The fun part of having kids who play sports is watching them play and succeed–score a goal, hit a home run, catch a touchdown pass, make a three-point basket. But be forewarned, if your child plays sports for any length of time, injuries will happen. They’re an inevitable part of an athlete’s life.
It’s hard to describe the feelings that go through a mother as she watches her child go down–and not get up quickly–on the field or court. It’s nauseau, panic, and disappointment all rolled into one as questions destroy joy of mere seconds before: how bad is it? how long with they be out? do we need to get x-rays? where’s the doctor?
Getting a diagnosis and treatment for the injury is easy; the hard part comes in the days/weeks/months of recovery that follow. What can your child do to make the most of this frustrating time?
Be a fan.
Even injured, your athlete is part of a team and should attend practices (unless the injury has put them out for the entire season) and games. If they hope to come back and play during the season, an apathetic attitude will not help their cause. Encourage your child to be a cheerleader on the bench and show support for teammates.
Be consistent with therapy.
Ice, exercise, elevate or brace–whatever the therapist has ordered. After the first couple of days, it gets too easy to forget, especially when the injury is at that dangerous stage of where it feels better, but is still not fully healed. But they need to know that the more faithful they are about treating their injury, the quicker their recovery. And even though you think you know better, listen to the doctor. If your athlete starts playing before they’ve been released, they risk re-injury. It’s just not worth the gamble.
When kids are injured and cannot play or practice for an extended period of time, they should not expect to return to their previous level of play at the first week of practice. It just doesn’t happen that way. They’ve been out; they are rusty, they have fallen behind teammates who have been practicing daily. It takes time to get back into shape and when your child is on the varsity level, getting up to speed is hard. Athletes must work hard, be persistent, exercise patience, and realize that injuries result in more than broken bones, pulled muscles, and twisted ankles; they result in playing set-backs that take time to overcome. Even the pros go through extensive rehab and practice before they hit the field or court in real-time. Kids and parents often expect too much too soon.
We’ve run the gammet of injuries in our household. From a broken arm during soccer to a tweaked ankle during volleyball to an emergency appendectomy that ended my son’s senior football season as quarterback. But in each case, our kids needed to know that being out of commission from something they loved was not the end of the world. They would be back. It’s hard for them to be patient and realize that “this too shall pass.” Let them vent their frustration, but remind them that they will heal and they can play again, even if it’s not this season.
While playing a sport teaches our kids life-lessons, so does being injured. Patience, perseverance, selflessness–these character traits can not only be developed on the court and field, but on the bench as well.