My 14-year-old had been trying football for the first time. For six weeks this summer, he worked out with the team at his new high school. These workouts were, in the words of one coach, “brutal.”
To my great surprise, my son LIKED them. I think this kid, who has never played any sport, felt a sense of, first, relief and, then, accomplishment when he found he could, not only handle it, but keep up with everyone there.
Tackling, when he had to knock a running player to the ground, with the coaches screaming, “Crush him!”
The last day, my son was silent when he got in the car.
As we pulled away, I asked what was wrong and this proud boy broke down, sobbing so hard he was choking.
“I can’t do it,” he said. “I can’t tackle.”
“No,” he said, “well, yes, you’re scared for yourself, but what I am really scared of is hurting the other guy.”
He had landed, hard, on another boy’s head. Some boys were left bleeding; others had to be led off the field.
“I don’t want to go back,” he said.
We had always said it was his choice. We were glad he wanted to try football, but he could stop if he didn’t like it.
We were really trying hard not to push, but there were things he liked. Maybe tackling would get easier? Maybe he should talk to the coach?
The coach, he said, had always said you have to love football to do it. “I don’t love it,” my son said. He was sure.
He’s doing swimming.
After all, if you crash into someone in swimming, you’re doing it wrong.