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