and another torn ACL on her other knee with another surgery and six months of rehab. I am happy to say her senior season of hoops has gone injury free except for a sprained finger she is dealing with now.

Alexis is planning on being a manager for the third straight year for the girls’ track and field team this spring. At some point she will be alongside her Tigers team as they compete against her mom’s Packers team, the team she was there to support as a two-week old in her car seat in 2006.

With the season ending soon, we will miss our game nights. Sports has brought us many new friends that we have made as well as our daughter. With the dinners on the dashboard, the snowy rides home, the days in the hot sun and so much more our high school sports journey as parents will come to an end.

It was well worth the ride.