Monday, January 16, 2017

Get Me The Padded Helmet...

Seven years ago, I posted photos of Youngest in his Karate gear on Facebook. The photo that popped up under my "memories", was one of my favorites. He was sitting waiting to spar in his pure white gi and bright red helmet, his round face squished tight inside. His eyes are so clear in the photo, centered and peaceful.  A moment that rarely existed for him back then, captured in those few seconds of rest.  He competed until he was a red belt and then fizzled out.  He has entertained going back to classes, but other things seem to be getting in the way, and it's just never quite happened.

He tried basketball through the rec league. He liked it, but knew at his height there was no way he could compete on a High School level.  He has Scouts, which he also enjoys, but that too will be ending soon, as he will be starting his Eagle project this summer. And while he can continue until he turns 18, he sees how busy the older Scouts get with school and work, and knows deep down that it will not last much through his Junior year. So, while I was not surprised that he was looking for something else to do, I was completely taken back when he came home in November and told me he was joining the wrestling team.

 The.  Wrestling. Team.

The hardest, most demanding, of all sports in his school. The one with full physical skin contact... that can lead to ring worm and staff infections.  And those snazzy singlets.... *shudder*.... Lord help him. *sigh*

Our school has one of the best programs in the state.  Partly because of the recruitment process that starts for most kids in elementary school, and partly because of the extremely demanding yet unbelievably supportive head coach, who has coached here for over 20 years. He is tough.  They practiced on Christmas Eve.  They practiced during the blizzard two weeks ago. Their 6 day a week workouts are the most brutal of all the sports.  And yet, this coach is like the Pied Piper to them.

This year there are roughly 67 kids on the team.  Of those, maybe 15 are Varsity.  He reserves 14 of the remaining 53 for the starting JV line.  This means that roughly 39 or so compete against each other, but not in tournaments.  And yet, they stay.  They stay for the chance of a "wrestle off" to earn their place on the line.  When one kid isn't preforming, is disrespectful in any capacity, or his grades waiver, there are tens more that will take their place. I've never seen anything like it.

There are 4 boys in Youngest's weight class. And somehow, having never wrestled before, ever, he earned a spot on the JV start line.  They've had him weigh in for back up Varsity.  They've had him weigh in in front of opposing caches for a 2 pound swing (whatever that means). He works out.  He's keeping his grades up on his own. He's eating healthier that he ever has.  It's given him a place, separate of his brother, a way to challenge himself and push his limits. It gives his a feeling of belonging.

I rarely catch his meets.  Mostly because of my work schedule and his brother's basketball schedule, but also partly because they are tough to watch. Last week he competed against a Varsity player on an opposing team.  He lost the match on points, which in layman's terms means he lasted the entire match without getting pinned, but his opponent was more technical.  And since his opponent is ranked tenth in the State, I suspect he did quite well.  He won his first match of the day today, only to lose the subsequent 3.  In his second match, his opponent flipped him, slamming him into the mat by way of his face (that's not legal), knocking the wind out of him and leaving him needing to be checked by the coaches and refs before they could restart. There was no way that his small ear protectors, flimsy forehead padding, or mouth guard could protect him from that. He lasted about 2 more minutes before he succumbed to the pin. The refs didn't call the penalty.  Like in any sport, there's always calls that go unnoticed.

But it does make me wish I could put him back in that full head, padded red sparring helmet.  That sucker could take a hit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Committed...

I was raised to stick by my choices.  If I say I will do something, it is incredibly rare for me to not follow through.  I am sticking by my friend when even now that I am not her Maid Of Honor, I am still planning her wedding, and paying for my third of her shower.  I stayed in every job I ever had even after knowing how under paid and over worked I was until I could no longer stay.  I stayed in my first marriage, some would say, much longer than I should have. It's what I do.

It's what my husband does as well.  He gives the people he loves more chances than he should, stayed longer than he should have in his marriage, and often finds himself deep, deep in holes he could have easily stepped out of years ago.

It's not a surprise then, that it's what we try to teach our boys.  You make your choices and stick with them.  Right?

Oldest tried out and made the Freshman basketball team last year, and while he spent a fair amount of time on the bench, we figured he was paying his dues and would eventually develop into a strong member of the team.  The regular coach was out due to personal issues, and the new coach was, well, less than supportive.  They hardly rotated the line, and it became quickly apparent that they had no interest in developing anyone other than the star Senior on Varsity. Unfazed, he finished out the season, did an independent spring league, two leagues in the summer, and worked out in the fall so he'd be ready for this year.

This year, he tried out again and made the JV team. While he was excited, some of his friends had fallen away, some by choice and others by the coach's hand.  This coach is much tougher, and lacks appropriateness.  There are 4 weeks left in the season.  He averages only 4-6 minutes a game, usually in 2 or 3 minute intervals, with last night being only 52 seconds.  In that small amount of time he has scored ten points for the team thus far this season.  There are other players that have played 16 or more per game and have scored none. Zero. the entire season.

He has asked the coach what he can do for more time on the court.  He gets the same answer each time.  He shows early at every practice.  He is not the fastest, but not slowest player either, and does whatever is asked.  And... nothing.

The more I'm talking to other parents the more I'm hearing how abusive the program is.  Kids are told they will never amount to anything, or that they will always be average. The best comment though, was the game before last when he told them all "This team has made me hate the sport of basketball.". And while the program is lead by the head coach, who is notorious for his abusive behavior towards players, in the past the coaches would at least find something positive to point out after trashing the team.  This year, however, that seems not the case.  It's no wonder they have lost every game this season.

He has long be debating quitting.  Last night seemed to be the breaking point.  His grades are faltering because of the schedule. His attitude is wavering.  And more important, he is miserable. This is the last year he can play on the rec leagues, and without the option of Varsity, he will ultimately have to stop playing.  And while I can see that he's torn about it, he seems okay, and is looking at other sports to try.

I hate seeing him go through this and we have left it up to him.  I have asked that he respectfully quit if that what he chooses to do.  He's not happy I asked that.  He doesn't understand about burning bridges just yet... particularly since this coach works all year long, in nearly every sport.  And if he stays through the next 4 weeks, will he look back and think the stayed too long, just like I have so many times in my life? Funny, even at 42 I am still trying to determine at what point it's okay to let go of your commitment, before you end up needing to be committed.

Maybe it's unrealistic for him to know at 16...