PracticalDad:  Staying for the Practice?

You’re pressed for time and the kid has a sports practice.  That’s at least an hour or more that you can use to run an errand or go home and clean up the kitchen, assuming that the practice is nearby.  Do you stay for the practice or do you leave the kid there and get the other stuff done?  What could go wrong?  That’s the question that I asked myself tonight and about a minute before I was going to leave to handle another item, Youngest caught a pitched baseball in his windpipe, providing me with about five solid seconds of pure terror as he struggled to regain his breath.  After a few minutes of gasping and gagging, he was able to return to the catcher’s position and finished the practice there and upon returning home, Mom the physician administered ibuprofen to control any swelling and had him on the sofa with ice on his throat for a full half-hour.

What could go wrong?

We want our kids to try different things and find something that they love, something that helps them to thrive and grow.  If the activity is a sport, then we outfit them with the necessary gear and haul them to the practices and games; we cheer for them or coach them, all the while understanding that a sport has some inherent risk of injury.  For many sports, it’s likely to involve bruises from incidental contact or some muscle injury and that’s simply a part of life.  Our household has witnessed balls to the face, significant bruising and more than one trip to the orthopedist for serious sprains and torn knee cartilage.  These however, are injuries that aren’t potentially life-threatening and when the kids are older at least, can be handled by the coach.  My choice – backed by my history – is to stay for the practices whenever possible and I’ll work the schedule accordingly to make it happen.  This night was one of the few that I figured would be okay to be gone.  So what have I considered and learned since the throat incident?

  • What’s the level of play for the sport in question and how old are the kids?  At the rec league level, the coaches are all volunteers whose own kids are involved in the sport.  While coaches, they have a parent’s perspective but are responsible for the entire group in addition to their own.  A child who’s suffered an injury is usually different from a teenager since there’s likely to be a strong emotional overlay caused by fear and that can fully engage an adult’s attention.  Toss in a serious injury and the rest of the kids on the team are liable to require greater attention as well and you can say goodbye to any actual practice.  If you’re at a scholastic level, then the kids are under the care of the school, which has protocols for injury.  At the scholastic level, the practices will be likely held at a time where you’re still at work.  Additionally, the kids are old enough that there’s sufficient maturity and experience to carry them through the initial situation without your presence.
  • What are the precise equipment needs?  After two years of request, we permitted the grandparents to purchase catcher’s equipment for Youngest and that equipment came in a single set.  I failed first in not knowing specifically what baseball catchers required for safety and secondly, in assuming that the set included everything necessary for the youngster.  At a certain level of play, boys do require a cup and athletic supporter but I didn’t realize that there was a throat guard for baseball catchers. 
  • Do I actually have my cell phone in the event that I have to leave and something goes wrong?  If I have to leave one of my kids at a practice and in the care of the coach, it’s my responsibility to at least be accessible.
  • Do my kids actually know any of the other parents there?  It’ll be easier for the hurt child if at least there’s another adult face that they know apart from the coach.

Tonight’s incident was a dodged bullet, and the bullet was a potential hollow-point for what might have happened.  The throat guard’s purchase will be an immediate fix, but I’ll think even harder next time I’m in the position of having to decide whether to miss a practice.



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