There really is no “I” in team

The Hare at her last competition of this season (photo courtesy of Forever In Photos Photography)

“MOM!” sobbed The Hare, clutching her right hand, “Something is wrong with my finger.”

We had a houseful of people for Easter, our second annual taco bar potluck dinner with two other gymnastics families. The kitchen was piled high with half eaten plates, empty glasses, raucous laughter and genuine conversations.

Six girls had been in the basement, blaring music and making up routines on our gym mats and various fitness apparatus. Now they all stood in our kitchen, deep concern on their faces.

“What do you mean something is wrong with your finger?” I asked confused.

“This!” The Hare said, shoving her middle finger in my face. It was already red and swollen but not bruised. For a second, I thought it looked slightly crooked.

“It’s probably just jammed or something,” I said, as all moms on hand started gathering ice and wash cloths, asking the most obvious question, “How did this happen?” A vague explanation of standing back tucks and back hand-springs gone awry drifted over my head as the realization that our final state competition was less than two weeks away. In fact, just one week from Easter was the Spring Fling State Prep Invitational. It was not lost on me either, that the use of all ten fingers was necessary to compete. The Hare spent the rest of the evening with her hand elevated and iced. I even gave her some ibuprofen to help reduce any swelling.

“I’m sure it will feel better in the morning,” I said, kissing her goodnight.

“MOM!” sobbed the Hare again, still clutching her right hand the next morning, “Now my finger is completely black and blue and twice the size as the others!”

She painfully tried to move her finger but it was clear that this was more than a finger jam. A trip to our sports medicine doctor and the radiologists confirmed that it was indeed broken, a t-shaped fracture to the side of her knuckle, just above the growth plate. It would require a splint for at least a week, some physical therapy and a good 4-6 weeks of non-impact activities, which meant no tumbling, bars or vault. The Hare was quite stoic in the doctor’s office, but the minute we got home she fell apart. The tears gushed with each shallow breath. She paced the kitchen floor frantically.

“I’m going to compete!” she screamed, “I don’t care what anyone says. You can’t stop me!”

There was no point arguing this with her, it would only have fueled the fire. Instead, I just let her rant and rave until there was nothing left. She fell asleep on the couch, tears still wet on her cheeks.

We didn’t talk about it again for a couple of days. Our doctor agreed to see us at the end of the week, just to take a second look, with the hope that after reviewing the final x-rays with the radiologists he would change his diagnosis. But as soon as he saw the chubby finger, still sporting shades of purple, he shook his head in disappointment.

“Well,” he said, looking The Hare straight in the eyes, “you have to understand that gymnastics is an injury sport and you need to decide how you are going to respond to those injuries. You can either ignore what your body is telling you, compete anyway and risk doing more damage, or you can let it rest and insure that you will have many more years of competition. It’s your choice.”

The Hare took a deep breath, shook her head, and pursed her lips. “Then I choose to go with my team and cheer them on for the next two weeks. After all, I broke my finger. I didn’t quit the team.”

She stood with her team, waving and smiling, as they took first place at last week’s Spring Fling State Prep Invitational and we will travel again this weekend to watch them compete at the state meet.

9 thoughts on “There really is no “I” in team

  1. She sounds like a very thoughtful, brave and optimistic girl. Good luck to her in the future – may she have teammates as supportive as she is to them!

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