Thursday, August 18, 2016

To be a football player or not to be a football player, that is the question.

He loves football.  He loves everything about football. He commits players stats and names and histories to memory.  He can recount injuries, and highlights along side his dad and brothers with a bit of accuracy... he has fatheads in his room, he has playing cards, he has the gear... he does not have the passion.

I am going to go back and start this story at the end of last school year.  Spring practice. Six weeks of voluntary practices.  Grumpy goes to every practice, because if you go and do not miss one, you get a steak dinner.  Quite the incentive I would say and one that seemed to work for the dwarf since while he ate steak, the other boys who did not make every practice, ate hot dogs.   He would come home tired and sore for the first couple weeks and as he got into shape we thought he was enjoying the work outs more and more.  We applauded his determination.  We praised him for not quitting and for doing the hard things.

Our summer this year was very short. Football practice summer workouts have begun almost simultaneously with break, and Grumpy was all in and going strong.  Said Dwarf is getting up and going to most of the four required days of the week training, and seems to be doing ok.  We were starting to think that maybe he finally had found that balance of being passionate about something and seeing the value in working hard and being part of something bigger than himself.

Then we start to see a distinct waining of interest.  I do now understand that to be a football player, you have to really be in love with the idea of hard work, in horrible conditions, pain, agony, and enjoy the repetition of drills and hard work.  This requires much more fortitude than the dwarf that I live has ever exhibited.

The wheels start falling off the bus about four and a half weeks into practices and said dwarf starts over sleeping, and not going to practices.  Occasionally, he would make a show about "working out" on his own at home, but when pushed about the next days upcoming practice and being up on time and ready, he was now non-commital and hesitant to go.  He started making up what we thought could be valid exceptions to the practice schedule, and although I always followed up with the coaches, Grumpy, as it turned out was only relaying the parts of the exceptions that he wanted to hear.  I know see me being shocked.   For example only the varsity players are attending this week and they are off site.  While varsity was practicing and they were off site, the rest of the boys were still at it in the hot Florida sun on the school campus.  All of them except Grumpy.

We thought we were encouraging him, telling him that we were proud of him for trying this sport,(and since the last time he played was pee-wee ball and this is clearly much more demanding) that we were fine if he did not want to be on the team, but that he needed to make the decision, we would not make it for him.

Here is what I know about Grumpy. He romanticizes so many things in life. Football was no exception.  In his world and mind, he is a star.  I have often heard people saying,  "in life if you dream it and you can become it", but what a disservice that does to special needs kids. Because of what is left unsaid in the middle of that statement.  "Dream it (work hard, be passionate, give everything to making the dream reality) and you will become it. "  In Grumpy's world he dreams about being the star, he is the star when he plays football video games, he knows the current day's stars because he reads about them and talks about them, so therefor they are his people.  He is associating in his mind, with the stars.

In real life however,  as we were dropping him at the gym for practices he is struggling with another area in his life, laziness.  He just wants to be the star, not do the hard work that would get him to stardom. He just wants to wear the uniform, not earn the spot that gets him the uniform, and if he can't be the star, then he would rather not play.  Instead of just using his words, articulating that he does not any longer desire to do the hard work and be on the team, he lies about where he is and what he is doing.  He comes home after a hard practice and fills our ears with all the "right" sounding things he did at practice that day. While we come to find out some days he was not even on the field. An example of this is for his position, he was to run an 8 minute mile (which for a 17 year old male of slim proportions and somewhat fit) should be simple.  To hear Grumpy tell the story, he has run this mile three times and each time has missed the mark by an eyelash.  7 seconds off, 9 seconds off.  Then he starts brainstorming with the Prince and I about strategies for running and shaving those seconds off. Maybe he should start slower and give a bit push at the end so he is not spent at the end of the mile....   But the truth we come to find out is that he runs an 8 minute mile in 91/2 minutes and 10 minutes.  Remember a star player would NEVER be 2 minutes over in his mile run!  So he not only lies to us, but to himself about his abilities instead of getting out there and doing hard things to decrease his time or just resigning from the team and saying "this is not my thing".

Another area of life that is a real struggle for Grumpy is pride.  Since he has written letters home to family and friends and told EVERYONE that will listen he is playing football this year, for that not to be the case is a reality that he can't spin.  Counter this with his low self esteem, as he assumes everyone cares what he is doing or not doing, he will skirt the truth or the reality for as long as he can.  If we drop him and the school for practices(even if he does not go), or he wears the teams logo clothing, there is still the thread of connection that makes him a football player in his mind.  It never occurs to him that the general populous does not really even care about his hobbies and activities. He assumes that everyone is going to be talking about him,  mocking him, or ridiculing his inability to make the team.

In our final conversation with the coach, sadly he was unable to follow even the most basic rules regarding summer practices, so on principle alone was not being asked to be part of the team this year.  The boys had to sign in on a log sheet to show they were at the summer practices. In order to be on the team in the fall they needed to be present for 11 practices. Grumpy was there for at least 14.   He signed in for 4 practices.  Again, in his reality, he had trouble accepting the truth and his response when confronted with why he did not sign in, was to blame the coach.  He said coach could see that I was there, so he should not have had to sign in.

While Grumpy sits and waits for the next sports season to begin, so he can be the newly discovered basketball star or the baseball star, that is all that he is doing. Sitting and waiting. Playing the NBA or MLB video game in preparation for the season. Still not grasping that to be a star takes hard work, ability and skills that need to be practiced and refined over the course of time.

We will continue to remind him, encourage him, all the while praying that the blinders would come off his eyes, and that he would mature to the point of understanding that just dreaming about something does not make it a reality.  That there needs to be a lot of sweat and tears that go into making greatness.  More importantly, at the end of the day, the Prince and I just want him to understand our vision of greatness for him is to be a man of character, honest, sincere and hardworking.  That is what would make him a star in our eyes.

On a side note, if saying I ran and 8 minute and 7 second mile makes it so... well I am just saying, my mile is pacing at 9 minutes and 36 seconds or more  and I would love to shave some time off that!!   You really can't make this stuff up...