PHOTO: Glen Carrie, Unsplash

“My son made the JV team on his own merits. He didn’t play politics. His parents didn’t wrangle an ‘in.’ … So don’t call him weak.”

One of the toughest parts of going through yet another sports injury was the feeling that we were the only ones who ever went through back-to-back sports injuries.

My son received the all-clear from the hand specialist on the day he suffered a grade 2 MCL injury at practice. The orthopedic specialist said it would be six to eight weeks before James could even think about sports again.

We’re currently heading into week six, with no end in sight. James no longer feels pain and has full extension of his knee. His knee remains unstable, however, which hopefully continued PT will improve.

In the meantime, watching the remainder of the high school games has been a lesson in utter humiliation (humility), patience (inconvenience), and witnessing the innate self-serving, self-centered nature of others.

People who mean well have wound up saying some damned hurtful things about my injured child to my face. Their sons are out there on the pitch loving every moment, not a care in the world, so what do the parents care. They can afford to feel magnanimous with their dime store wisdom.

One friend actually said my son seems incredibly injury-prone, insinuating that there is some inherent physical defect that causes him to go from one bad break to another. Others have said the same thing, things that have even caused me to wonder if James is predisposed to injuries other stronger boys his age would never succumb to (i.e., maybe he doesn’t belong in sports).

It’s true that my son was diagnosed two years ago with asthma, a respiratory condition Seattle Children’s doctors have told me usually shows up much earlier, by grade school. He must always watch his allergies, take certain medications, vitamins, and take care to get plenty of rest.

But he plays the same as every “normal, healthy” boy on the pitch; even better than most, if you ask me.

An argument could be made for the finger fracture happening weeks before soccer tryouts, which effectively kept him from staying in top condition. While the other boys were probably playing Premier/Select soccer up to the day of tryouts, my son had to stay in a full arm cast for his broken pinky finger, taking care not to get his hand sweaty.

He couldn’t play any of the basketball games he went to practice for for many weeks as a Unified Team partner with Special Olympics. (He decided on the spot to join in the finals, one-handed, just to letter in the sport.)

He also chose to opt out of wearing a cast cover in order to continue playing Premier soccer tournaments and an indoor tournament with another team, since this was his first break and he wanted to be healed in plenty of time for the tryouts in Feb.

When the hand specialist cleared him to try out, we breathed such a sigh of relief. When he made the JV team, it was the happiest, the proudest I’d ever seen him. I saw a different soccer player those first three games representing his school. He was quicker, more powerful; I saw moves from that kid I’d never seen before. It seemed playing with other competitive boys upped my son’s game.

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Best of all, James loved his JV team.

Why this had to happen when it had to happen… I will never understand. I keep clinging to a blind faith that things happen for a reason, a better reason, that will be revealed somewhere down the line, that G-d has his own plan, and maybe this is a lesson we have to keep learning about responding to setbacks with grace.

I’ve been there when my son, a kid who never cries, stands there utterly defeated, feeling ashamed, tears on his face, hating himself and thinking he caused his own MCL injury because he was weak.

So, when you say stupid shit like, “That kid does seem injury prone,” “I don’t think anybody else has injured out the entire season on just an MCL sprain,” or “You think he’s ready for the big leagues?” (aka, “Maybe he’s too weak to stand up to those tough JV/Varsity drills”), that doesn’t help our situation. That, in fact, actually twists the knife even more.

Please keep your thoughtless comments to yourself, friends. You don’t know what we’ve been through. You certainly don’t know what my son’s made of, at all.

Some of you should know, since you’ve seen him MVP through tough tournaments that most kids his age couldn’t hack, perform miracles in the last five minutes of a game like the underdog he is to help pull off a first-place finish in the league, save your own sons’ asses, cover for them, and made them look good, and put up with more incompetent fucktards/behind-the-scenes political jostling than any teenager should have to — just to play a game he loves more than any other.

It’s easy for people to insulate/distance themselves from any and all hardships that they’ve never personally been through. It’s easier for them to forget what it’s like to be down on their luck, struggling to bounce back, while the world keeps spinning, leaving them behind. It’s oh-so-easy to focus only on immediate, short-term gratification than staying in there for the long haul, or focus only on the negative, while neglecting the positive.

When I see my son break down in private during such times, sometimes I hate those people.

My son made the JV team on his own merits, on his first try as a freshman. He didn’t play politics. His parents didn’t wrangle an “in.” He was never groomed as a toddler to be a soccer star, as we simply couldn’t afford the pricey leagues. He started soccer in third grade, a late bloomer, really, by today’s standards.

He made JV on his own. He even managed to impress a few of the returning Varsity players, some who actually thought he’d make it. One Varsity player told James he liked his hustle. The Varsity captain actually chose my son to be on his scrimmage team during tryouts.

He got to play three JV games — the proudest moment of his life. In the first one, he made an assist for what should’ve been the winning goal. (The other team would score almost at the 11th hour.) In the last two, he moved out of his mid-field spot to fill in as a defender, saving so many shots on goal from the opposing teams it was ridiculous, often taking the ball in the face at pointblank range, or outrunning and outgunning a forward to do it.

Don’t tell me my son is weak. He’s put up with more than you could ever deal with.

He’s got so much more going for him than one soccer season. The people who matter know this. For those who’ve stood by us, offered us only support, and made us feel like we’re all in this together, I love and thank you from the bottom of my heart. You guys have made going through this hell a whole helluva lot easier. I wish there were more people like you around.

Glad I got this off my chest.


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