Each one of us has an incredible journey of ups and downs with our kids.  Every kid is different and every kid comes with their own highs and lows.  Life has been no different for me and my family.  With four girls and one boy, I could go on and on for hours but today is about my fourth daughter Ireland.

Ireland was one of those kids that came out and just seemed perfect in every way.  She didn't cry all night as a baby, she pretty much potty trained herself, and this kid actually thought of others... like all the time.  Whenever her mother and I would go out we'd come home and the dishes were done, house cleaned, homework... yeah check that off too.  And she was just a little girl.  It was all SO PERFECT... until it wasn't.

We were a soccer family.  All of our kids played at a very high level of competitive soccer.  Ireland had a natural gift and the benefit of older sisters beating her up, showing her the ropes on the field at an early age.  I remember sneaking her onto her first AYSO team at three years old.  Back then you had to be five to play but Ireland was ready.  She not only played... SHE DOMINATED!

As her coach, I often times had to sit her on the side or bring her over and just make up some kind of B.S. instructions to allow the other team to do something because I knew if I Just let her go she was going to knock in 20 goals or more.

It all sounds awesome, right?  Right!  At 10-years-old she was playing in a game and needed to go to the bathroom.  O.k.  Kind of weird that you have to go now but things happen.  Minutes later she had to go again and then again and then again.  We thought she had some kind of urinary infection so we started feeding her cranberry juice.  I don't know what that was supposed to do but we looked it up somewhere.  Anyways, my wife didn't feel good about things so she brought Ireland into the hospital the next morning.  And that's when her life completely changed.

I had taken the rest of the kids to church.  After church, my wife called me in a panic saying something about immediately heading to Primary Children's Hospital and Diabetes.  Diabetes?  I had heard of diabetes but had no idea what it was.

When I got to the hospital a doctor gave us a quick two-minute crash course on diabetes and information on how Ireland was doing.  Her blood/sugar level was so high that she could've dropped into a coma at any time.  Fortunately, she made it and was fine but we quickly learned that this was the beginning of a new lifestyle for Ireland and for us and it was going to last forever.

For a week we lived in that hospital learning every day how to feed Ireland, how to prick her fingers to test her blood/sugar level five to six times a day, how to give her insulin shots, and what to do in case of an emergency.  From this day forward it was about monitoring her eating, exercise, energy levels, and so many other things I can't begin to explain.  I remember getting into a shouting match with my wife that ended up with both of us in tears after getting home from the hospital because we couldn't remember everything we were supposed to do and we thought we were going to kill her.  It was so scary but eventually, bit by bit, we all learned to live with it.

Ireland only broke down one time in her entire life about diabetes and it broke my heart.  She had just had it.  She was tired of constantly poking herself with needles and giving herself shots before every piece of cake at a birthday party or eating lunch or just whenever she was feeling a little high or low.  She was a 10-year-old kid that just wanted to be a 10-year-old kid.  We had a good heart to heart about how everyone has something different.  And it's not fair and it's not right but God gives us all challenges that we just have to find a way to overcome.  Diabetes is hers.  And you can let it beat you, or you can take it on.

Fast forward a few years and Ireland was killing it.  The United States Youth National Team was taking notice of her inviting her to different camps and training sessions.  Early on in her college recruiting the University of North Carolina who is known as THE #1 Women's Soccer Program in the country saw her play in Vegas at some Olympic Development thing and they immediately contacted our state's head of soccer saying they were very interested in Ireland and that they thought she was THE BEST player, at her age, in the entire country.

You know what happened the next time they came out to scout Ireland?  Ireland's blood/sugar level was off and she couldn't get it under control and she looked like nothing.  A constant theme with diabetes.  Her whole life she'd been up and down.  Coaches didn't want to take a chance on her.  Not because she had diabetes.  They didn't even know she had diabetes.  They just never knew what they were going to get and that inconsistency just wasn't going to cut it at the highest level.  The national team stopped calling too because they were in the same boat.  When she was good there was nobody better but when she wasn't feeling well, she just looked like a lost puppy trying to go through the motions.

Eventually, the University of Utah took a chance on her.  Signed her up, brought her in, gave her a scholarship and THEN... sat her on the bench.  The coaches were split on whether to bring Ireland on or not so there was already THAT going in.  Her inconsistency continued which cost her playing time so she never really got the chance to prove herself.

You have no idea how many people were throwing ignorant comments out like...

  • she peaked in high school
  • maybe she peaked before high school
  • she can't play defense
  • she doesn't work hard

You name it.  It was said.  It was said by parents, by players, even by coaches who should've known a whole lot more about who she was and what she was.  Yeah, her own coaches had no clue about what kind of potential she had or how to get that incredible talent out of her.

This year started on a positive note.  Rich Manning, head coach of the University of Utah Women's Soccer team started playing her.  He gave her a legitimate chance.  And you know what happened?  Ireland completely blew it.  Yeah.  It was more of the same.  Great when she was great and a complete non-factor when she wasn't.  So where do you go from there?  It's called THE BENCH.  Yep.  Ireland's junior year and no more starting.  Playing time was minimal and it just seemed like the same nightmare she'd been living for the past two years.  So what did Ireland do?  She requested a sit down with all three of her coaches.  And that sit down made all the difference in the world.  You see as much as I want to blame the coaches for not getting the most out of Ireland and not seeing how talented she is, the truth was, they were right.  She just wasn't cutting it.  Diabetes or no diabetes it really didn't matter.  They were in the business of winning and if Ireland couldn't work through her diabetes, she was just another player on the team.

Ireland knew one thing coming out of that meeting.  These coaches were not looking at giving her a chance.  They were looking for every excuse to sit her on the sideline.  She had to BRING IT.  Every second of every game and if she didn't, she knew she'd fade off into soccer mediocrity where so many often do.  Ireland started scoring, and creating, and getting assist after assist after assist.  She led the PAC 12, a conference with teams like Stanford, UCLA, USC who had all won a national championship over the past few years... she led this group in assists for half the season.  She helped lead the University of Utah to the second best result in their PAC 12 history.  Ireland and I would have the same conversation before every game.  The reoccurring theme was... your coaches are looking for a reason to sit you.  DO NOT give them one.  You have to BRING IT every second.  And Ireland did.

They just had their end of the season banquet and Ireland, my daughter, that beautiful little girl who thought her life was over when she was diagnosed with diabetes was named the Offensive Player of the Year for the University of Utah's Women's Soccer Team.  PROUD doesn't begin to cover it.  This little girl has been an inspiration, an example, and THE DEFINITION of what it means to have heart.  All I can say is look out, she's got one year left and it's going to be BIG!

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