With his permission, I thought I'd share Ryan's narrative essay on overcoming an adversity. He wrote about his collarbone break, which he originally said was a stupid idea, for freshman English. "That's not that big of a deal," he told me. "It was to you," I said. "To write a good narrative, you have to write emotionally about something true to you. Others will relate to it because they may have experienced similar feelings in a different setting."
The only tip I gave him was how to get started. Originally, he was starting with the day the break happened. I told him to think about the worst day of the experience. It wasn't the day of the break. He paused at the computer and said, "Strimbu's office that first time was the worst day." So I told him, "Start there." And off he went. This is his essay as he wrote it, though I broke up the paragraphs for easier reading. He got an A on the essay and his English teacher told me during conferences that she learned a lot about how important athletics are for student athletes as a result of what he shared.
“No football.” Those words rang in my head for hours as I thought about what a stupid decision I had made three nights before. The doctor told me that it wasn’t a big deal and that at least I had basketball to look forward to. That was not what I had wanted to hear, especially after all the hard work and time I had put into football this summer.
All summer long I had been getting up at 6:30 A.M. to go to the lifting and conditioning sessions starting the first day of summer. On top of that everyday after lifting I would spend an hour or more throwing routes to my receivers, and working on my footwork. I had high expectations for myself and my teammates in what was going to be my first high school football season. My sessions with my receivers were helping. We were getting our timing down very well and I was throwing some of the best balls I’ve ever thrown.
The day before our first scrimmage, coach called my parents to see if it would be alright with them if I started JV in the scrimmage the next day. The scrimmage was mainly a varsity scrimmage so there wasn’t much time for the JV players, but the time we did have I felt I made the best of in impressing the coaches. I felt invincible and on top of the world because I had just given everyone a taste of what was yet come and I was excited.
Later on that night before the Browns pre-season game we were playing a little pick-up game to kick off the season. For some reason I played really hard and as I was being tackled I tried to lower my shoulder and truck through my friend but he jumped on my back and I landed hard on the grass shoulder first. I heard a loud cracking sound and I knew right away what had happened. I shouted, “Go get my Dad. I just broke my collarbone!” Of course they didn’t believe me and they thought it was funny until they saw how displaced the bone was.
When I was in the emergency room I knew it was bad, but the thought of it ending my season never really crossed my mind. It wasn’t until the orthopedic told me I was looking at a minimum of 8 weeks, which would’ve given me two games left to play in and that was only if everything went fast in the healing process, that I realized I may miss the whole season.
It sounds silly because it was just football, but it affected my self-confidence as I started high school. The one place that I was 100 percent sure of myself was on the football field and being a part of the team already made me feel like I had started high school. Even though I was still on the team, not being able to participate didn’t fit with the vision I had in my head for how my high school career would start. It even affected my grades in school. I couldn’t concentrate at first and I found myself continuously day-dreaming about football. I couldn’t get over the fact that no sooner had I been given this great opportunity that I had blown it.
I would come home everyday and tell my parents how much I wish I could take back that day. Even more than that, I felt like I had let my teammates and coaches down. Because the football program is so small it messed up the whole coaching game plan and many had to move around positions. I know that programs have to do that all the time but I felt like I was the one to blame for all this.
Each week to get through I would distract myself from it by giving myself little jobs to do like filling up water bottles and fetching balls. Just being there also helped because one of the reasons I love football so much is the atmosphere.
The hardest part to get over was pre-game because that’s when I normally am getting really pumped up and excited to go out and do what I need to do to lead my team to victory but I couldn’t do that. Instead I had to watch my friends get ready and go out and have fun and I just felt so helpless and left out.
Freshman and JV games were bad, but varsity was the worst. Everybody dressed for those games regardless of your class, and when the whole school and town are there to watch while everyone is in uniform and ready to play, I’m standing in street clothes feeling left out again. To pass the time I would stick near the offensive coordinator, quarterback coach and the quarterbacks themselves to see what I could pick up and use to my advantage for my return.
Fortunately, I was never the only one in street clothes on the sideline, there were many other injuries through out the season that sidelined my teammates for various durations and we all stuck together and tried to help each other get through our injuries.
Week 8 rolled around and I had a decision to make as to whether I make a risky return or wait it out for the next season to avoid further injury. As much as I wanted to come back and play this season, the severity of the injury meant that one big hit could result in a re-fracture, causing me to also lose the upcoming basketball season.
By the time I had gotten to the doctor’s office I had pretty much made up my mind as to what I wanted to do, and that was to let the bone thoroughly heal and not to risk re-injuring the bone by coming back this season. Six weeks before it would’ve been impossible to imagine that I’d be already at the point where I needed to make a decision on my return. With the season winding down and only two games left to play there wasn’t really much I could do to help the team by returning. I realized that the best thing I could do for my team was to think about returning strong next year.
In football, I’m normally one of the guys that never comes off the field, but this injury gave me a perspective of the kids that don’t get to play. They put in just as much time as me and they may only get in a few plays a game.
As soon as the basketball season is over I will begin my lifting program again and if I even think for a second about complaining I will think about this past season I spent and how bad I missed everything.
After the fall athletic meeting just before school started my 7th grade brother and I walked over to look at the new turf field and I told him I miss everything. “Don’t you ever take any of it for granted,” I said. I told him, “I miss the heat, the hitting, the sound, the grass, the sweat, and even the smell of football.”
Basketball season has ended, with the freshman team as West Shore Conference champs. Lifting is in full swing and aside from a few sore muscles, Ryan has remained true to his word and has not complained. He'll be playing in a 7-on-7 flag football league starting on Saturday night with some of the varsity players. We practically had to pull him off the ceiling when he got the call to participate. It's another year and a new season.
Word of the day
bildungsroman: a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character