Monday, November 8, 2010

The Touchdown Game

"Are you hurt or are you injured?" This question is heard a lot on the sidelines of football games. It's hard sometimes for kids to tell the difference in a game with as much physical play as football. A kid bangs a finger, you wrap it in tape and they are good to go. A player comes off the field limping after a tackle, more tape and back on the field. All players want to get their reps, and kids especially have a hard time describing the pain in order to make a decision whether to play of not. My son is no different, he would not want to give up any playing time because of a stinger, a bang or bruise. So when he started limping and wincing about his ankle Saturday evening that was a cause for concern. Saturday, after a two hour practice, my son and I came home, had lunch, and hit the school field for more football. 

Our routine usually starts the same every time, first we just throw the football back and forth to each other, to warm up. Phase two involves running pass routes, like crossing patterns and side line toe catches. We take turns, one is quarterback and one is receiver then we switch off (though I end up as quarterback for most of the time). 

Phase three is what my son is waiting for, The Touchdown Game. The game starts like this, one person lines up as the ball carrier on the five yard line and the other is the defender, positioned at the one yard line. The carrier needs to pass the defender and score the touchdown and the defender needs to stop him or cause a fumble. If the ball comes loose, then the real fun happens as both players bounce and crawl over each other in order to secure the fumble. Now you would think that I have an advantage of being bigger and stronger but as the father I understand that I do not want to hurt my son. My son, on the other hand, is just enjoying the physical contact and is not concerned with hurting me, which usually results with me limping home at the end of play. 

After about fifteen minutes of The Touchdown Game, my son adds a new wrinkle to the competition. Added to the rules was the "Safety" component. This add-on allows the defender to be more aggressive as he can not only prevent the touchdown, but by pushing back the runner, can record a safety. Now the game became sort of a reverse tug-o-war as the runner is pressing forward to score and the defender is pushing back to register the safety, all this while keeping the ball from popping loose. The new Touchdown Game is a big success as we bang together, knock each other down and roll around for the ball all while constant laughing is heard. During one play, the ball seems to pop loose right away and we both yell "FUMBLE!" I dive for the ball and my son falls on top of me and twists off. It was that point that my son said his ankle turned a little. We sat on the turf for about fifteen minutes resting before we stood up and agreed that we better stop that game and go back to pass routes for a while. 

We take a few turns running routes when a bunch of my son's friends show up at the field. He runs over and they start up a game, playing four on four. I take a seat on the sidelines and watch, resting from all the contact. They play for an hour when one by one, the kids need to head home. My son and I round the corner and enter our driveway when he starts to show a limp. After subjecting him to walking the supermarket aisles later, his limp is more pronounced. My son says to me, "My ankle is really hurting now, like a tight string is running up the back." The next morning is game day, the last home game of the season. He walks out of his bedroom and thumps down on the couch. "My ankle still feels the same, I do not think I can play." I feel bad that we played so hard the day before and that he will miss the game. "I'm sorry your ankle is hurting and I should have not let us play the Touchdown Game." "Don't worry, I had a great time!" he replies. I tell my son that the important lesson here is that he recognized his pain enough to shut himself down and not endure further damage. My son might be injured, but his spirit is not hurt.

**Update- no ligament damage but doctor recommends rest as to not cause a tear or worse. He is in a soft boot.


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