In late May, I tried out for the Nepean Eagles football team, which is the team I have been playing with for the past three years. They have just changed their name from the Nepean Redskins due to concern from many Aboriginal people that the name was racist. I was a bit nervous trying out this year because I moved up in age category to Bantam, which is for 15 and 16 year-olds. Some of the guys who are 16 are really good players and extremely big so I wasn’t sure if I would make it.
To prepare for the try-outs, I have been working out 2-3 times per week the past four months with Greco Lean ‘n Fit in Barrhaven. They have been helping me build muscle bulk and improving my aerobic endurance through circuit training-type exercises, sort of like Cross-Fit. A bunch of guys from my football team last year went to these Greco sessions with me as did our coach so we all got fit together, which is the way Greco prefers to organize these sessions – almost like a community event.
When we got to the first tryout, I was really excited. They first had all the different age groups together to warm up. This year we were led by one of the Ottawa Redblacks players. This guy was huge and looked like a wall! After we had finished stretching, the different age groups split up and went to different fields. Since this was the first night, we all had different tests to test out our agility, speed and strength.
This tryout was a whole different experience from previous years. This time everyone was bigger, faster and stronger. I was one of the biggest guys on my team last year, while this year I was one of the smallest. Some guys were 6feet, 6 inches – I’m not kidding! There were also some fat guys who weighed around 280 pounds.
I would be lying to say I was not intimidated. When we started the combine, I could tell the Greco training was paying off. I was faster and stronger than a lot of the other guys. The second night was more about skill-based drills to see how well we could throw, catch and tackle. On the first drill, when we were going over the bags I landed on my ankle funny and heard a loud crack. I could tell immediately something was not right. There was a throbbing pain and I could barely stand. I didn’t want to go tell the trainer (who happened to be my dad) about my ankle because I was afraid the coaches would cut me if they thought I was hurt. So I sucked it up for the rest of the practice.
At the end of the practice, I took off my cleat and experienced a lot of pain. My cleat was keeping it compressed so when it was removed, it started to swell. Ice didn’t do too much as it was very swollen but my mom gave me a double dose of Advil, elevated it and put ice packs all around it for a couple of hours. The next day at school it felt even worse. The walk from the bus to school felt like an eternity.
The third night was just a touch football game but I didn’t know how I was going to do it. My ankle felt like a bulldozer had run over it. I sucked it up and ran around and played as well as I could. At the end of practice, I went home and yet again my ankle was swollen to a size of a baseball. Fortunately, I did make the first cut and I now have several weeks to rest my ankle before conditioning starts this summer. I learned a lot during those two nights about how to work through pain as I have not had a sprained ankle like this before. It’s a good feeling to know that you can draw on your inner strength when you need to, which I believe is a good lesson for life in general.