Integrity for his Birthday

My son turned 15 on Saturday. He also scored big with his friends on the soccer field and experienced his first broken bone during a corner kick.

When he covered his face with his hands, then dropped to his knees in obvious pain, I let go of my umbrella in the pouring wind and rain, letting it fly away as I fixed my gaze on him — until he rose back up slowly, shook his head to indicate he was fine, and continued playing.

For a moment, I honestly feared his day had come: concussion time. Only, he didn’t walk off the pitch injury-free.

After the game, he walked toward me holding his right wrist gingerly, like he used to when he was three with a boo-boo. “I think I broke my pinky,” he said, incredulous. “It’s numb and hot at the same time. I felt my hand land hard on either the keeper’s skull or the goal post during that corner kick.”

Sigh, off to the walk-in clinic we went, closer to home — about 20 minutes away.

An x-ray later, yep. He chipped a part of the area near the growth plate of the second joint. It didn’t look too bad, just one small area slightly dislodged on impact, maybe another small chip on the other side. The doctor didn’t think he’d need surgery, but wrote a referral in his chart to see a hand surgeon this week asap to determine the extent of the damage and treatment. Then, she had a nurse put a buddy hand split on his pinky and ring finger, with a flexible cast up to almost his elbow.

She recommended he not play any sport for a week, which effectively took him out of the United Team Basketball season, kicking off this Thursday. Can you believe it?! He was so looking forward to his first game on a team that mixed high school students with Special Olympics athletes.

After taking the previous week off from soccer practice due to the flu, now he has to take yet another week off (so far) for this broken finger.

He definitely can’t go to soccer practice. He may not even be able to play in the Presidents Cup Sunday, the third and deciding game of the semis/finals. It all depends on what the hand specialist says.

We both took the news very well, laughing and joking. But underneath, I felt the air go out. I just really hope he doesn’t miss out on soccer tryouts for his high school as a freshman — the whole reason he tried out last spring for a Premier league. That would suck.

It happened to his friend, who broke his leg, weeks before his Varsity tryouts two years ago. Soren made Varsity the very next year, though, so all worked out.

That’s not even the best part. Sure, my son celebrated his birthday weekend in style, fit for a king, a ton of presents, including a TV in his own room, bluetooth for his decked-out computer system, gift cards, and tonight, a nice men’s cologne, styling brush, and gel from Ulta Beauty, not to mention those gold balloons still floating around.

But at the tournament game earlier today, he stood up for his teammate and friend. At halftime, James went toe to toe with the coach, and not the first time, refusing to let him ride his friend a minute longer. He was tired of this guy under-appreciating the offensive value his soccer brother brought to the pitch, game after game, making everyone else look good.

After the coach laid into James’ friend in the first half for trying to take the corner kick (James asked him to, because he’s better at it) — in front of everyone at that game, mind you — and then started in with the team at halftime about only wanting James to do the corner kicks because James was better at them, my son had had enough.

My son told the coach in no uncertain terms that his friend was the better corner kicker, and that without him, they wouldn’t have any of the offensive opportunities that led them to the wins and that last tie in the last tournament.

The other kids on the team don’t speak up like that, as most of them are younger. As far as I know, James is the only one who’s spoken his mind with the coach. At least one other player tried and was shut down.

“I just got fed up with these coaches treating Jackson like he’s no good when I know better,” James explained. (These two have played soccer and basketball together since at least sixth, seventh grade.)

When James got through stating his case, the coach had no response. During the second half, though, James’ friend took all the rest of the corner and free kicks. He had to anyway, because my son injured out with at least 10-15 minutes left.

James’ friend? He made an assist to a forward who scored his first goal since the Premier team started last spring. It would be the only goal for the team in the first loss of this new tournament.

Happy birthday.




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