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Injury & Athletics: dealing with disappointment

To be involved with "competitive sports" is a luxury in and of itself.  We pay a premium for more practices, then we pay for matching outfits, and then we pay again for our children to compete in their matching outfits.  What a racket!  But: that's another story.

Our 10-year old came home one day last year stating she wanted to compete in gymnastics, and she said the coaches thought she might be good at it.  The cost would be twice as much, the practice time would be almost three times as much.  She wanted to do it, so we supported her.

She had a great competitive season this spring, bringing home second and third place overall in her two meets this spring.  She loved going to practice and never complained that it ran too late or that she was too tired to go.  We could tell she loved the sport, and - even if her parents knew little about it - we wanted to support her if we could.

Last week, when her dad picked her up from practice, she was sitting on the side-line with her leg iced and elevated.  Her coach carried her out to her dad and reported that she twisted her ankle while practicing vault.  Her dad reports that he felt his heart sink.  As athletes ourselves (albeit recreational ones, at this point), we hate to miss out any training time or games due to injury.  We hate to feel mortal.

In the following days, we confirmed she had an "incomplete fracture" in her foot, and she was on crutches.  The doctor advised no weight on the foot for 3 weeks.  Already, we were going through the calendar in our head: she would miss the state gymnastics meet, and she would miss a few other events.  Several times we asked the doctor: "So, when do you think she'll be on it again?"  We didn't want to hear it.

Knowing our daughter, it is taking everything out of her to stay still.  She is one who can barely get through her homework without doing a front walkover or going to dribble a basketball.  After homework, she always asks to go outside to shoot hoops or rollerblade.  She is an active girl, and - yet - she is keeping her disappointment quiet.  She admits she is so sad to miss the state championship, but she knows there will be next year and the year after and then the year after that.  I admire her for her patience, for her positive spirit, for quietly listening to her body (I keep urging her to try to bear some weight, "Maybe it's already almost healed?", and she shakes her head "no"), for keeping her eyes bright and wide as she waits for the right time to resume.  Little does she know that I'm taking a cue from her, too, learning that we need to accept our own mortality and slow down when our body says to.


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