Helping Your Teen Deal with a Sports Injury

So, your teenager is injured and is out for the rest of the season. Of course, his or her initial reaction will be anger, sadness, self-pity, confusion. That is normal, since this is a form of grief – the loss of something beloved.

But after a few days of sulking and trying to come to grips with the loss, a young athlete has a choice to make. Will he or she make the very best of the situation, or not?


3d rendered illustration of a painful shoulderWhen I was a high school freshman, I was a big shot quarterback, playing up with the older kids on the junior varsity team. In the first game of the year, I played well enough to lead the team to a win, but I broke my collarbone on one of the last plays of the game. That was it for the season. No more football until next year.

After a week of pain and anger at home, I was back at school, feeling better but not able to run, throw, or do anything athletically. It seemed totally pointless to go to practice or games, so I just stopped showing up. I would hang out after school for a little while, then get to my homework early.

After a few days, one of my coaches asked me when I would show up to practice and games. I was surprised. I said, “I wasn’t planning on it, since I can’t play for the rest of the season.”

Coach pushed back a little, “Well, you can come to the games at the very least and still be a part of the team, right?”

I didn’t know what to say. I had written off the team in my frustration and was finally enjoying some freedom.

As it turned out, I chose to do my own thing. I did not show up to any more practices or games all year. I did not think about the fact that I was choosing to NOT bond with the guys on the team and to NOT learn from the coaches and be helpful. Even if I had just showed up at games and held a clipboard for a coach, that would be have been something. But I did nothing.

I regret that decision. It was immature of me.


Now that my son has a similar injury in his freshman year, I am trying to help him see the silver lining in the dark cloud. He absolutely loves soccer and has worked very hard year-round to improve his skills and get in shape. And I applaud him for that. But now it is time to deal with the setback: 3-4 weeks without playing his favorite sport.

It’s a test:

  1. Can he deal with adversity? Will he sulk on and on, or will he work on having a decent attitude?
  2. Can he be a good bench player? Will he show up to the games and encourage his teammates?
  3. Will he work on the skills that he can (shooting, juggling), while still caring for his injury?
  4. Will he try to learn some bits of strategy from the coaches?
  5. Will he bond with his teammates and coaches?

My role as parent is to help my son think this through. I won’t demand and command. Instead, I will try to teach and train. Hopefully, he will see things my way soon.

How he handles himself is not something I can control. I can, however, guide him in the right direction.

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