Coaching Clinic-Learn How To Tear Your ACL
In July 2009, I was preparing to coach the 11 year old girls travel soccer team. This was my first foray into the travel circle, and I had coached in-house teams for 6 years prior to that. Apparently, the former travel coach made a name for himself by making some of the girls cry, due to public humiliation. I was asked to step up to help–the alternative would have meant that the girls would not be able to play travel that season. So I accepted the job, and shortly thereafter the league decided to have a mandatory coaching clinic.
The clinic involved a commitment of 3 hours on Friday night, 7 hours on Saturday, and 6 hours on Sunday. There was some classroom stuff, as well as hands on, I mean foot on soccer drills. Saturday AM, some of the attendees, most of whom looked like former college players, began feverishly taping their ankles. Some had knee braces. Since I had little soccer playing experience (I had learned the game via watching, reading books, and speaking with other coaches) I deferred the drills to the experienced coaches.
Fast forward to Sunday AM where each coach was responsible for putting together a small session, along with a few “evolving” drills. Evolving refers to having each subsequent drill, build off of the last one. Anyway, all coaches/attendees were required to participate in the drills. I happened to get picked for a 3 on 3 drill, where the object was to get the ball to the end line and place your foot on the ball for a point. The purpose of the drill was ball control. As I moved the ball through a maze of coaches, made a pass, then received a pass, I proceded to the line! Just as I was about to put my foot on the ball, I was hit on the outside of my knee.
It immediately buckled inward, and I immediately began ranting the F word–maybe 20 or 30 times, as I limped around on 1 leg. Everyone gathered around me, and told me to sit down. The pain reminded me of a severely sprained ankle. Rather than leave the clinic, I told the director that I was going to complete my commitment, receive my license, and that I would appreciate it if he got the “F..ing show on the road.” He did say I would still graduate, but I decided to keep my leg elevated over a cooler, with an ice bag on it. Ultimately, and it seemed like an eternity, it was my turn to direct some drills. While I directed everyone while on my rump, I have a voice that tends to get folks’ attention. Afterwards, I received some very good comments and feedback, from both the coaches, and the director. At the end of the session, I was helped to my car, where I drove myself home. I remember stumbling into the house, breathing rather heavy, then summoned my family into the kitchen. I told them, I need all of your help, I have a bad sprain, and I promise to make it up to you. At that point it was Sunday around dinner, and my options were to go to the ER, or to stay home and have a beer. I figured I could go to an orthopeadic Dr the following morning and get an X Ray. Of course, the soonest appt they had was Tuesday AM, and my that time my knee was at its peek swelling–I mean it looked nasty. The X ray on that day could not reveal a whole lot due to the swelling, and the ACL was not visible. The Dr did say that my cartilage had jack-knifed and sort of “splat” backwards, and that I would most likely require multiple surgeries. After that it took 6 weeks for the swelling to go down to where they could perform the operation. I opted for the “difficult” surgery, which involved using a ligament from my bad knee. In the end, I was on crutches for a total of 16 weeks, but did receive my Level E, PA Coaches License.
One interesting fact with this injury was that I was extremely loose and limber the morning of the ACL tear; I had stretched a lot. The latest sports medicine research suggests only MODERATE stretching before activities. Not a day goes by when I wonder what my outcome would have been if I didn’t stretch? The analogy I will use here is that of a rubber band–when the band is stretched, if cut, it will snap back with a lot of force; if it is not stretched, and then cut, it will not snap back, since there is no tension. Since then, I make sure that my players only stretch moderately; and I no longer participate in any competitive sports–those days are over.