If there was ever a wrong time to break a finger, this was exactly that moment.
2 weeks from his lifelong dream and pursuit of trying out for the high school basketball team as a freshman, my son Romney had just texted to let us know his finger was broken while playing ball at school.
We rushed to the doctor who confirmed the bad news with X-rays:
Definitely broken left index finger, probably would need surgery, instructed not to play basketball or any sports for at least 2-3 months.
Devastated, we returned home to consider what we should do.
Call the high school basketball coach and discuss it with him?
Problem is, the high school coach doesn’t know our family, although Romney had been to camps for a few years and done well, this is the largest school in the state, and our son couldn’t risk missing this opportunity to tryout.
We decided to go to a sports specialist, who is known for his Signature Move of getting injured kids back on the court quickly.
His diagnosis was the same, that it was broken, but wouldn’t need surgery and could heal with time and care.
He too insisted that Romney could not tryout for the team, and wrote him a note to give to the coach, as there could be potential for greater injury and possibly permanent stunt in growth of his finger.
As we drove home Romney and I discussed every possibility of his situation.
We devised a plan to talk to the coaches at one of the open gym practices prior to tryouts where the coaches would sit in and watch the boys play.
I told Romney to at least go and sit and be at the open gym, at least be present, watch and cheer others on, since he couldn’t play.
He looked at me and said, “Dad, this is my one chance. I can’t sit and watch. I have worked too hard to not go for it. I know I can play even with this injury.”
He asked what I would do if I were him. I told him that didn’t matter, it was his decision.
But he knew – he was going to play regardless of doctor’s orders – he knows that a broken finger couldn’t keep him from his promise to still go for it.
With each passing day, Romney would return home from the open gyms, having played with his finger taped and a large black brace over his hand and wrist, stating he hadn’t had a chance to talk to the coaches about his injury.
However, it sounded like he was succeeding in the open gyms even playing with just one hand.
Romney determined that if he played with just one hand, without grabbing or touching the ball with his broken finger hand – thankfully not his dominant shooting hand – he could still make things work.
And the Legend of Romney Hewlett was growing!
Everyone was talking about the 9th grader who was playing with one hand, hitting shots, grabbing rebounds, making passes, blocks and steals.
Eventually each of the coaches from every level of the team asked Romney about his hand, finger, and prognosis.
He confirmed that yes, it was broken, and yes, it was painful, but he would be healed in a few weeks and could play through it.
Tryouts began this past Monday, Nov. 7.
A 3-Day bloodbath of shattered dreams for nearly 100 boys vying for 27 spots between 4 teams: Freshmen, Sophomore, JV and Varsity.
Each night, around 10 PM, our family would gather around Mom’s phone as she hit refresh on the school web site where the remaining player’s names were displayed, and invited to return to tryout the next day.
That first night we sat in anticipation of Romney’s dream coming true, and even just getting to Day 2.
We dissected how things went, who did well, what had happened.
Romney was exhausted from the amount of running they did and could barely speak he was so worn out.
As we sat and refreshed the web site, the anticipation and worry grew.
When we saw his name was there, we shouted in jubilation!
Yet it was short lived…
Redford, our oldest son, who is 11 months and 3 weeks older than Romney, was not listed to return for tryouts the next day.
Romney couldn’t celebrate his great achievement, as his older brother was heartbroken and cut.
We consoled Redford, who was quite stunned to not be invited to Day 2, but also knew he was a long shot since basketball has not been his main focus, like it has been for Romney, and we talked about what he had done to help Romney along the way.
You see, Redford and Romney would go to the open gym games and be on the same team every game. Redford would rebound it and pass to Romney, so his little brother could shine and hit the shot.
Redford would set screens, dive for the ball, do anything he could to get the ball to Romney. This is how he has been since they were young.
Redford spent hours on end for the last few months editing film and video of Romney’s highlights for our family to spread the word on social media about how great Romney the basketball player is.
Redford would go out in the cold or heat and rebound for Romney, as he perfected his form and shot, play one-on-one to get him stronger, and led the way for his little brother to improve through the years.
When I coached my sons on Jr. Jazz, Redford was the cheerleader, vocal leader, rebounder and defender, and Romney was the star.
As a Dad, this story is the essence of family, of helping one another keep The Promise, when we know someone has a gift that ours does not equal, are we willing to make the sacrifices necessary to share the gifts we have to help each other succeed?
Redford is the star of many other ventures, destined to become a moviemaker, actor, composer, writer, entertainer, or even a lacrosse or track star…it is yet to be seen, but he has talents that are still showing up and we are helping him cultivate them.
Whereas Romney has had one singular focus: I Promise to do all I can to become a Great Basketball Player.
And he has kept that promise.
The Legend of Romney is only possible with the Legend of Redford. Irish Twins. Best Friends. Brothers by blood and spirit.
We have to give Redford huge credit and praise, as he continues to tryout every year and get cut every year, that is one thing he certainly has: GRIT. Determination. He gets punched down, he jumps back up every time. He is a fighter and we are so proud of him.
Just like the brother who falls overboard and, while drowning, still pushes his younger brother up for air, this is Redford’s mindset in this endeavor, and Romney has done the same for Redford in other situations and moments of time.
Nothing could make me more grateful as a father of sons who look out for one another and love each other more than self.
We were able to extract how the tryouts went from Romney (as he says very little), and the coaches approached him about the finger again, mostly because, according to another young player we talked with, he never saw Romney miss a shot the entire tryout.
Playing with one hand.
As we pressed refresh on those invited to Day 3, we shouted for joy when we saw Romney’s name, and equally were stunned to see who was cut.
Some of the best players Romney had grown up with since 4th grade were no longer listed.
We felt sick to our stomach for their families, knowing the sadness they must be experiencing after years of devotion to getting to this point.
I picked Romney up in the darkness of another late night tryout. I asked him to be honest, as he doesn’t like to talk about his achievements, and he silently said, “We were split into multiple teams. My team won each game. I hit the winning shot each time.”
Matter of fact. No celebration. Just doing what he knows he can do.
I said, “Well, I guess we can hope the coaches see how great you are, the team player you’ve become, the intelligence you have for the game, and I’m proud of you for giving it your all, and still trying out, despite your broken finger.”
That night we refreshed the page for over an hour, the usual 10 PM wasn’t going to happen this night.
10:10, 10:15, 10:20…we were losing our minds.
Around 11 PM we pressed refresh and the teams were displayed, those who would be making the high school team.
As a family, everyone was gathered in our bedroom.
We scrolled down to the freshmen section.
And there, smack dab in the middle of names we had known and followed and played against and with for years, sat the name:
As a family we screamed, cried, cheered, hugged.
Redford ran to Romney and almost killed him with excitement, jumping up and down hugging him.
Tears flowed for us as parents.
Romney sat there looking at his brace on his hand.
He had taken a great risk to tryout, using only one hand.
The next day we received an email welcoming Romney to the team, from the coach we still had never spoken with.
Before taking Romney to school, I read the first line aloud and couldn’t make it through…I just began crying.
Romney was surprised I couldn’t get through the email, I was just too blown away by what he’d accomplished, especially in his current injured state.
A lifelong dream of his, a story he could tell for his entire life had just been created, the Legend of my son taking shape.
We drove to school and I could barely talk or I would cry once again.
We didn’t need to. He knew.
That evening, we met the high school coaches and sat with the new team, players, and parents.
We couldn’t be more excited for our son to be a part of the culture that is being built at this school.
As we introduced ourselves to each coach, they all said, “We’ve had our eye on Romney for a long time. But mostly we thought, geez, it’s amazing the kid is still trying out and not even complaining about his injury…if he’s this good with one hand, how good can he be with two?”
He took a chance.
Romney has GRIT. GUTS. It led to GLORY.
He had accomplished his goal.
He never wavered in his commitment.
Most importantly, he had kept The Broken Finger Promise, and that is just one part of the story of the Legend of Romney Hewlett.
~ Jason Hewlett
Husband, Father, Writer, Mentor, Hiker
- Speaker Hall of Fame * Award-Winning Entertainer * Promise Legacy Project Coach
- World’s Only Keynote Speaker utilizing entertainment, musical impressions, and comedy to Create Legendary Leadership through the Power of Commitment
- Author of “The Promise To The One”