Down Low on the IR


A funny thing happened in the theatre last week.  I fell through a trap door and broke three ribs.

It’s really not that funny and if it was and I laughed it would really hurt a whole heck of a bunch. And so, due to my injuries I’ve been placed on the (IR) the Injured Reserve or (PUP) Physically Unable to Perform list.  A back up has taken over the role and the show, August: Osage County which opened on Saturday at the Penobscot Theatre Company and runs through May 16, goes on.  Which sucks.


The Author in his Gown

The Author in his Gown


To be clear, this sucks for me because I got hurt and I have to sit out.  The play, by Tracey Letts, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize and the show features an All-Star Cast led by Danielle Kennedy as Violet Weston and A.J. Mooney as her daughter, Barbara.  The show, directed by PTC Artistic Director Bari Newport, will be fine, even better than fine really.  It’s a ‘tour-de-force’, a ‘cauldron of battling emotions’, and all that.  It just sucks that I’m on the side-lines waiting for the doctors to give me the A-ok and the coach to pencil me in the line-up.

Which brings us back to youth sports.  What do you tell your kid when they’ve fallen out of a tree, broken their arm and can’t play baseball for 4-6 weeks?  What the heck do you do with the little bouncing balls of kinetic energy when they’ve been puking for three days straight and are going to miss the holiday tourney as happened to one of Zane’s teammates this past winter?  The poor kid had strep so bad he couldn’t swallow and could hardly breathe…and he still wanted to play.  What do you do with that?

From a player’s perspective, one of the most demoralizing aspects of being out is the sense that you are no longer part of the team and that you’re missing out on both the hardships and the triumphs. UMaine goalie, Matt Morris, out for all of his sophomore year with multiple hip surgeries wrote, “when everyone went on the road I was left behind and it was probably the worst part about being injured. The bus is a fun time for everyone. That is when the team bonds the most and the boys have a blast when we stay at hotels since all of our rooms are very close to each other so we all hang out. I would be stuck in a four person apartment all by myself with a sore hip and couldn’t even drive to get away.”

To counter this sense of isolation, a player should be encouraged to stay involved as best they can.  Open doors, shag balls, keep stats.  If their throat isn’t closing up on them, Gilian Kirlin, who has been there once or twice tells her kids to, “Be the loudest, most positive voice on the bench!  Being a “cheerleader” is just as important as being on the field.”

It’s also important for a team to keep a player involved.  Coaches and parents should let the injured child know how much they appreciate the continued support and keep them involved in team events and news.  The play sure be encouraged to view this time as an opportunity to watch, learn and get ready to take the field of play once again.  Sometimes taking a step back, as long as there’s not an open trap door right behind you, gives a player a greater perspective on what’s going on out there.

One thing pros have to worry about is losing their job during a prolonged absence (see Brady, Tom taking over for Bledsoe, Drew).  Luckily at the youth level most teams guarantee close to equal playing time so that shouldn’t be an issue.  The real issue is coming back healthy and this is shared at all levels of sport from kids to college to pros.

UMaine Men’s Hockey Assistant Captain, Conor Riley who recently underwent surgery for a torn muscle in his shoulder writes, “Nothing worse than not being out there with your teammates trying to win. I missed the game against UNH in Portland because of a shoulder injury this year. The only thing you can do is support the players who are playing and try to get healthy as soon as possible. It sucks not being out there but if you don’t completely heal, the recovery will take longer and most likely result in more time on the IR.”

Another issue is trust, trusting your teammates to get the job done with you out.  Again, we have an advantage at the youth level in that it’s not supposed to be about wins or losses.  It’s supposed to be about fun, competition and participation.  Still, when you’re out of competition due to a lack of participation the fun can seem weeks away.

Jen More, Maine Women’s Ice Hockey 3-year Captain says, “Watching from the sidelines is definitely not a fun thing to do, that’s for sure. You are cheering on your teammates but you can’t really help with their success. You want to be out there working hard with them but the only thing you can really do is to support your team and do whatever you have to do to get back out there.”

There can even be a benefit to seeing teammates succeed.  Tori Pasquariello, who had to retire from the Maine Woman’s Ice Hockey team due to multiple concussions wrote, “Trusting that your ‘teammates’ or ‘playmates’ can pull through without you there is what is going to help when watching.”  Jessica Vallotton, out this past season with a bad back adds, “It was mentally challenging not being able to be out there with my teammates, wanting to be out there to help them with their success. Until I realized that I was helping with their success just by being present and bringing the best attitude I could to the arena each and everyday.”

The bottom line is that the best thing to do for your player is to keep them involved.  Stress the importance of being there for the team either as an inspiration or fan.  Remind your player that their friends are doing their best to make up for their absence.

Danielle Aviani, Maine Field Hockey sums it up nicely, “ It sucks to watch your team perform while your body/health is holding you back from helping them achieve your common goal, no doubt. You may think that there’s no worse feeling and that you’re letting them down. But to try to help them when you’re not 100% can hurt the team even more. You can’t always be the hero and try to perform when something isn’t right or else the whole team’s performance will be lowered and you don’t want to hurt them like that. Injuries suck and watching your team from the sideline sucks too, but it’s life and it can happen to anybody. The best thing to realize is that your team/cast is your family and that they support you no matter what condition you’re in and that they will perform to the best of their ability FOR YOU.  They will work hard for you and show you that everything will be ok and you’ll be back soon enough. You said it yourself, you need to rest and recover. Have the mindset that you will come back even better and try your best to stay positive.”

As with all team sports, its important to remember that team goals come before individual wants.  Our players take hits to make plays, we praise them for assists as much as goals and we cheer them win or lose.  Keeping a kid out of the game may be the most difficult job we have sometimes but possibly the most important.

Matt Morris came back this past season.   “As bad as missing a season was I think it made me a better player. I was shaky at times but now I have much more mobility in my hips which makes me faster and more agile, but I’m also tougher mentally. My advice to you would be to stay positive and take the time to relax!”


Oh, just so you know, I’m healing up fairly well thanks to the quick actions of my theatre folk, the First Responders, the excellent care at St. Joseph’s and EMMC and the support of my family and friends.  I was able to attend opening night as a “cheerleader” and will be back in the starting line up on Wednesday.  Go team A:OC!


August: Osage County at PTC

August: Osage County at PTC


Youth Lacrosse Report:  Apparently this new sport agrees with Zane and his buddies as his Eastern Maine White Eagles won their opening match against Augusta 7-4 and the kid who loves playing goalie on the ice scored 1 goal and had 3 assists.  More next week when I can actually attend the match.


James, Zane, Isaac, Mac and their #1 cheerleader, Carmen like lacrosse.

James, Zane, Isaac, Mac and their #1 cheerleader, Carmen like lacrosse.

Finally, for a moving and educational story about another kid who loved to play goalie, so much so that he slept in his gear as a kid, lost it all and fought back to the highest level of play read Wayne Drehs feature on former Maine goalie and current Chicago Blackhawk Scott Darling.



Travis Baker

About Travis Baker

Travis Baker grew up playing baseball, basketball, football and soccer. There was a brief stint with karate and a briefer one with fencing but he would not return to the glory days of youth sport until he moved to Maine and had a couple of boys, Zane (11) and August (7), of his own. Inspired by his lads, he learned to play hockey at the age of 35 and now plays every Monday night in Brewer. Thanks to a number of former students, he’s learned a wee bit about lacrosse, field hockey and track and field. When not helping out in his kid’s activities, is the award-winning playwright of One Blue Tarp and Hair Frenzy, both of which premiered at the Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor. Travis is the author of Night and the Texas Sky, and numerous short stories and essays. He is married to the founder of Maine Yoga Adventures, Holly Twining. Currently, he coaches hockey, baseball and serves on the board of the Maine Junior Black Bears as the PR Director.