High School Sports Are Filled With Excitement, Life Lessons and Sometimes? Concussions!

My son Ethan started playing basketball when he was three years old. It was the sweetest thing to watch that little guy running up and down the court, trying to dribble the ball, trying to make baskets. He fell in love with the sport and became passionate about it.

Even at that young age, he would spend hours practicing putting the ball into the basket. All day, every day. As he got older, his love for the game never faded but only grew stronger. He started to develop his skills and became what coaches considered a good player. His specialty? The 3 point shot.

It was a thrill for me to watch my son improve every season, to become really good at something he loved so dearly. Basketball was his passion and it showed in the way he played on the court.

When he entered middle school, the thing he was the most excited about was trying out for the basketball team. He made the team both years. The 8th grade team went undefeated and he was so proud. All he could talk about was how good their team was going to be in high school.

He tried out for high school ball in the summer and made the summer team. He was thrilled to learn he’d be a starter. He did well offensively, but struggled a bit defensively. But, he kept pushing himself to get better. He never missed a single practice or a single game. He made the team for fall and secured himself as one of the starting five players. He shined during his first freshman tournament, scoring seven 3 pointers in one game, only missing one shot. It was EXCITING to watch him out there, nailing shot after shot, watching the crowd cheering and getting more excited with each made shot. When the game was over, he had scored 29 and was awarded the award for Player of the Tournament.

He had a fantastic freshman season. I can’t tell you how cool it was to hear the other coaches yell “he’s the shooter!” I’d be like “DAMN RIGHT HE’S THE SHOOTER.” He was a team player all the way around and just so much fun to watch. I couldn’t have been more proud of that boy.


(Taken last year at his Freshman basketball banquet)

This year, he made the JV squad. He was excited to start a new season with his teammates. The day of their first pre-season game I asked him if he was going to be a starter. “Probably not, Mom.” He replied. He said there were kids on the team that were better than him, so he didn’t expect to start. He was fine with that and I was fine with that. I mean, I know what my son is capable of, but if there were better players that would help them win games, I totally get it. Ultimately, it’s more important that the team win than my son start, right?

My family came to the game, and there were a lot of friends there. We were all totally pumped up! First quarter passed, Ethan got no playing time. Second quarter, still no playing time. Third quarter? Nothing. Nada. Game was over, my son never left the bench. I was upset, because I knew he was going to be upset. Not in a “I deserve to play” way, but in a “basketball is my passion and zero playing time crushes my soul” way.

I was upset, but swore to myself that I wouldn’t say a word to Ethan about it on the ride home. This was between him and his coach. Personally, I thought his coach was crazy to not use Ethan, but, again, not my battle to fight. The very next practice, Ethan made me proud yet again by pulling his coach aside. “What can I do to earn my spot?” was what he asked. Not “Why didn’t you play me?” but “tell me how I can earn playing time.” (Love. That. Boy.) His coach told him to keep working on his defense.

So, that’s exactly what my son did. The next game, he got a few minutes playing time in the third quarter, in those few minutes he had a rebound and scored 14 points (Boom!) The next game? Zero playing time. The next? A few minutes of playing time. The next game? Zero.

My son was devastated. And as his mother, I began to worry about him. His confidence was shattered. I spoke with him about it and told him to keep working hard, to not give up, to play hard anytime he was given playing time. I told him to keep a positive attitude towards his coach and his team. “There is a lesson to be learned here, Son.” I said. Even though I had no idea what the lesson was. Seeing him so utterly wrecked was hard to handle. When other parents would approach me after games and ask why the coach wasn’t playing Ethan (because they knew what he was capable of) I’d get choked up, fight back tears and just shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know.” I’d say. I wanted to talk to the coach, but I knew that would be the wrong thing to do. (But don’t think I didn’t cuss the coach out IN MY MIND.)

Two weeks ago, Ethan’s team played one of the better teams in our league. We were getting beaten quite badly, so, coach put Ethan in the game during the second quarter when we were already down by 20. Ethan took their shooter defensively and shut him down completely. He didn’t score a single point while Ethan was in the game. It was super obvious how great his defense has gotten. The varsity coach happened to be at that game. Later that night, Ethan got a call. He was smiling from ear to ear. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” I overheard him say. When he hung up, I asked him who it was. “It was the Coach F.” (The varsity coach.) “He said I played great defense, that he noticed how much I’ve improved. He told me to keep up the hard work.” I was relieved that he had noticed but more importantly, that he had taken the time to call my son. He had absolutely no idea ho much my son needed those encouraging words.

The next game, I was sitting in the stands like I am at every game, ready to cheer on the team. I noticed my son take his shooting shirt off. The only time he takes his shooting shirt off is if he’s going to play. I looked over to my other son. “Do you think Ethan’s going to start? Could that really be happening right now?”

Yes. It happened. My son was one of the starting five players.

(#3, my boy!)

I took a deep breath and fought back tears because my son freaking earned his spot. He worked hard, he never gave up and oh my God, he earned a starting spot on the JV team.


(Taken right after his first starting game last week.)

On Tuesday, he started for the third time. He was pumped up, like he always is at game time. When coach pulled him out, they were winning. He didn’t come back into the game until they were down by 10 points. I know my son and he wanted desperately to win that game, so he came in aggressive. During one play, he jumped up to grab a ball that was heading out of bounds. I watched my son jump into the air, get a little push from another player and come down with such force, that his head slammed into the ground. The sound of his head hitting echoed in the gym and a sound came out of me that I can’t explain as I watched my son hit the ground and black out. He wasn’t moving, the crowd was completely silent. I screamed from the depths of my soul and then covered my mouth with my hand in shock. I wanted to run down there to be with him, but my husband beat me to it. I just stood there, saying “oh my God oh my God oh my God” while trying to breathe. He laid there, not moving and then, suddenly, he moved just a bit. I couldn’t believe what I had just witness or that this was actually happening. I had no idea if my son was going to be okay. I’m not exaggerating here, it was bad, a nightmare before my eyes. I was frozen with fear. Another mother who was sitting next to me kept telling me “he’s okay, he’s going to be okay, he’s okay” over and over again while her hands trembled in fear for him, for me. There was nothing I could do except wait to see if my son was going to be able to get up. He eventually got up and everyone cheered as he walked back to his seat. I could see he was dazed. I walked over to him and told him as soon as the game was over, he was going to the hospital.

After the game, parents were coming up to me saying how scared they were. One of his teammates said “I was so scared, I thought he was dead.” Everyone agreed I needed to take him in for observation.

My husband took him to urgent care while I stayed home to do homework with Gabby. I texted non-stop. “Have you seen a doctor yet? Is Ethan okay? Don’t let him go to sleep! How does Ethan feel?”

He finally called to tell me that they said “he seems fine. Give him something for his headache.” And I was all “did they check his pupils?” And he was all “No?” And I was all “ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME? TAKE HIM BACK RIGHT THESE SECOND TO SEE ANOTHER DOCTOR.” And he did and came home and said THE SECOND DOCTOR DID NOT CHECK HIS PUPILS OR DO ANY KIND OF TESTS WHATSOEVER. He literally said “well, he’s not throwing up or slurring his words, so he’s fine, but if he starts throwing up or slurring his words, be sure to bring him back right away.”

I was LIVID.

That night, I did not sleep. I woke my son up every two hours. And then, first thing in the morning, I called my doctor and told him what had happened and how he did NOT get a proper examination by the doctors at urgent care. After listening to the facts, he asked me to bring Ethan in right away so he could check him.

Oh, guess what?

Turns out, my son had a concussion. Because of COURSE HE DID, asshole Urgent Care Doctors!!

And then, the doctor said it.

“No sports or any type of physical activities for at least one week.”

There are only five more games left in the season and he will miss at least two of them.

He’s worked so hard to earn his spot and this happened. He’ll no longer be able to practice or do the one thing that he loves, possibly for the rest of the season. I keep asking myself “what is the lesson now?” The only thing I can think of at the moment is “Sometimes life sucks. Deal with it.”

Hard work sometimes goes unnoticed, but that doesn’t mean you should quit or give up on your dreams/goals. It means you should work harder at bettering yourself, no matter what. Even if he doesn’t play another game this season, my son can hold his head up high knowing he earned a spot by working hard and ever giving up on himself or on his team. As tough as it was to watch my son struggle, I’m grateful for the valuable life lesson he learned from the experience.

Most importantly though? I’m grateful that my son was able to walk away from that horrible fall and that he’s going to be okay. My God, that was terrifying.

20 thoughts on “High School Sports Are Filled With Excitement, Life Lessons and Sometimes? Concussions!

  1. Jessica

    I am not in any way athletic in a competitive sport but I appreciate those who are! I’ve heard the saying “Sacrifice your body for the game” and know people that live by that, and while I don’t understand it myself, they do have dedication! I hope your son heals quickly and kudos to you for making sure he was diagnosed correctly. I share your loathing of urgent care doctors.

    Reply
  2. Liz

    How scary! My heart was in my throat. I’m so glad he is ok.

    That said, what an amazing story. The way you wrote it was incredible and I felt like I was standing next to you the entire time. That is wonderful storytelling.

    You are a great mama. I hope I can learn to be patient and loving with boundaries when my kids are in situations like this. Right now they are all under 5 so I am all up in their business all the time. :)

    Reply
  3. Maggie

    You could have just written a quick post on how pissed you were about the urgent care doctors, and been done with it, but instead, you wrote a loving, beautiful tribute to your son. This is such a special account of his journey through a sport he genuinely loves & has worked very hard at. I’m sure he will look back on this for years to come for inspiration through life’s challenges, both on and off the court. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  4. MargieK

    I went through a similar situation with my son Joel (now 24), when he was a Varsity wrestler — except the injury wasn’t as obvious so I didn’t realize what had happened right away (after that, I was so mad at the wrestler that slammed him down; a lot of refs would have called unnecessary roughness). He wasn’t allowed to compete as long as he was experiencing exercise-induced headaches. It was horrible. He was a senior, and had a good chance of going to State, but couldn’t recover in time for regionals, so his final year ended up a bust. The coaches, of course, wanted one of their stars back on the mat, but I had to hold firm and make sure that we followed the doctor’s orders (which was hard for me, because I was his biggest fan and wanted to see him compete again, too).

    I read as much as I could about the symptoms, how long they last (it varies), what to look out for, etc. He was so frustrated, not being able to compete. Even worse, the coaches insisted he sit on the sidelines with the team; it was torture to watch his replacement lose a match he could have won. He also had a touch of — darn, I forget what they call it, but his personality was affected. My normally easy-going boy was more easily pissed off, quicker to anger and to throw things when frustrated. And school was harder, too.

    The good news is that even though he couldn’t finish his senior year of wresting, he recovered. And of course, Ethan will, too, because you will make sure he does whatever he needs to, to recover.

    Now when I watch athletes at State, or the Olympics I realize, that it isn’t just talent and hard work that gets them there. It’s also a bit of luck, because injuries can happen in any sport. And as much fun as sports can be, ultimately your health, and finishing school are more important.

    Reply
  5. Ashley

    Ive never commented before but I have your blog saved in my favorites and visit it often. You are a hell of a storyteller and I absolutely LOVE the love that you show for your children. Your sons sound like remarkable young men and I pray that my son grows up with those kind of qualities. Id always dreamed of a little girl but I often realize that God knew what he was doing when he blessed me with a son instead <3

    Reply
  6. Beth

    I’m so glad your son will be okay, and I’m pissed on your behalf that the urgent care doctors did such a crappy job examining him! You are a wonderful mama and you’re raising a wonderful young man. From this experience, he will learn other lessons that you can’t even predict right now. Love to you and your family!

    Reply
  7. rose

    First off, good for your boy for working to get better. Sometimes coaches don’t see it, or don’t appreciate t because they already have their “go-to” guys.

    I don’t know if your school district uses IMPACT testing?
    http://www.impacttest.com/
    Ours tests every athlete pre-season so they have a baseline. It was invaluable to us when my son had a concussion. He was past most of the initial effects-dizzyness, difficulty w/bright lights, etc after a week, but his IMPACT test indicated that he was still impaired. It was another 10 days or so before he was cleared to play .He was angry, but the risk of concussion increases after an initial concussion because your senses are off , affecting agility and coordination. Good luck.

    Reply
  8. Suzy Q

    Holy shit, Y, you scared the crap outta me! So glad Ethan is okay.

    If you have learned anything from this, it is that an urgent care center is not the place to go for evaluation of head injuries (or suspected cardiac events, for that matter). At the very least, he needed a CT scan and a neuro exam by a qualified specialist. A real ER has these options. People need to know that urgent care centers are really only for minor issues. Sorry to sound preachy but this knowledge comes from my job.

    All that aside, wowza for Ethan’s b-ball skills and for working so hard to achieve his goals! Kudos also to you for not speaking with his coach and for letting Ethan work out his dilemma and find a solution. You and your husband are raising some truly great kids.

    Reply
  9. Jessica

    Lord have mercy. My heart is pounding for Ethan. So I know a little about basketball – my 50 year old husband is still playing it – with 20 year college students no less. He has had his two front teeth knocked out twice! And regularly comes home all bruised up. And he loves it so much he will never let it go. He’ll be playing with a walker, I swear. And our 7 year old daughter is also in love with the sport. I don’t know that there is a “safe” sport out there but concussions give me the willies. I’ve seen what brain trauma does to a person and it is such a risk. Let’s all be grateful it isn’t football I guess. :-)

    Reply
  10. Kira

    You killed me at least twice with this post. First, because I’m learning how it feels to watch your kid want something, YEARN for something, and not always get it. Our BABIES can get their hearts broken by assholes, and it’s LEGAL. Did you KNOW THAT? I did NOT.
    And then I was so so glad for you and YOUR baby, and then he…gah.
    I’m so glad he’s okay. Lord. I need to go lie down.

    Reply
  11. Sandra

    I saw my son get checked into the boards at a hockey game this fall… knocked out… left the ice on a backboard, by ambulance… scariest day of my life. Yes, he had a concussion… yes, he missed a bunch of important games for his team… But YES HE IS FINE! And Ethan will be, too… that competitive spirit and work ethic will carry him very very far in life, well beyond basketball. Good work, mama. Love your posts.

    Reply
  12. LeeAnne L.

    My son played basketball from age very young, clear through college and then for a year in the ABA in Dallas, Texas. He also had a couple of really bad concussions which we witnessed. SO very scary! After his third one, while he was in Dallas, he made the decision to stop playing. He did it on his own and didnt tell us about it until it was all over. He knew how dangerous it is to keep having concussions and decided that bball wasnt important enough to sacrifice his health for. We were soooo proud of him!! He LOVED the sport. He still does. And he still plays recrationally. I know how you felt that day and I am so glad that your son is ok!!!

    Reply
  13. Janet

    That was a roller coaster post! I was up, I was down and then I was holding my breath. Thanks for sharing and glad he will be OK. (This might be my first comment after reading for 4 years!)

    Reply
  14. Nancy P

    I held my breath as I read this. WTF with those doctors anyway. Thank God he is ok!!!!!!!!!!!!

    On another note, it sounds like you guys have/are raising the most incredible children. I notice this everytime I read your posts.

    Reply

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