The Roller Coaster of Football

The ups:

Nico football 2013 2

Nico Football 2013

Tommy football 2013

Both boys’ teams won. Both boys played well.

 

The Downs:

Tommy accident

 

We were playing Bartlett and the #16th play of the game (I know because I have watched the video over and over and over again, wishing for a different outcome), Tommy went to tackle the kid with the ball and it didn’t end well for Tommy. Tommy went down and I knew it was bad. I heard it. (I won’t discuss what I think happened after watching the video in slow motion because I am watching from the point of view as Tommy’s mom.)

My heart sank and Belle said, “Mom, go over there.” I have that really bad thing that when I am nervous, I am a tad mean and I turned to her and said, “Shut up!” I did not mean that and it was SO uncalled for but I thought if I didn’t go over there it wouldn’t be bad. He’d get up like he usually does. But I knew. I walked over and one of the Bartlett coaches saw me and my panicked face, told me to go on the field and proceeded to try to calm me down. I was okay. I wasn’t crying. He was moving. Having a hard time catching his breath but moving. Then they said, “Call an ambulance” and I lost it. It was precautionary, they said. Just to make sure.

I cannot even begin to describe how awesome the coaches, parents and kids are on our football team. A bonus of our kids being a part of the football culture is that the parents have an immediate “family” feeling and an immediate bond. We all live with this thought in the back of our heads that this can happen so we get it. I had the girls with me and immediately, the moms said, “Don’t worry. We got it.” They made sure my car got home because Leo and I took two cars and I was going in the ambulance with Tommy. The guys from the Bartlett organization were the nicest guys. Just so accommodating and sweet. They made sure I could stay with Tommy. I pulled it together while waiting for the ambulance. I’ll tell you, it was the longest 6 minutes of my life. I lost it again when they taped him to the stretcher.

The ambulance ride was Hell. He was in so much pain that they had to start an IV to give him pain meds. He was trying to get his helmet off because his head hurt. Once we got in a room and his helmet was off, he was much better so the questions began: “Did they score after I left?” “Did the guy get a penalty for that tackle?” “What’s the score now?” “How much time?” “Who has the ball now?” It killed him not be there.

All the tests came back normal. It was ruled a mild concussion, not because the tests showed that but because he had a headache.

He cried three times: Right after it happened, in the ambulance and when the doctor told him he was out for at least a week.

The ER doctor was very nice. He started telling me all the information on concussions. I listened and did feel a little on the defense about why I let my kids play and the answer is simple. It is who they are. I didn’t choose this for them. They chose it for themselves and the reality is that a kid could get just as hurt playing on a playground or playing in a friend’s basement or changing a shoe after stepping in dog crap from someone else’s dog. Gia doesn’t play any sports and has already been to the ER three times for head injuries.

I have to trust his coaches (which I do completely) and trust that all the players are going to play a clean game.

Today, Tommy is doing well but is sore without all of the pain meds that were pumped into him yesterday. He’s a fighter, that kid so I have no doubt he’ll be back to his old self soon. Coaches, good luck keeping him down at practices. :)

 

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Dear Tommy

Dear Tommy,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I missed your basketball games yesterday. While I’m apologizing, I’m sorry I missed a lot of your baseball games last season. It was so much easier when Dad coached Nico and not you because then he had to be at Nico’s and I had to be at yours. I got to see you go from a flag football player that was unsure of yourself to a younger player holding your own on the older team to a player playing with his own age commanding the field. Watching you play the games you love makes my heart want to burst with pride. You are such a quiet soul in this family, always looking up to Nico, taking a backseat to whatever drama might be going on with Belle and understanding that Gia needs attention constantly. I want you to know that I always want to be watching you.

Yesterday, I made it to one of your games and it made me feel so good when one of the parents said to me that you play with your whole heart. You really do. Sometimes it makes it hard to watch because you get so upset when you don’t play like you want to or when the games start to go south. I want to yell at players whose hands are in your face or who are grabbing at you. You see, since you are my youngest son, I feel fiercely protective over you. When your feelings get hurt or someone is not nice to you (even though they are just playing the game…a little too aggressively maybe but that comes with playing the sports you do), the mama bear in me comes roaring out.

I love that in life, you go with the flow. You might be upset about something but you are not a “reactor”.  You have never needed me to entertain you and rarely tell me you’re bored. You blow me away with your creativity and I really think you could be a writer if you wanted to be. Wherever you are, there is sure to be laughter because nothing makes you happier than making people laugh. I often say that God sent you to us to make sure we laugh every single day.

 

Rarely do I get a serious face.

Rarely do I get a serious face.

 

You are so hard on yourself in every aspect of your life. In sports, in school and with CF. You take it personally when you strike out or when you don’t do well on a test or when you have a hard time gaining weight. You want so much to be like Nico and you are but I appreciate how different you guys are, too. You get things done and are the first one ready when we have somewhere to go. You have a strong sense of who you are and who you want to be and are never afraid to stand up for what you believe in. It made me so proud in church when the speaker asked people to raise their hands if they accept Jesus in their heart and you were one of the first ones to raise your hands.

This having four kids at four different stages makes it so hard to be in four places at once. It’s hard to explain to you why Gia won’t last at an all day tournament in a gym where she has to sit on the bleachers for 6 hours. I know it’s hard for you to understand why I have to say yes to Belle to have friends over (because I mostly say no to her) or why I have to be home when Nico and his friends are here. It makes me sad to miss so much of your stuff and I am jealous that Dad always gets to go (but I don’t think we could trade since I wouldn’t be a very good coach).

Yesterday was one of those days that I was able to go to one of your games but you were unhappy with the way you played most of the time. After you guys won and I went to say, “Good job,” it broke my heart to see the disappointment on your face when I told you I had to leave. When Dad texted me that you guys won the second game and were now in the championship, I had a house full of girls that I couldn’t leave or bring so I missed you winning the championship. I know there will be other games and other championships and other wins but I am so sorry that I missed that one.

I’ll try to get better at this managing during your sports seasons so that I don’t miss as much (I even bought a portable potty so that Gia can use at the baseball fields). Just because you don’t demand to be my first priority doesn’t mean you’re not or that you shouldn’t be. I love you, Bud, with my whole heart and I’m so proud of you.

Love,

Your very bummed mom.

20130302_150418

 

Parents of more than one child in activities, how do you manage? Are you struggling with it as well or are you lucky enough that the activities don’t overlap?

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Part 3: New York and Football

Disclaimer: This is long. There was so much to take in at the luncheon and I want very much to bring it to all of you readers so I apologize for its length but it after two days of trying to shorten it, I realized that it just wasn’t possible.

I love football. I didn’t always love it. In high school, I did. I cheered for it. In college, it was eh. I dated Leo who played in high school and probably had aspirations to go further but was sidelined by an injury he sustained in basketball and he loved it so there was a lot of watching football and then when we got married, every Sunday was devoted to football watching. I didn’t really love it, I’ll be honest. I endured it because I loved him and well…if I’m being honest, I kind have a thing for football players (I know…shocking). I am a football mom, through and through. From the time Nico was a baby, he had a football, a basketball or a baseball in his hand. He was very driven to play. Tommy, seeing his big brother playing, followed right behind him. There was never any question that they were going to play. Did I worry? Of course but I trusted the programs that they were in. I trusted their coaches.

I wrote about how I came to get invited to the NFL safety commission luncheon but what I didn’t say in the other post was how Leo ended up going. In one of our emails back and forth, I told Clare, the woman from the NFL, that it was funny that I was being asked to go when my husband coached for the last 8 years and is still heavily involved in our community football league and that he would probably have more to say than I would. She sent an email back inviting him. I assumed that meant he had to find his own airfare and we were going to try to use miles. When I asked about the airline to make sure that we could get on the same flight (I really am a wimp), she said it was included for him, too. I was absolutely ecstatic! My dad offered to babysit so I called and told him. I wouldn’t let myself think too much about why I was chosen or if I’d be able to add to the discussion in a meaningful way. It just freaked me out because it felt so big.

 

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect but when we got to the NFL offices, it felt so professional. We had to get our pictures taken before we were even allowed on the elevator. We walked into the reception room where all of the Superbowl rings and the Superbowl trophies were displayed and instantly, Leo and I were both starstruck. We walked into the conference room where everyone from professionals from the NFL and USA Football to experts like Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, Psy.D, Head Injury Consultant for the Chicago Bears to radio personalities and sports writers to bloggers whose kids play football and bloggers who have decided that their kids will not play. The day began with some keynote speakers: Jeff Miller, the vice president of Government Relations and Public Policy from the NFL, Scott Hallenbeck, the executive director of USA Football, Mike Brandt, one of the coaches from the Heads Up program and Sandriena Brown, a mom whose son participates in the Heads Up program. Dr. Pieroth led the open forum. Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner was there for the open forum (nothing beats saying something and seeing Roger Goodell nod his head in agreement).

Jeff Miller showing the states that have already passed legislation to make football safer.

I could spout off all the statistics and numbers of what the NFL is doing to make this sport safer and maybe the men that read this are interested in that. If so, shoot me an email under the “contact me” tab and I’ll get you that information. I am interested in it because with all the findings of what happens to the players after sustaining concussion after concussion, it makes it scary to have my boys playing this sport but I don’t care about the numbers. I care about what the NFL and USA Football through their Heads Up Football program are doing to make it safer for kids to play football. And they are doing a lot. Some of it will be welcomed (proper tackling) and some will be resisted (changing the culture). Heads Up Football is a program with several parts to making this sport safer. Kids need equipment that fits in order for it to do its job. They need coaches that are trained in the right way to tackle and who know the signs and symptoms of a concussion. The educating and awareness needs to be ongoing. The biggest part of this program besides training to tackle taking the head out of the equation is the parents. Parents need to be educated in the signs and symptoms and then need to be advocates for their children. How many of us get a concussion form that we sign at the beginning of the season that we sign without ever really reading it or we skim it and then sign it? I am guilty, guilty, guilty of this. Leo is Tommy’s coach so I figure he’ll be there for Tommy if he gets hurt. Nico has the trainers and coaches that I put my trust into and the odds of me getting onto the field to assess him myself if he gets hurt are slim.

Both of my boys took a hit to the head this past season. Both boys were pulled out of the game. For Nico, the trainer assessed him and what she found, I am not really sure but I watched my son follow his coach up and down the sidelines, asking to be put back in for rest of the half and to his coach’s credit, he did not put him back in. I felt secure that his coaches were taking his health and safety very seriously. For Tommy, his coaches evaluated the kids before the season started and got a baseline result that they could compare if they got hit. It was a visual test that if there were any red flags, they would move on to further evaluation. Tommy did not suffer a concussion and I felt like his coaches absolutely were putting his safety above the game.

Leo spoke for an extended amount of time with both the executive director of USA Football, Scott Hallenbeck and Mike Brandt, one of the player safety coaches of the Heads Up program and is going to try to bring it to our league. If nothing else comes out of the trip to New York other than making our league safer, then it was totally worth going. I loved seeing Leo talk to the two guys about something he is so passionate about.

Dr. Pieroth spoke and one of the things that she said that really struck a chord with me was that soccer is not that far behind football in concussions. I’ve been on the receiving end of some harsh judgements because I let my boys play football and have heard some moms say, “I’d never let my son play football” but they let them play soccer. Hockey is up there as well and how many of us have seen our sons or daughters hit their head or take an elbow to the head on a basketball court. Cheerleading, with all the tumbling that goes on, is even on the map for injuries. Football might be in the lead but other sports aren’t that far behind. She even said that she saw a concussion in her office due to fencing so whenever a child participates in a sport, they can be at risk for an injury.

That’s why each of the speakers stressed the importance of us as parents. We have to be the voice in each of our leagues. We need to ask the leagues our children participate in what their protocol is when dealing with head injuries. We need to go beyond just signing the forms. For each sport my kids participate in, we have to go to a mandatory parents’ meeting. Why not educate the parents at that time? I feel 100% confident at Tommy’s level that if he gets hurt, I can walk on the sideline and ask one of the coaches what happened. I can even go one step further and assess him myself to see if he seems off and then can voice my concerns or reassure the coach that he is fine. Where I feel there is a breakdown is at the high school. What do we, as parents of 8th graders hear constantly? “Oh, wait until high school when you will have no say in anything. You might not even know the coaches and you don’t want to be one of ‘those’ parents.” Nico had some of the nicest coaches that were understanding when he was going to miss practice for a doctor’s appointment or needed to leave early for an orthodontist appointment. I felt that they were fair and he had a great experience. Having said that, even when Nico took a bad hit, I didn’t feel like I could go and see how he was. I had to trust the trainer and the coaches. It’s not the coaches’ fault. It’s the nature of this football culture. They are boys growing into men so their mommies and daddies need to step aside and let the coaches have at ‘em.

Speaking of culture change, that is something that was stressed. Before we see a change in making this sport safer, we need to see a change in how this sport is viewed and some are not really wanting to see that. They want to coach like they were coached. They see the things needed to have a winning team and they don’t want to stray from any of it. They want to keep the “warrior” part of this sport. For example, how many high school or even pee wee football players do you see willingly come out of a game after getting injured. My two boys have played injured countless times because they don’t want to let their team down and there is an “invincible” feeling when you are out on that field (or so they tell me). It doesn’t help that in all the sports they have played throughout all the years, they have been told “Rub some dirt on it, you’ll be fine.” Kids can be taught to look out for each other as well. They can be voices on the field (or court or rink) and speak up when a kid isn’t acting right. It needs to be taught that safety comes first.

Tommy this past season.

If you are wondering what I said, I answered the question, “Why do you allow your kids to play?” The person before me talked about an observation she encountered and that was that some kids play because their parents want them to play. I am not a public speaker and I was nervous to say anything and when I saw how many people were there, I really thought I was just going to listen but I as if I had zero control of my hand, I raised it and found myself telling why we let Nico play tackle football. He was playing flag for a nearby town (not the one Tommy plays for) and they didn’t really enforce the no tackle rule. He was the quarterback and after one nasty play where the other team tackled him, he was on the ground, hurt on the sidelines. I walked over to him to see if he was okay and he said, “Now can I play tackle?” And I said, “Absolutely!” At least with tackle, there is protection. There are pads and helmets that I found comfort in. There are practices where you learn how to tackle the right way. So I said yes, not because I wanted him to play but because he had ALWAYS wanted to play and I felt like that was a safer way to go. What I didn’t say because I didn’t want to be a discussion hog was that I love what my boys have gotten out of football: friendships that have lasted years, high self-esteem from playing a game well, having to pick yourself up after playing a game not great, discipline from practicing hard at something they love, respect for authority while building relationships with their coaches, learning to lose with dignity, and feeling a part of something that is bigger than themselves.

Nico was the safety and also held the ball for the extra points.

After we broke for lunch, I spoke with a few people, one of which was Jeff Miller, about a topic that was briefly touched on: Referees. The referees need to be trained in the Heads Up program as well because if a ref is going to allow unsafe play, then the kids and the coaches are going to follow suit. We’ve all seen refs make bad calls or allow kids leading with the heads (there is a town in our league that is notorious) and then coaches and kids get frustrated because how do you play against teams that are getting away with borderline illegal or at the very least cheap play? I know it is hard on the refs. They can’t see everything. Ultimately, it is up to the coach and the kids to play a clean game but there are still coaches that only care about winning. If the leagues make it undesirable for dangerous or cheap play, then coaches and players will work harder to avoid it. Truthfully, basketball (and I bet soccer) has been the place that I see the most amount of illegal play happening that refs are not consistent in calling. Elbows, tripping, pushing, hitting and nothing brings on the Mama Bear in me more than when another kids hands are all over my kid.  And there are no pads to protect them. I am not a hockey mom but I can guess it can be pretty bad there, too because then you have flying sticks to contend with.

I also brought up how I thought the high schools were going to be the breakdown in getting this program out there. I felt that it was going to be very hard to change the culture of football and that being an advocate for your son was going to be tough because coaches aren’t going to appreciate parents in their faces. The important thing to remember is that this isn’t a license to talk to the coaches about their offense or your kid’s playing time. It’s about making sure your son is safe. If every youth football league adopts this program, by the time Tommy gets to high school, it won’t matter because the head will be taken out of the tackle all the way across the board because everyone surrounding us will have adopted this program. You can imagine my delight when after we reconvened, someone said, “A good point was brought up about the high school being the breakdown…” A good point! Yay!

I went there wanting to revel in the fact that they chose me. I thought about what doors could possibly open and what contacts I could possibly make and both of those excited me. It felt so good to sit there and think, “I write a mommy-blog about the craziness of marriage and motherhood and here I am sitting in the NFL offices.” All of that crossed my mind and then a bigger thought crossed my mind. I am a part of something that is going to make football safer. That is more important than anything else. That is bigger than myself or the blog and it feels good. Really good.

All the way around…best experience.

What about you? Do your kids play? Have your kids ever suffered a concussion? We all worry about our kids’ safety but have you made the decision that your kids won’t play because of that?

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Random Thoughts: Conspiracy, Tonsils, Baseball and Sleep

It’s been awhile since I have done a random thoughts post and since my thoughts are a little jumbled right now, it seems like the perfect time.

1. Why is it the minute I like a product, it is discontinued? I feel like there is some big conspiracy with trying to control my quirkiness. I have used Noxema since I was 10. I was thrilled when they came out with the cloths that you don’t have to use water with. Shortly after, they came out with “New Fragrance”. It smells all perfumey (I don’t know if that is a word but you know what I mean). I’ve been called weird because of this but I used it because I LIKED the smell. It was a clean smell that for once I wasn’t allergic to. I was able to get the original ones online but now…no more. I tried and even though the picture showed mine, it was the new ones that came. The newest hit is the Lean Cuisine Spinach Chicken Artichoke Panini. Why? Why? Whose idea was it to stop selling these? Did it turn out that they were really fattening so they had to pull them because that would be the only explanation for them to stop making and selling the deliciousness that were these sandwiches. I still have to drive all over God’s green earth to find Black Cherry Propel. I almost cried real tears when my Target stopped selling Baked Tostitos but it was only temporary. I’m okay and can resume eating the nachos that I love so much. Since nachos are one of the three things Gia eats, all is well in her world as well.

2. I really suck as a nurse. I know I said it before and very recently but it’s worth mentioning again. I can’t tell if Belle is really hurting or if she likes the attention. The more attention I give her, the worse she seems to feel. I have made every single thing she has asked for because she won’t eat and she has eaten NOTHING. She’s had a nibble of this and a nibble of that but is losing weight. She stepped on the scale and burst into tears because she lost more weight (I resisted the urge to tell her that stepping on the scale makes me do the same thing but for the opposite reason). In my defense, yesterday she was running around with Gia and laughing and the minute she saw me, she put her hand around her throat and groaned, “It hurts.” She even laughed when I pointed out to her what she just did.

3. Our family had 11 baseball games this weekend. Yes…11. I was reminded of why I missed a lot of games this season. Little league baseball brings out the worst in people. There was one coach that we played several games against that was a piece of work. He argued every single play and at one point went over to our side to tell our fans that they were cheering too loud and that it was distracting his pitcher and that was why our boys were getting hits. They weren’t chanting or jeering or even talking to the pitcher. They were cheering for their sons or our team while they boys were up to bat. Another reason I don’t enjoy going is that Tommy is the most laid back kid you’ll ever meet unless he is on a field or a court. It is embarrassing. If you ask me, 10u baseball is all about not letting the kids get inside their own heads dwelling on the mistakes they make causing them to have full-blown meltdowns on the field or at bat.

After striking out on his team’s way to tying the championship game, Tommy began his meltdown. I walked over to Nico’s game (they were playing right next to each other) to watch the big boys lose their 0-0 tie. There was nowhere to go but the concession stand to have a freeze pop to cool off from the stifling heat. Tommy’s team lost and the tears continued. The scowl during the trophies, the scowl in the pictures…all embarrassing. I had to yell, “Tommy knock it off so we can take the picture.” Right after the picture, Tommy doubled over and was sobbing. It seems that the kid behind him pushed him and the trophy stabbed him in the neck. For all I know, he begged the kid to stab him so he’d have a legitimate reason to cry. I know it’s a maturity thing but it makes watching him play a lot harder. The amount of lectures that follow kill both of us but I can’t help myself.

4. Just when I thought I had the raising kids thing down, Gia throws me another loop. She still eats like a bird though I am pretty sure birds eat more. The one thing I had going for me was that she was a pretty good sleeper. Both at naps and at night. I’d read her a story at nap and she’d go to bed. Sometimes she’d cry a little but not much. At night I’d read her two stories, sing two songs and that was it. She wouldn’t even cry. That is no longer the case. She cries a lot at nap but finally falls asleep. At night, she wants 10 stories, no songs and me to sleep next to her. Letting her cry it out has resulted in a bloody wall where we had no idea where the blood was from. She thrashed her arms but there were no cuts. Any sight of blood scares me so the other night, I brought her in bed with us and she was up from 1-5:30. I need the binky to go away (I never thought I’d hate it so much but I do) so I am wondering if this not sleeping thing is God’s way of telling me to do it now. I miss my sleep.

5. The only thing making me feel good these days is watching marathons of Hoarders and Wife Swap. My house and parenting skills don’t seem so bad. Why is it when the air conditioning doesn’t work well, the house automatically feels messy and the kids seem crankier?

 

What about you? What are some of your random thoughts today?

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