When my oldest son Ryan was very young, maybe four, we had taken a bike ride at this time of year and cut through the high school. The football team was in the middle of two-a-days practice.
Ryan stopped his little silver bike and jumped off to watch. In the treeline that ran alongside the practice field, he juked and spun around trees pretending they were defenders and mirroring the moves of the big guys on the field. Cradled in his arms was his imaginary football.
Seems like yesterday to me. Today he is a 6-foot freshman who has spent every morning this summer out on that field or in the weight room—conditioning, lifting, working on agility drills, throwing the football with receivers, muscling through two-a-days. He woke up at six every morning to get there early.
Waiting even a few weeks to get back to the sport he loves is like asking him to give up eating. He got an early taste of what was to come this season last Saturday in a scrimmage. He took a few snaps at QB for the JV team. Still on his morning high, he was goofing around in the yard that evening with a bunch of neighborhood guys.
Ryan was running with the ball, was tackled from behind, lost his footing and fell on his shoulder. Rather than drop the ball to break his fall with his hands, he held onto the ball, fell and broke his left clavicle. He knew it the instant it happened.
Disappointment builds character. When I saw the x-ray, showing that his collarbone wasn't just broken, it was displaced—badly, I knew we were in for challenging few weeks. The bones weren't even touching. My heart sank. He worked so hard this summer, giving up sleep and downtime to work on his passion. In one instant, it was snapped away.
Yesterday was our first visit to the orthopedic and confirmation that it will be eight weeks before he can return. That gives him the possibility of maybe playing in the last three games of the season, provided it heals well.
The good news is that he's young, still growing and will not need surgery. The collarbone heals well with no real residual issues. It's his non-dominant side (not his throwing arm) so that's even better news.
But there was only one thing Ryan heard yesterday—No football for eight weeks.
He looked at me once the doctor left the room with tears in his eyes and said, "Mom, I can't play for eights weeks?"
It sucks. It sucks when you work so hard for something only to see it snatched away in an instant. The tackle was an accident and we had warned him and the neighbor kids many times to play touch, not tackle for just this reason.
"I'm such an idiot! I let the team down," Ryan said.
He was bummed big-time when we got home. Not even three junior bacon cheeseburgers could change his mood. But after a while, his buddy Jake came over and having his friend (and right tackle) hanging around cheered him up. Grandma stopped over on her way home from work. Then a few of the seniors stopped by with wings from BW3. The phone started ringing as news spread. I was amazed by the support, particularly from the senior parents, in letting us know that he would get through this—that we all would get through this.
Their advice was so good. Get him back up to practice, tell him to ask the coaches to give him a job to do. There's much to learn about football just from watching how the linemen move, seeing how decisions are made, watching how the older players handle situations and just being around his friends.
Today is a new day. Ryan is still devastated that he can't play for a while. But he woke this morning, asked for some help getting cleaned up and had his dad drive him up to practice.
Sure he's disappointed, but he's a competitor and this is about his team. And he's not going to miss out on helping and supporting his teammates no matter how badly he feels about himself.