Those of you who know me probably know that I coach my kids in sports. I have probably coached over 30 teams between my two sons in everything from soccer to baseball, flag football to basketball and most of all, tackle football. I have coached literally hundreds of kids and get a lot of satisfaction seeing kids grow and knowing I may have helped them along the way.
There are some kids who I really admire for their character and spirit, in addition to their talent. I always make sure to tell parents that they have done a great job with the children when I see kids like that. Some of these kids I coach over and over again in football and basketball. I am good friends with their parents and having a team of kids I am familiar with and who are familiar with me makes coaching even more fun.
Over the years I have been really lucky I guess. None of the kids I coach have gotten really hurt. A sprain or bruise here or there, but nothing too serious. Most of the kids who have been hurt on my teams actually didn’t get hurt playing ball. They got hurt off the field. I guess I took it for granted.
Today though I had a taste of the other side. One of the boys who I have coached in football and basketball for 4 years now (that is a lot for a 10 year old boy), fell down with his arm under him. He cried out in pain immediately. I followed all my first aid training and did everything I was taught. Ice, immobilize the arm, calm him down and his dad (one of my assistant coaches) and I took him to the car to take over to the ER.
I ended practice shortly after and headed over to the ER myself. My player had fractured and dislocated his elbow. They were waiting for the pediatric orthopedist to perform surgery. I was sick to my stomach.
The fact is the boy is the best player on my team and it is going to be hard for my team to overcome this and be successful. But really, who cares? This little boy who have I have seen grow so much over the years, who embodies everything that youth sports is about was in so much pain. I couldn’t do anything to help him. I called in some favors and had them roust the pediatric orthopedist out of bed, but that was nothing. This boy got hurt on my watch. He was one of my boys. He and his family have become like my family over the years. He is like one of my own kids.
Yes, I know it was not my fault and there was nothing I can do about it. I have spent hours learning and studying the latest techniques in promoting safety. Am certified in first aid, CPR, concussion and heat exhaustion. But in sports this stuff happens. A kid falls wrong and they break a bone. All of a sudden for the first time I am not liking coaching.
I don’t know if I will feel differently tomorrow or next week. I have 23 other kids on the team I have to be there for. But right now I am just not feeling it. I think tonight I learned what it is like to really be a coach. The toughest lesson a coach has to learn. I hope I am as strong at the little boy on my team who got hurt and will come back better than ever and be a better coach for it. But right now that seems a long way off.