Category Archives: injury

Foul, foul

IMG_0798The picture shows no.2 son’s right leg. He has showered after a game of under 9 football. Five bruises and scrapes are splattered across the top of his shin and knee.

His team lost 3-0 in a tight match to a slightly better side. The opposition played some fluent football and switched decisively from defence to attack when they won the ball in their own half. Another feature of their play was fouling.

When one of no.2 son’s teammates dribbled around or accelerated away from an opponent, they received a kick to their shins or a tap on the ankle. No.2 son’s game features strong and tricky running with the ball. He regularly gets tripped by defenders deceived by his speed of foot. We bought him new shinpads with ankle attachments for added protection as a Christmas present.

At this weekend’s match, the trips weren’t from defenders trying to take the ball from him. They came from players he had already taken the ball past, whose aim was to stop him. The bruises shown on the photo came from something else: knee-high challenges as no.2 son ran at their defence.

Driving home after a match, it’s fairly common for the boys to complain that the other side were ‘foulers’. I might nod, or point out that his side plays physically, too. And the point of this piece is not to brand this other team as thugs (they come from a club with a good reputation and I find it very unlikely that this approach was inculcated by the coaches).

But today I agreed when no.2 son said the other team were ‘foulers’. And I think the referee would have done so too. He whistled for almost every foul, giving a string of free kicks, as players were helped up and limped away from the challenges.

Despite the referee’s diligence, the fouls kept coming. The question I pose is what could be done to stem the flow, not just punctuate it.

Understandably, referees are not expected to punish a junior footballer for a foul, in the way an adult would be: first offence – name taken and shown the yellow card; second time – dismissal. The bureaucracy of name taking and cards isn’t appropriate for a game children play for exercise, development and fun. But the fun needs to be there for both teams.

Readers who spend time around junior sport, here are some questions about how persistent foul play by children should be handled.

Referees
How would you expect this situation to be handled? A quiet word to the boys doing the kicking of opponents’ ankles? A conversation in one of the breaks of play with the coach? A request that a particular player is given a ‘time out’? An after-match report to club or league officials?

Coaches
What do you do if you see one of your players repeatedly fouling the opposition? Do you bring the youngster off and have a quiet word? Do you address the issue with the whole team after the game or at the next training session? Do you raise it with the parents as a conduct issue?

If your players are on the receiving end, would you communicate your concern to the other coach during the match? Would you leave it until after the game and approach the other coach, or refer it to club or league officials?

Parents
It’s not our place to intervene during a match, but what would you expect of the referee and of your coach?

Junior footballers
Would you want something done during the game or afterwards? Do you accept it as part of the game or does it make you less likely to want to play?

Please share your answers and opinions.

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Filed under injury, sport gives us..

Injured (playing with the kids)

226“So, how did you injure your shoulder?” the physio asked, eyeing my back, perhaps looking for clues.

“Playing tennis last August. I don’t play often.”

The bright light of that summer morning in St Andrew’s reappeared. No.1 son and I hitting balls back and forth. I was careful to direct the ball back to him, to keep the rally going. But soon, he was dinking little drop shots that, however hard I dashed and far I stretched, I just couldn’t reach. I was goaded, you see. My response was to up the tempo with some booming serves. That put an end to the cheeky drop shots and, three months on, had me seeking the attention of a physio.

“Just tennis? You did nothing else to it?” The physio began digging her thumb in amongst the tendons and joints of my upper back.

“Eh, yeah. No. Oww.”

“It won’t hurt for long,” she reassured me, with talon poised for another incision.

Rising to the challenge of a contest with a child is a common fault of adult men – and one that keeps the physiotherapy profession busy. I like to think we are infected by the carefree spirit of the child, and forget the limitation of our bodies. Less generously, we’re showing off. Dave, the ‘funny falling down man,’ as my kids know him, was guilty of this.

Dave visits us from the States while on business. He comes equipped and attired for meetings and strategizing: pure wool suit, Italian shoes and man bag.

On a wet day five years ago, he joined us on a trip out to burn off the kids’ surplus energy. While I kicked balls and played chase with the kids, Dave watched, apologising for the unsuitability of his clothing. Eventually, I declared there was time for just one more race. As we lined up, Dave appeared amongst the racers. On the G of ‘Go’ he hurtled forward. Closing in on the finishing line, he tried to ease up, but his leather soled shoes found no traction on the wet ground. He skidded, tripped and flipped head over heels, landing four or five meters past the finishing line on his shoulder. The kids howled with laughter. Dave struggled to his feet, clasping his shoulder.

At home, we sponged the mud and grass stains from Dave’s suit and dosed him up on pain-killers. Over night his shoulder seized up and I had to help dress him before he left for work. He struggled through his week of meetings. It took a course of intensive physiotherapy in the States for mobility to be restored. Even now, he claims there is a lump on his shoulder – a reminder of the dangers of competing with kids.

My physio had asked me: “Just tennis? You did nothing else to it?”

“Eh, yeah. No. Oww.”

And another image of that week in St Andrews flashed into my mind. Not the tennis court on a bright morning, but a patch of grass by the East Sands. The 1&onlyD and I waiting for Mother in the Middle. The 1&onlyD performing handstands and then turning cartwheels. I was asked to award marks for precision and flourish.

“Nine… Nine… Ten!”

“Go on, Daddy. Your go.”

“Five… Six… Six. Now try a round-off [cartwheel with a two-footed landing].”

“Four.. five”

“Owww”

Just the tennis, then. Not showing-off or being over-competitive – that would be dangerous for a man of my age.

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2 March 2015 – edited and revised.

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Filed under injury, play time