Feet on dashboards, a grand Tulsa hotel visit

There’s nothing like the day before a big tournament.

You find yourself scurrying around the house trying to find all of your uniforms, asking your parents if they got Gatorade for the weekend and making sure you have all of your equipment before you leave. 

This all happened before the 5.5-hour drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma, began last weekend.

After everything is packed the nerves kick in. Getting to sleep is ridiculously hard. Any young athlete understands this feeling, lying awake in bed thinking about plays and how you need to perform. 

Finally sleep takes over and mental preparation has begun and by the time 10 a.m. rolls around, you are ready to hit the road. 

The five-plus hour drive may seem like nothing, but it is really about to be the longest ride of your life, as a straight shot from Leavenworth to Tulsa on I-69 South ends up being one with only two lanes for the whole drive. 

This makes the trip seem like forever due the fact that you are stuck behind four semis, two tractors and a truck carrying cows and chickens. 

All that time, you have your feet on the dashboard, staring at cattle and farmland and talking to your dad about how you need to perform and the mindset you need in this college exposure tournament.  

It could be worse.

Somewhere along the never-ending road, sleep once again takes over for the remaining part of the trip. 

You are awakened to the GPS saying, “arrived at destination,” and finally, you get to get out of the cramped car and stretch your legs. 

You have arrived to your home for the weekend or at least what is supposed to feel like home.

After loading the cooler and all the bags into the luggage cart, food is sounding pretty nice. 

Food and sleep are two of an athlete’s most favorite things and the thought of how hungry you are has finally gone away and you are just noticing how nice the hotel is. 

There is a huge fountain in the middle of the lobby, not to mention a restaurant and snack bar inside the hotel.

OK, who said that being away from home was that bad? Sure, being away from home and staying in a nice hotel are great, but the fun hasn’t even started. 

Tomorrow is when the real fun starts and is the reason you are there: to play some softball.

The day continues to get better as your teammates – or sisters as they are called – start arriving at the hotel. 

We start exploring the hotel, watching the Women’s College World Series (for softball) in the lobby, and basically eating all the food the hotel has to offer. 

Moments like this with your team are the most important things we experience as a young athlete. When you get older you will not remember every play of every game or every at bat of a game, but you will remember all of the great memories that you and your teammates made together.  

These are the things that no one tells you about being a young, competitive athlete. No one tells you about the long drives and the preparation that comes with being a competitive athlete. No one tells you about the stress being put on 14-15-year-old kids that are training to be the very best.

It is not about the games you play or the tournaments you win. 

It is all about the experience in every trip and learning more about who you are. Being a young athlete prepares you for life in so many aspects. 

It is 5.5-hour drives to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with your dad that make all the hard work worth it.

Riley Phillips is a sophomore-to-be at Lansing High School. She hopes to keep readers updated over the summer on some of the more unique experiences the high school athlete comes across as they compete during this time of year. She may also try to hit a few homers while she’s at it. If you have any questions for Riley, send them to sports@leavenworthtimes.com