I recently had an interesting conversation with the mother of a high school soccer player. Her son is a 16 year old high school junior who attends a private school and is having some issues with his coach that has put them in a dilemma. I am writing this newsletter to see what feedback you will have as a coach, parent or athlete. I have advised both the parent and athlete about my thoughts regarding what to do, but would like to hear feedback from you about your opinions. Once I receive feedback from several subscribers, I will publish them in an updated newsletter. Here is the situation.
This young man is one of the better players on the team and has been a starter. Last year as a sophomore, he was also starting until he suffered an injury. The background about this injury will lead us up to this year’s issue. This young man left town over last year’s winter break for two weeks on a family vacation. Prior to leaving for the holiday break, he was not informed that there would be any practices for the soccer team. Upon coming back to school on the Monday after the break, the team members were told that all of the athletes who did not attend any practices over the break would have to run 15 minutes of non-stop suicides. (Essentially this is running non-stop sprints). They were informed that if they didn’t do the drills, they would not play in the next game. Even though neither he nor his teammates knew anything about practices over the break, he ran the drills. That evening when he got home he complained about severe pain and in the following morning his mother took him to the Emergency Room where he was diagnosed with Rhabdomyolysis, a severe muscle injury that can lead to kidney failure. One of the causes of this is from excessive exertion and dehydration from over exercising that can result in muscle mass breakdown. He was hospitalized for a week and did not return to the soccer team for almost 3 weeks. The coach and the school did not feel they were at fault. Even though the mother spoke with them about the situation, they did not feel they had done anything wrong. Her son’s physician advised him to be extremely careful about over exertion and that he needed to be very aware of constantly hydrating while exercising. He finished out the season with the team, but never felt totally back to 100%.
This year he once again made the team. His mother went to the coach’s pre-season meeting. Nothing was stated about there being any practices over the winter break. Approximately a week before the break began, her son received an email from the team manager that stated there would be a training camp over the break for those players who were available to attend, but it was totally optional and not required. His family had plans to leave town over the break and after receiving the email, he wasn’t concerned about missing the training camp. However, when he came back to school the Monday after the break, the coach told the team that there would be consequences for the athletes who missed the training camp. If they missed one day of camp they would have to run two miles, two days run five miles, three or more days run 15 miles. These miles had to be run by Thursday (3 days later) or they would not be allowed to play in the game.
Needless to say, his mother was furious, but her son, angry as well, didn’t want his mother to speak to the coach because he wanted to play. He didn’t feel it was fair, but was also afraid to speak with the coach for fear of coming across as weak and being selfish. He also doesn’t want his mother to say anything to the school because he was afraid he would lose playing time if she complained about the coach. He began running at practice. The first day after running between two to three miles, he started walking because of a fear of overexertion. The coach informed him that walking didn’t count and he had to run to reach the 15 miles. This young man reminded the coach about his hospital stay from last years and that he needed to listen to his body about his limitations. The coach didn’t seem to care or be concerned about this. Even though he ran about eight miles, not the required 15, he ended up playing in half the game on Thursday, because the team “needed him”.
I have shared my opinions about the situation with the mother and her son. So my question to you is: What would you do as a parent in this situation? What would you have your son (or daughter) do in this situation? And what reasoning would you have for your answers? As a coach, how would you handle this situation? And finally as an athlete, what would you do?
As always, I am looking forward to your responses……