Patty Kleban: What’s the Sports Team Mom to Do?
April 26, 2012 6:00 AM
by Patty Kleban
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Last Saturday in Hershey was supposed to be a cool, rainy day but it turned out to be gorgeous and sunny. It was a perfect day for outdoor activities, including the Blue-White Game, at Beaver Stadium and youth sports.

The Centre Lacrosse Wolves U19 club team was scheduled to play two games at Founders Park, the wonderful multi-use municipal park right across the street from Hershey High School.

The Wolves are a new team this year made up of boys from Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy as well as other local high schoolers who are enjoying the opportunity to play lacrosse. The parents of the Wolves had organized a tailgate for between the 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. games.

Our second opponent for the day was the Hershey youth club lacrosse team. We had tied them on our first meeting and they had beat us the weekend before. The team – including my 15-year old son - was ready to go.

Parents of youth sports know that the daylong events such as tournaments or doubleheaders can be really fun or torturous, depending on the weather, the sport, the opponents and the families.The Wolves team and their families have been pretty cohesive this year.

We are a new team with many new players to the game, and there has been a lot of early bonding. Our coaches – Ian and Jim – are enthusiastic college students who have considerable experience in playing and coaching lacrosse. Their proximity in age to their players as well as the fact they aren’t the “Dad-Coach” has been an advantage.

The parents have organized pregame pasta nights, group gatherings at the PSU men’s lacrosse games, fundraisers and tailgates at our games. 

It had the makings for a perfect day.   

After a close but tough early game against Solanco (Southern Lancaster County) and a group lunch, the Wolves took the field against our new rivals, Hershey. It started out as an exciting game with few penalties, evenly matched skills and scoring and some great lacrosse. With a little over five minutes to go in the final quarter, the game was tied at 6 when attack player No. 19 on the Wolves went down in a scuffle with two players from Hershey and didn’t get up.

No. 19 is my kid. 

I watched from the sideline as the play continued until the referees realized that No. 19 was down. After the referees blew the stop-game whistles, our coaches ran out to assist my son. While the rest of players took a knee, my husband and I stood up from our folding chairs on the sideline to get a better view. Patrick was moving but still not standing up.

At that point, it was all I could do not to run out on the field.  

I’ve been a sports team parent for many years. I’ve learned about maintaining the parent-player-coach boundary. I try to yell only encouraging comments and can restrain myself most of the times when I think the other team might be getting too rough or the ref makes a bad call. I can make cookies, work the concession stand and collect money for sweatshirts. 

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my kid laying prone on the field.

I’ve only seen a parent go out on the field one time and it was at a youth tournament. That parent was a pediatrician and it wasn’t her kid who was down for the count. In many instances,  there are trainers on the sidelines who will go out and assist the coaches. Sometimes the other coaches will help out too. A Mom going out to assist her 6-foot, 195-pound lacrosse player really isn’t cool. 

After a few minutes, my husband started out onto the field.   

I found myself shouting instructions at him as he moved toward our son. “Maybe it’s dehydration!  He didn’t eat much lunch. They took off his helmet. Check his neck. Don’t forget that medication he’s on might raise his blood pressure."

Totally uncool.  

I sat back down in my chair and said to the other moms around me, “I’m not going to be that embarrassing mother. My husband can handle this, right?”

They looked at me sympathetically. 

We watched as the coaches seemed to be talking with Patrick and then helped him get to his feet and walk over to the bench. I saw my husband talking intently to my son.  I observed Patrick’s head hanging between his knees as he sat on the ground. I saw my husband giving Patrick some Gatorade. 

I watched Hershey score another point.  

My head started spinning. Do I have our insurance cards? How much cash do I have in my wallet?  What if they keep him overnight? The dogs are back in State College and will need to be let out. How will the kid who rode down with us get home? How long does it take for an ambulance to get here? 

Maybe it’s nothing.

After what seemed like hours, my husband made his way back over to the parent’s side of the field and said “He’s not making much sense. Let’s go.”   

We folded up the chairs and asked the other parents to make sure our goalie had a ride home.  We made our way back over to the players' bench. With my big, sweaty guy leaning on me for support, we walked to the park bench nearest to the parking lot while my husband brought the car around. It was clear from Patrick’s conversation in the car that something wasn’t right. 

“Can I get back in the game?” The sports team mom said no. 

Luckily, we were a little less than a mile away from Hershey Medical Center. After a very efficient and very thorough evaluation at Hershey Medical Center, it was confirmed my son had a concussion from hitting his head on the ground. (Thanks to Dr. Barnes and Dr. Olympia for helping us so quickly).

The CT scan revealed no bleeding or fractures so they gave him medication to stop the nausea, clear instructions about limited school and brain stimulus for the next few days and sent us on our way. 

My kid is not the first athlete in the world to get hurt during a sports event. I am not the first mom to feel the pain of watching her child athlete be tended to on a sports field by someone else.

I’m sure Joe Theismann, Ben Roethlisberger, Adam Taliaferro and the gazillion other athletes who have been hurt have had a mom either in the stands or watching on TV.

However, on that day and on that play, it was my kid. What’s a sports mom supposed to do?  Mini-soccer players or T-ball players sometimes need their mom or dad from the sidelines, but the rules change as our kids get older and become more independent.  

Thankfully, emergency room staff don’t care if it’s the mom who asks the questions, holds the puke basin or tends to her child’s needs. 

The sports team mom has to keep her cool.

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