I had this great idea for Bridget. She loves to run and play. I wanted her to have more typical peer interaction. Bridget would tell me that she played soccer at school. Viola! I will sign her up for the Y.
Before signing her up, I asked if she would be a suitable participant. I was told that the YMCA isn’t about competition but about teamwork and inclusion. I thought I had found the one thing where Bridget could be a typical kid. I know it’s stupid. I know, in my head, that she has a disability and there are some things she cannot do.
It’s my heart that has difficulty.
For some reason, I thought this would be the happy medium. That she would run around with new friends. Yes, they might not understand her. But how much dialogue goes on during a soccer game. I knew the coach would be teaching skills that she would be unable to perform. That didn’t matter. She would be there with children in her own age bracket. She was smack dab in the middle of the age range. Sure there would be kids who could play, but there would also be kids who had never been on a field. I knew that she would be unable to play at their level. I thought she would have fun.
I was wrong.
The kids? They are the next Pele or Mia. They are using their heads and fly kicks. They are running around the field like a herd of elephants. Bridget is the turtle on the ground hoping not to get crushed. She spends more time on the sidelines behind my legs than on the field. When we convince her to actually get on the field she gets smacked with the ball so hard she goes flying to the ground.
I’m torn between wanting her to play and being terrified she is going to be really hurt.
I called the Y. I explained my fears. I was told that it was their job to make the game safe for all children’s abilities, including Bridget.
I sent her back. We spent most of the hour in this position.
Her teammates didn’t even realize she wasn’t there. The game went on. The other kids had fun as she watched from the sidelines. When I got her onto the field, she went right to the goal and turned her back to the game. A ball goes flying into the net, blocked by her butt. She saved the game winning goal. As she got from being face planted on the ground the coach tried to cheer her on.
“Good job, Bridget! You saved the goal!”.
“ALL DONE” She cried and stomped off the field.
We drove home, she was hysterical. Head pounding, legs kicking the seat in front of her. NO MORE SOCCER she screamed, tears streaked down her face.
No more, I whispered in shame.
I allowed my own want of a typical experience get in the way of her safety and well-being. Instead of placing her in a sport with her developmental age, my stubborness signed her up for her actual age. I listened to a well-intentioned coach who promised he could make the game inclusive. I placed faith in children who had never been exposed to adaptive sports and thought they would just understand how to add Bridget to the game.
I was wrong.
Bridget doesn’t want to play soccer. She is “all done”.
She won’t be at soccer tomorrow.
It’s not the YMCA’s fault. It’s not her teammates fault and it’s not her fault.
It’s what is best for Bridget.
I know I will continue to make mistakes. I know I will always battle my head versus my heart.
I just hope the next time doesn’t result in her being bruised.