Ever since I was younger I was taught that obstacles would come my way, but I had the choice to let them carry me down or face them head on. What I did not know was the obstacle was going to be fear itself.
I was never afraid of anything when I was little. I was a crazy kid who was always jumping off of things. I even used to climb trees where my friends and I would pick cherries and then jump off of the branches. It wasn’t until I was 16, that fear struck me down.
It was hot outside and really late in the evening. The dirt in our backyard was dry and was filled with tons of holes. I was with my friends who had just moved from Nigeria, who were really good at soccer. While we were playing soccer I got slide tackled. I remember going down and not being able to get back up. Tears filled my eyes because the pain was so excruciating. I remember my mom coming outside and telling me to get up, because she thought I was joking like I always do. It wasn't until we got to the hospital that she realized I wasn't joking. This was the worst pain in my life.
When I arrived at Boston Hospital I remember a man said “just walk it off” and gave me crutches. He did not understand how serious the situation was, so after taking x-rays, I was sent home. After a couple of hours I remember my mom waking me up and telling me we had to go back to the hospital. In the end, I had to go through at least three surgeries and I stayed in the hospital for five days.
Generally the hospital was a good experience. I had materials that kept me from being bored, I even had a game console in my room. A nurse took me in a wheelchair to their indoor basketball court. My favorite dessert was their chocolate ice cream, and indeed most of their food was great. But I missed my family and the home cooked meals my mom always made. And I didn't like the pain.
I never had the mindset of me being injured let alone pictured it. But it was only in the hospital that I learned that I had something called a slipped capital femoral epiphysis (my hip slipped through the growth plate). For years I had walked with a slight limp, but we alway thought this was part of growing pains and I would grow out of it. This is why I ended up needing surgery.
After I recovered, I still find that whenever I decide to play a sport the visualization of me getting injured always flashes through my mind. It's like I'm reliving that day, the day I felt that pain, the day I cried, the day my leg was shaking uncontrollably because the bone I needed in my hip slipped out of place. I was not worried that I could have lost my opportunity to pursue my dream all when I was playing in my backyard. The crazy part is I almost did. The memory of me being in the hospital and the visualization that I might be again always scares me.
Fear stops me from hitting hard on the football field because my mind tells me I will get injured again. Sports, particularly football, is my passion. I have always wanted to play for the NFL, but now the fear of being injured seems to stop me from my true potential.. But everyday I push myself to conquer fear, I realize now I should be afraid of being afraid. If I don't try, then how will I know what the future holds?
© Jakari Glenn . All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.