Today, I failed him as a coach. Today, I failed him as a dad. It was not out of malice or neglect; quite the opposite to be honest. I should have seen it coming. I knew, that after COVID locked our youth away for a year, we couldn’t just pull them back out, dust them off and go back to business as usual. That is why I focused more on stretching, conditioning and easing them back into it for the first few weeks of this baseball season. But then things started feeling comfortable and normal again, and I let my guard down. Even then, I still protected my pitchers. I worked on developing 4-5 kids at the position, so no one kid ever pitched too much.
Midway through this season, I noticed my son grabbing his arm in the first inning of a game. He said he was fine, and in fact, he threw his best inning that day. But he kept grabbing his arm. So, I pulled him when they came in to bat, and he was upset. Things were clicking for him, and for the first time in his young pitching career, he did not want to come off the mound; he had found his confidence.
He struggled the next two games, setting on the bench. I told him to shake it off; better to miss a few games in the middle of the season and come back strong at the end. After setting out two games, the rest did not help the pain, though.
Last Friday, I found out he has an elbow fracture—Little League Elbow, an injury to the growth plate of the humerus bone in his pitching arm due to overuse/stress. His season is prematurely over, he missed football camp last week, and he is going to be pushing it to be ready for football season in July.
As a coach, I have done my best to protect all my players this year, but as a dad, I failed to protect my son in the backyard. He was determined to become the best pitcher he could be, and I was determined to help him. In the process, the dad in me failed to inform the coach in me about all the buckets of balls the boy was throwing in the backyard. In a typical year, it wouldn’t have mattered, but COVID took his baseball and football season last year. It took his gym and recess as well. And my failure to realize the repercussions of that year of inactivity ended up taking his season this year, too.
I share this as a cautionary tale to all the other parents out there. This isn’t just a blip on the map—the pediatric orthopedic specialist we saw last week said these injuries, along with several other types of overuse/stress injuries, are already through the roof this year. These kids got put on a shelf for a year, and we failed to understand the toll that took. And trust me, when you are watching your child get their arm wrapped in a cast while the joy drains out of their face as they realize their season is over, all the wins and success in the world mean nothing—failure is all you will feel.