Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Humans Aren't Supposed to Play Football

I was watching First Take this morning and they were talking about Bills GM Doug Whaley, who commented recently that football is "a violent game that I personally don't think humans are supposed to play." That, coupled with Le'Veon Bell again calling out the Bengals, claiming that there are certain teams who have set out to intentionally injure him, and you have me sitting here as a mom wondering why I'm encouraging my seven-year-old's love of the game.

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith explained it most clearly, I think. He said, "let's not act like what he said, he's off his rocker. He's not wrong, we just don't care, because we love the game too much. And we're willing to stomach all the risk that comes with it. But he's not wrong with what he said." At the very foundation of the comment, there is truth. Were humans designed to withstand the impact and force that comes from athletes of this caliber hitting each other? Absolutely not. We know this. We've read about the concussions, and the crippled players, and the death of young kids who thought they were invincible and took a bad hit. Humans were not designed to play football.

So here's the question, and I've asked it before, but can I know these things and still let my boys play the game? They watch their dad play, and want nothing more than to be on the field just like him. Although at this point, A wants to be a quarterback, not a receiver (he told me, "I already have the arm for it, mom" - and maybe the ego for it?). I'm trying to convince him that defense is the place to be. If I have to choose between my kid getting hit or being the one who is doing the hitting? Of course I want him to play defense.

So if we weren't designed to play football, then what? Skip Bayless today said, "it's a hard game... the combination of skill and guts... is why I'm such a fan of the league." I 100% agree with this statement. Football is a special combination of grace and power that is incredible to watch. But when you have people like Mike Ditka and Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre saying the don't our wouldn't want their kids to play, you have to realize that making the choice for yourself is one thing, but thinking it through as a parent is another story. Not everyone is meant to play football, of course. It's hugely physical. It's cerebral. It's brutal. Coach Herm Edwards said this morning, "There is a mentality. You know it at a young age, you know. You know at a young age. The more you play, you get to decide... You got talent, but at the end it's your will. It tests your will."

Whaley isn't wrong. Smith isn't wrong. You know that when you walk out on the field, there will be risks. Even at an elementary or middle school level, there are risks. Of course there are risks in any athletic activity - we let our daughter flip upside down on a 4-inch beam. But you train hard, you train healthy, and you eliminate as much of the risk as you can. Preparation, mentally and physically, are hugely important to injury prevention. So what do you think? How do you prepare, and is it worth it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why I Told My Daughter To Hit Back

On April 27 Deandre Levy, linebacker for the Detroit Lions, published an article he'd written called "Man Up." If you haven't read it yet, take a minute right now. I'll wait. I've been toying with the idea of writing a post with this title for a few weeks. I've heard too many stories lately about young girls (my own daughter included) who have been hit by boys. And I'm not talking about young children who developmentally aren't able to express themselves through words, and so they act out - I'm talking about kids old enough to know better.

You're probably thinking that violence is never the answer, and that's what I should be teaching my daughter. You're not wrong. However, more important than that, to me, a victim of sexual assault, is that my daughter understands that she has a right not to be treated that way, that she has a right to defend herself, and that she knows that no matter what, I'll stand behind her. Too many people that I love have been victims of domestic and sexual assault, and too many of them, myself included, have the same story.

We were young, we were scared, we didn't know who to talk to, we didn't want people to judge us, and the worst reason: "the system" wasn't helpful or got in the way. So when I hear stories about unnecessary violence from young boys toward young girls, my response has been, "did you hit him back?"

I want to be very clear - I do not condone initiating violence in any way. And I accept that there will be consequences if my daughter physically retaliates. But I'll be standing right beside her in the principal's office. It's a fine line, and I realize that. You're supposed to just walk away. Turn the other cheek. But there's a difference a squabble with a friend in the lunch room and passively, or even unintentionally promoting a culture in which girls don't know how to appropriately respond to being attacked - or even worse, are discouraged from responding appropriately.

So what does this have to do with Levy's article? I also have sons. I have two sons, and while I'm having conversations with R about not accepting violent behavior from men, about always knowing that I will be there for her in any situation, we also need to know how to talk to our sons. Levy points out that we teach our daughters how to "avoid those situations." What we don't do is spend enough time talking to our sons about not creating those situations. Do I realize that it goes both ways? Sure. Men can be sexually assaulted, domestically abused. That's a conversation to have, as well. But if I'm thinking about statistics, knowing what I know, and having lived through what I've lived through, this is my focus for today.

Talk to your daughters about their rights. Talk to them about what a safe and loving relationship is. Talk to them about what is and is not acceptable behavior from and toward friends and loved ones. Talk to them about not only avoiding and preventing bad situations, but how to respond in bad situations. Talk to them about strength, and talk to them about what they deserve - from relationships and from life.

Talk to your sons about their rights. Talk to them about what a safe and loving relationship is. Talk to them about what is and is not acceptable behavior from and toward friends and loved ones. Talk to them about not only avoiding and preventing bad situations, but how to respond in bad situations. Talk to them about strength, and talk to them about what they deserve - from relationships and from life.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Youth Football Camps in Iowa

A asked to please attend 12 football camps this summer. While we won't be doing 12, and after informing him that he is not yet old enough to attend the Manning Passing Academy, I did start a list to see what we could make happen for him. Below you'll see the start of my list (as of May 4), and here you'll find the URLs with links to information and registration - if you know about anymore, I'd be happy to add them!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Long Road To Recovery

L: A healed patella, taken in late April, R: A fractured patella, taken at the beginning of February.
We saw our fifth (and hopefully final) new doctor today for R's knee, and it was not a great appointment. We've seen some great doctors, and this one was no exception, but today we heard, "maybe you should think about another sport."

Close up of February x-ray
After 4 months of dealing with her injury, we finally got a diagnosis, which includes a sleeve fracture (although they'll never know for sure because by the time we got the scans she'd been healing for 3 months), and/or Sinding-Larsen-Johannson syndrome.  While the fragmented piece is healing (although you can see above that the patella has some elongation still), she still has quite a bit of pain. Under the care of some of the best doctors in the nation (um hi, Mayo Clinic and the University of Iowa?!), R will continue working through another month or so of physical therapy and working back up into competition. At least that was the plan until today.

Today, we were told "there are lots of great sports out there" that aren't as hard on your body, and that it is going to be a long road ahead, strengthening her quads, tendons, and getting back into shape. If she has another injury like this it could mean she's done. On the ride home we had some time to internalize this, and R said that she's up for the long haul. She'd rather work hard to get back to something she loves than find an "easier" sport.

I'm so proud of my tiny princess. It takes a lot of perseverance and passion for a sport to work through these frustrating set-backs, especially coming off of such an awesome season and wanting to move on to bigger and better things. While today's appointment didn't necessarily go the way we wanted, her Iowa City doctor and her physical therapist are both optimistic about getting her back into the gym. We have appreciated all the kind words, healing vibes, and prayers from our friends and family over the last several months! It's nice to finally have some answers and a plan for treatment.