Sports make up just a small part of a student's high school experience, even when an athlete is part of a standout program. That may have never been made more clear than on Saturday, when a Los Angeles-area softball team forfeited a chance to win an early season tournament so its players could dance with their dads. Perhaps more surprising was the person who made the final decision to pull out of the tournament: The team's coach.
As first reported by the Los Angeles Times, the squad forced to decide between dad and a softball game was Glendora (Calif.) St. Lucy's School, which was competing in the annual Brea Olinda softball tournament. St. Lucy's started Saturday with a 14-0 rout of Capistrano Valley (Calif.) High in the opening game for both teams, earning a spot in the tournament's winner's bracket against Fullerton (Calif.) Sunny Hills High. That game was to be played at 7 p.m.
Unfortunately for the St. Lucy's players, the school's traditional Father-Daughter Senior Dance -- which was described as a 50-year school institution by the Times staff writer Lance Pugmire -- was also held on Saturday at 7 p.m. Foreseeing such a conflict, St. Lucy's coach Ryan Nuveman had arranged for the school's junior varsity team to fill in and replace the team's senior members.
As it turns out, that forward thinking still couldn't save the St. Lucy's seniors, because a miscommunication left the junior varsity players unavailable on Saturday night, too. That meant the senior girls had to decide between a softball game to set the team up for a potential key tournament title or a chance to dance with their dads in a long-running -- and heart-warming -- school tradition.
To avoid potential heartbreak -- from both players and fathers -- Nuveman wouldn't even let his players decide whether to dance or play, single-handedly ordering all of his seniors to go to the dance, even though it meant that his team would be eliminated.
"You guys are all going to the dance!" Nuveman reportedly told the squad and their assembled fathers, including Pugmire. "Go dance with your fathers."
As it turns out, there was a good reason why Nuveman refused to allow any of his players to stay behind and play the game instead of going to the dance: His sister, former U.S. softball Olympian Stacey Nuveman, had once been a Father-Daughter dancer at St. Lucy's with the Nuvemans' Dad, Tom Nuveman, who now serves as a St. Lucy's assistant coach.
If anyone questioned whether the greater St. Lucy's community thought that was the right decision as a whole, one of the school's teachers -- who happens to be a former St. Lucy's student herself -- made clear just how much the Father-Daughter dance can mean as a memory down the road.
"Some of the girls never get that wedding dance with their dads," said St. Lucy's teacher Erica Hamel, a former student at the school. "I have many friends whose dads died before they were married. So their last picture with their dads was on the Father-Daughter dance floor. It's a very special thing."
There will be other softball tournaments, certainly at the state playoff level if not before then. There won't be another Father-Daughter dance. Thanks to the St. Lucy's coach, the softball team's players all got to go, whether they wanted to or not.
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