Movie Boy has played football on the city league for the past three years. He started off barely understanding the game, and has improved his skills so that now he is playing first string defense.
He has a great team this year with great coaches. Honestly, if his teachers would employ some of the coaches teaching methods in the classroom, Movie Boy would probably do better in school. If they want a kid to “hear” them, they put their hands on his shoulders and talk to his face. If they want everyone in a crowd to get the message, they talk loudly, clearly, and in short, specific sentences. If they want to correct something, they have the kid repeat until they get it right, and then offer lots of positive enforcement.
Unfortunately, there is a weight limit in the city league, and so as a 98th percentile kid, he just barely made the weight this year. He is 5’4″ and weighed in at 145.0, which JUST made the 145 weight limit. Since he’s getting taller by the second, he’s going to size out of this league long before he ages out of it.
The other option for playing football is to play with the school team. We had heard this was fairly competitive, so we didn’t even try this option last year. We don’t see him leaving his current team to play for the middle school team, but we decided we’d give the tryout process a try. Not so that he could make the team, which we knew was a long shot, but because we want him to understand the process so that next year if this is his only option, he has an understanding of what it takes to make the team.
So on Monday, we went out to the middle school. Movie Boy and about 75 other boys were going for 35 places on the team. And while my boy is one of the biggest in the weight-restricted city league, he was a pretty average sized player in the sea of potential middle school players. One eighth grader there had to be 6′ tall, with size 14 shoes.
And a lot of them really, really wanted a place on that team.
Movie Boy held his own. In laps, he finished in the middle of the pack. He dutifully performed all the drills. He was neither an obvious cut nor an obvious stand out.
And there were a lot of stand outs.
So this morning, we called to see if he made the first cut. And he didn’t. And I have to admit that I was a little sad, because, I think, it is just natural for you to want your kids to succeed at whatever they do. And I have that little voice in my head that says he was never going to make the team no matter how well he did, because the PE staff know he has a disability. And that’s the tough thing with a kid like Movie Boy, not knowing if he’s been discriminated against or if he just didn’t make the cut. I watched the tryouts and I’m pretty sure that there were just 35 kids out there who were better than him, but the little voice is still there.
I think also, in an process such as this, he is competing not in an accommodated environment but on the same playing field (no pun intended) as his peers. I think it is a testament to his accommodations and education thus far that he did as well as he did. When he was 3, we went out for soccer and he spent the whole time alternating between wandering around the field and stimming on his water bottle. If you had asked me then if I thought he would ever play football, much less try out for a competitive team, I probably would have cried.
Deep down, I think I would have loved to see him make the first cut because it would have been tangible evidence that he could hold his own with his neurotypical peers. Which is not fair of me. Loading so much on a simple middle school sport tryout. I don’t know. And hanging in for the tryouts and doing his best — that is an accomplishment for any kid. I am trying to think of this in terms of how I would feel if Ben Ten had been cut — Ben Ten being my neurotypical child — and not overload this event with too much scrambled baggage. Just take it for what it is — an experience in a long string of experiences.
In the meantime, Movie Boy is just fine with being cut. His friend Paul, who also tried out, was also cut. He didn’t really want to go back without his friend. He is happy on his city league team. He knew we were doing tryouts for the experience and not for a spot on the team. He would rather go to the beach today than show up for another day of tryouts. And so that is what we are doing.