I’ve been a multiple sports parent for years. Having five very active children, this was my destiny. I shuttle to and from practices. I sit out in all sorts of weather for practices and games. The start of the season may be hot as Hades, but it’s guaranteed that by the end of the season Old Man Winter has arrived with his Arctic blasts. And vice versa depending on the sport and season.
One thing has always been difficult for me. Not the weird sunburns from sitting out at a baseball field all day for two or more straight days in the blistering heat or the mounds of nasty smelling sports gear in my laundry room,
although I can, and do gripe about those things. No, the absolute worst thing is seeing a kid down on the ground during a game or a practice. With kids in football, I see this more often than I care to count. Every time my heart jumps into my throat and I do the only thing I can do…pray.
Kids get injured walking down the street, or trip over their untied shoelaces, or just about anything.
But seeing a child take a baseball to the chest because the batter hit the ball just so or seeing five big dudes pile up on a little pip-squeak carrying a football or seeing a child twisted into a proverbial pretzel in a wrestling match…as a momma, that’s hard to see.
Now some folks would simply say…Take your kid out of the sport. Kids shouldn’t play tackle football…haven’t you heard all the hazards from the NFL? Some folks would wrap up their little sweetpeas in bubble-wrap. (Yes, I’ve considered that at times) I even know folks that do not allow their children to play ANY sports. Not because the child doesn’t want to. Most children do at some point want to try at least one sport.
Speaking from experience here…my parents didn’t allow me to play a sport. No, I got piano lessons. “But Mom! I want to play soccer!” Nope. That fell on deaf ears. My resolution, as a result…I vowed to let my children try out any and every sport they wanted. And they took me up on it…literally, aside from hockey, not much these kids haven’t played.
Fast forward this story to the main crux…
Like I mentioned above, seeing an injured player on the field (any sports field or venue) hurts my heart, whether it’s my kid or not. But last weekend, I got a big dose of heart-stopping Momma-fear as I watched my son play in his high school football game. He was having the game of his life. It was almost halftime and our team was rocking!
That is until I watch in horror as my son, after getting piled on by a bunch of defenders from the other team, laid on the field a few moments too long. His teammates helped him up and he walked over to the sideline and …collapsed.
His father and I waited at the fence separating the stands from the field. And waited. The trainers and coaches tended to him while time ran out for the first half of the game. Players and coaches went to the locker rooms while the sports trainers evaluated my child. He was awake, but we didn’t know what was going on.
To say my heart stopped would be the most accurate description. I didn’t dare breathe or turn my eyes away from my son a few yards away. Finally, the trainer and coach came over to tell us about his condition…most likely a concussion. My son didn’t recall coming off the field and just remembered waking up already on the sideline. He’d blacked out but somehow made it off the field under his own power.
The trainers sent us to an Urgent Care facility. The doctors there sent us to the Emergency Room to get a CT scan to check for brain swelling or bleeding. Thank the Lord all was well. Still…concussion.
It’s been a hard week watching my son recover. No tv, no phone, no electronics, no computer, no Xbox, no practice, no driving, and just a few hours of school a day. He still experiences headaches, and his vision and hearing are sensitive, can’t focus for more than a few minutes at a time, ….basically, all the classic concussion symptoms. The worst for him? Being told that he could NOT practice and he absolutely could NOT play in the game this week.
He’s on the road to recovery and we are blessed he is doing as well as he is.
A week later, I wanted to reflect on what I felt as we prepare to go to the game tonight. My son will be safely tucked away on the sideline, but there is always the risk of injury to other players. As a sports mom, I feel I’ve adopted each and every one of my son’s teammates. I go to this game tonight less light-hearted than prior games. There’s almost nothing I love more than a football game. There’s almost nothing I love less than seeing a young athlete injured on the field, or in any sport.
Parents, and those of you thinking to become parents one day, I want you to know if and when your child is injured, you are not alone. Every parent, every teacher, every coach, every friend, is with you, feels for you, cries with you, and stands to support you as fear clutches your heart over your child. I have never felt so much love, support, and kinship as I have this past week. Fellow parents called and texted endlessly asking “What can I do?” Every day his friends and their parents have called and texted to check on my son. Everyone at that game, I truly believe, felt their own hearts jump into their throats when they saw my son on the ground.
Little kids that he coaches on the middle school team have been constantly badgering his younger brothers for updates. They look up to him. They admire him and some outright adore him. To them, he’s a football hero. It warms my heart to see just how great an impact he’s had on their lives as their coach and a positive role model. If he’d never played football, that would have been lost.
The answer is not to stop your children from playing sports, or only allowing them to play “safe” sports. Children find amazingly new and creative ways to get hurt every day. Sports adds a certain degree of danger, that is for certain. But I truly believe that to keep them from playing a sport they wish to try out, or a sport they already love, would be a disservice to the child.
Every sport has layers of protection in place to keep the children as safe as possible. But nothing is ever absolute. My son had all the protections and precautions during his game. Shoulder pads? Check. Cleats? Check. Sports cup? Check. Expensive, 100% dental guaranteed mouthguard? Check. Expensive helmet mom paid extra for? Check. Badly covered turf field with concrete under the thin top layer at the other team’s stadium? Sadly, check.
My son is on the road to recovery. We go back next week for a re-evaluation. In the meantime, we are going to the game tonight and will cheer on our team. And if any player is injured, no matter what team, our hearts will go out to him and his family and friends. We will wait with bated breath, holding hands with our fellow team parents, and silently (or not) pray for that child.
Being a sports parent is hard. Usually, it’s just the chaotic schedules and traveling. Sometimes, it’s heart-wrenching fear that clutches your chest and doesn’t ease until the player leaves the field of his own accord or flashes a thumbs up to let the crowd know he’s okay. When it’s your own child, reach for the hand of the parent next to you. You may not even talk much outside of games, but I guarantee they will be there to support you and will be praying right alongside of you.
Because every parent of a child on a team “adopts” every other child on that team. I am the proud “mom” of well over a hundred kids (3 football teams, 2 wrestling teams, 1 swim team, and 1 baseball team), even though I only gave birth to five. And after this past week, I know my children have many more “moms” and “dads” out there supporting them and caring for them. My children have tons of “brothers” and “sisters”, usually called teammates. I’ve witnessed these teammates bond over the years and know they are more than teammates, more than friends…they are family.
So, as the parent of a child currently recovering from a concussion and the parent of children who have had other injuries throughout their childhood from sports, I urge you to not prohibit your child from playing a sport out of fear of injury. Children’s lives are so enriched by being active, learning new skills, but the best part is…their family grows exponentially.
Thank you to all my Mavericks parents and my son’s teammates for your love and support. Thanks to the coaches and trainers that have taken special care of him during his recovery. And thanks to his teammates for always being there for him, and basically keeping him sane while he has to lay off the electronics, and getting him to school, inviting him to dinner to get him out of the house while not over-doing it. You guys are the absolute best!
***And a special shout-out, Thanks, to my own wonderful support system of writers (Vicious and Delicious Scribbers – you totally rock) who have put up with my inattention, lack of focus, and listened to me whine all week. My creativity has been null and void this week. My children say that I have a phantom concussion, because there have been times I couldn’t put two words together, much less a complete sentence.***