In this day and age, everyone is aware of the dangers of concussions. My friend recently shared a harrowing tale of what happened when her daughter sustained a concussion during color guard practice. Instead of rallying around the fallen teammate, the coach opted to cut her from the team as her bruised brain heals. This is my friend's story in her words.
"Should I scream? Should I cry? I'm not sure what to do."
Heart-wrenching words expressed by my 14-year-old daughter when she received word from her coach, via text, that she was cut from her color guard team as she recovers.
I had contacted the coach and informed him that my 14-year-old could not attend a three-hour practice due to a concussion sustained at practice a week earlier. His response was to tell her she was cut from the team.
"I'm sorry but I am going to have to cut your daughter thank you... I need to do what's best for the team."
There was never a discussion, as is the standard, to discuss her return after she was medically cleared to resume activities; she was just cut.
My daughter was injured during a six-hour practice on Jan. 10 when she took two hits to the head. It happened on her 14th birthday. Three days later, on Jan. 13 my daughter fainted and hit her head on the bathroom floor. We took a trip to the pediatrician's office where she was diagnosed with a concussion.
On Jan. 14 my daughter collapsed again. We took an ambulance ride to the hospital where more tests were run to rule everything out.
Despite everything, my daughter still went to support her team and watched three hours of the six-hour practice on Jan. 17. She slept for seven hours afterwards.
Jan. 20 is when I texted the coach to advise him that my daughter would not be able to attend practice due to her injury, and that she can barely sit through three hours of school, let alone color guard practice.
It's 2016. We are aware that concussions are dangerous. We are educated and perform baseline impact tests for our athletic children. There are rules in place that if any athlete sustains a concussion, they must completely recover before resuming activities.
My daughter's coach should have been trained and aware of this. Instead, she was cut from the team and only one teammate reached out to her in support.
This could have happened to any one of these kids. How would other parents react if this were their daughter? How would they feel if their child was cut from a team while they recover from a concussion? You don't even get cut from the NFL if you suffer such a fate.
The coach dropped the ball in his judgment on what is "best for the team." A real team rallies when one has fallen.
Instead, during my daughter's darkest hour, when she needed support the most, the coach eliminated her, erasing what should have been a support group.
My daughter was willing to support and attend practices and competitions. She would have put on the $75 uniform we paid for and stood and held a flag, anything. At no time was she asking for anything more; just the chance to continue to be part of the team.
I've gone to other middle and high school sporting events and seen injured athletes on crutches or in knee braces. Those injured athletes are allowed to join practices and games. Is it because my daughter's injury can't be "seen" that she was discriminated against?
Or maybe because this isn't a school-sponsored team? I'm certain this would never have happened if it was a school-run program.
Minutes after learning of her coach's decision, my daughter was devastated. She asked permission to use bad language. I let her.
She vented about the situation, and later that evening, we sat in her bedroom. In her wisdom she said,
"It's fine mom, I have my priorities. I have my health, my family, school, girl scouts, dance... This sport was just a side activity."
I stared at my daughter with pride.
My straight-A student will be presented with other opportunities and adventures. She is aware there will be individuals that leave her behind because of a temporary deficiency, but she also knows other, more rewarding experiences are part of her future. She will share in other team successes with those that understand the true meaning behind friendship and teamwork.
Over time, I hope the coach recognizes how wrong he was. I hope he recognizes as a coach he is in a position where he can make an impact.
It's not just about claiming trophies or creating interesting competition entries. It's about teaching respect and compassion.
Under an effective coach's leadership, kids should never feel belittled, ignored or humiliated. A coach should guide, support, encourage, teach and foster an inclusive and cohesive team.
This coach failed.
Instead my daughter was taught that if you get knocked on the head, you will be cut.
Oh, and by the way, "Please return the equipment to the school on Sunday between 9-3."