He Finally Made the Team. But Then He Didn’t.

When you have kids there is always drama (rhymes with Alabama).

My son, Bryton, is pretty low-key, good student, good athlete, 8th grade, quiet (except around 13-year-old boys) and loves electronics.

Sports have been a major part of his life since he was four and joined his first soccer team. My husband helped coach his little league team, and his peewee football team. Bryton has been a part of the Pop Warner Football organization since he was eight. Last year he made it to the Sunshine bowl, where the Carolina Panther who was calling the game singled him out as the best man on defense on either side. We have the DVD of Bryton running down a guy from the opposite side of the field to stop a touchdown. On almost every play, Yale was mentioned for helping to tackle the ball carrier.

You may have seen him on the Panther field as his team played an exhibition scrimmage for half time. Let’s just say hopes were high.

Since he was eight, his dream has been to make his school team. And he finally did that three weeks ago. He even joined the old Pop Warner team so he could get in three weeks of grueling workouts so he would be in the best shape of his life when it came time for middle school tryouts. He was in boy heaven… three 3-hour days of tryouts after school in the hot Carolina sun. And Friday afternoon he came home triumphant. He did something I have never heard him do. He told me he was happy. Even his sister/arch-enemy mentioned how happy Bryton was. I often hear how things are not up to snuff, but now he was happy. And he had worked for it… a spot on the team. The coach he had worked with wanted him to try out for quarterback, running back and cornerback.

He was light as air. He let irritating things roll off his back. He was on the team.

For 24 hours

He played his last Pop Warner game the next day and tore his ACL. For those of you who were like me three weeks ago, (uneducated), your ACL keeps your knee bones in place. Sort of important.

When Whitney and Bryton came back from the MRI on Monday night, eyes were red and puffy. I truly don’t know who was more devastated. The significance was hitting them. Even if the doctors could operate the next week, there is six months of rehab. That means missing the entire football season, rugby season, basketball season, and hiking with boy scouts.

Then we talked to the surgeon. It actually was pretty fascinating. Let’s suffice it to say that you don’t want to drill into a 13-year-old’s growth plates because they could be deformed as they grow. So, let’s wait until next year, perhaps even until he is 15 ½ to do the surgery.

Does that mean he won’t be able to catch up?
He’s pretty scrappy.
But that’s in the future. That is a worry that serves us no purpose.

What I have on my hands right now is a boy (and a husband) who is crushed. Scholarship dreams seem to be slipping out of his hands. The pride that comes with having your friends watch you do something well (parents don’t count) was stomped on like a Palmetto bug.

I have never been so glad to have my coaching skills in my back pocket. Last year, I would have jumped in the pool with them and bawled my eyes out. I would have tried to comfort him.

This year, I knew what to do.

I told them to grieve. Cry. Feel your feelings.

(How often will I get the opportunity to teach this lesson when they are so raw they can’t roll their eyes?)

They were completely in square one, as Bryton’s identity had changed in the blink of an eye. And that should be grieved.

And instead of getting caught up in the thoughts of “what if”, I thought about the lessons of leadership that Koelle Simpson and her horses taught me on the NorthStar ranch.

Animals and people will match your level of calm.

Don’t get pulled into their fear, and communicate calm in ways louder than words.

My recipe:

Move your voice from the screeching money sound downward into your chest. Relax your vocal cords if you can.
Slow down your breathing to a pace like you are resting.
Open your focus rather than narrow. In other words, look at everything in your range of vision with even focus. (Picture a lion sunning itself on the Serengeti.)
Don’t comfort with reassurance, comfort by holding the space for them. Just be there for them.
There can be tons of love, and support for the growth that is happening without trying to snuff out the pain too quickly.

I was almost shocked by how quickly things went from doom and gloom to business as usual. There are lots of physical therapy exercises and doctors visits to keep us busy. And I am sure emotions will ebb and flow.

But I am thankful that self-defeating attitude is not on our plate today. Not today.

Today I think there is a pinch more man than boy in Bryton Yale.

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