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How the Dad of a 7-Year-Old Softball Phenom Keeps Her Grounded

Practice, patience, and a little pool time at the hotel go a long way.

The following story was brought you by Days Inn, the hotel that makes every day brighter.

Being a dad isn’t easy, of course. But it’s doubly difficult being a dad, softball coach, chief cheerleader, and bag handler. That’s what Andy Iwai is to his seven-year-old daughter, Audrey. Needless to say, he revels in the role.

“It’s really exciting for me,” Andy says. He grew up playing baseball and passed his love of the game down to his daughter. “I’ve always been around the field, so her wanting to play definitely got me excited.” So excited, in fact, that Andy practices throwing, fielding, pitching, and hitting the softball with her for forty minutes or more a day — both at home and when they’re traveling for games.

Andy and his daughter (along with her all-star team) frequently make trips around their local area to compete. It can be a demanding schedule, but Andy makes sure to support his daughter in a variety of different ways. That often starts with managing tempers and egos, especially during practice. “When we’re training, if she’s not getting something or if something’s more of a challenge for her, I think it frustrates her,” Andy says. “She’s pretty fiery.”

How to manage a fiery 7-year-old? Well, that’s never easy. But Andy makes sure to teach his daughter lessons in, as he says, “letting things go.” It’s a process. “In those times when she gets really frustrated,” he says, “whether she’s pitching or whether something didn’t go right at the plate, it’s just a matter of letting it go. It’s also being patient on my part and not letting her see my frustration.”

Andy makes sure to convey to Audrey that you won’t always win — no matter how many hours of practice you put in. And it’s just as important to have fun playing as it is to train. “I want the best for her,” he says. “I know she wants to be the best out there, but when you’re playing with girls a few years older than you, it’s not always going to work out your way. She’s learning that, but she’s having a great time with it.”

Having fun can be exhausting — and Andy appreciates the value of relaxing before a game and having downtime after. That’s partially why he chooses to stay at Days Inn on the road. “It’s a perfect little spot to stay at because when you’re playing, you’re going to the games, you’re coming back, you’re showering and you’re going to be really tired,” he says. “It’s convenient, it’s clean, and it makes sense economically. Plus, they have a swimming pool for the girls to hang out after games and you wake up in the morning, go down and have breakfast.”

At the hotel, Audrey gravitates to the swimming pool — as does the rest of her team. “After three or four games on the field that day,” says Andy, “they get back and they want to have a good time. They just want to hang out with their friends and go swim in the pool, be kids.”

That’s a theme that comes up a lot when you talk to Andy. He values the hard work. He values the competitive spirit. But he loves to remind himself that, at the end of the day, these are little girls. “I couldn’t even fathom myself at that age doing those things,” he says.

He supports — and rewards — Audrey with pool time at the Days Inn and a doll every once in a while. But he sees the ultimate reward as something a little more profound. “She plays because she loves it,” he says. Not because he pushes her to. And when other people see how hard she works and how much she loves the game, that’s rewarding in and of itself. “She has parents telling her that their kids are inspired by how hard she works,” Andy says. “We’re very proud of her.”