Kenny’s story: Determined to play again

Kenny recovering after Boston Marathon
Photo credit: Keith Bedford, Boston Globe

Dear young athlete,

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’ll never be able to play sports again. Don’t let them take away what you love to do. If I had given up sports, I wouldn’t have my dream job today. Let me share my story.

When I was an adolescent growing up in Sharon, Massachusetts, I was very active. To say I was “hyper” would be an understatement. My mom used to tell me to run around the house when I was annoying my brother and sister. I played every sport including basketball, baseball, touch football, and street hockey. I played soccer year-round, including indoor soccer in the winter. I loved running up and down the pitch, being on a team, and either scoring or setting up a teammate for a goal. I was one of the smaller boys on the field, but soccer didn’t care how tall I was.

When I was 11, I broke my right femur near the knee trying to score a goal. I was taken to the Sports Medicine Division at Boston Children’s Hospital and examined by Dr. Lyle Micheli. He diagnosed the injury, fitted me with a cast, and in a couple of months I rejoined my team. A few years later, during a junior varsity soccer match my freshman year of high school, an opponent collided with me. The force was so severe that it drove my kidney into my spine where it shattered. I nearly bled to death, but the doctors at Goddard Memorial Hospital saved my life.

Recovering in the hospital bed, I remember my pediatrician telling me my soccer career was over. I was devastated.

Dr. Micheli eased my parents’ concerns that I could continue to play the sport that I loved.

Yet, being the athletic child that I was, I was determined more than ever to play again. Once I was out of the hospital and back in school, I visited again with Dr. Micheli. He assured my parents that I could play again and that my injury was a freak accident usually only seen in serious car accidents. The odds of me losing my other kidney were extremely low and my remaining kidney would grow and be able to support me just fine for the rest of my life.

He outfitted me with a Boston Brace to wear anytime I played contact sports to protect my abdomen and organs from another serious injury.

I resumed my soccer career about four months after my accident. I was fully healed and ready to go. And I haven’t stopped since. In high school, I earned my referee certification and coaching license, played varsity soccer my sophomore year and captained the team my senior year. Then in college at George Washington University (GWU), I joined the Sigma Nu Fraternity and led our soccer team to the championship each year. Also at GWU, I worked for Aubre Jones, Director of Recreational Sports, officiating soccer, basketball, indoor hockey, and more. Aubre recommended me for an internship with D.C. United, where I spent the next two years serving as Visiting Team Liaison by helping opponents navigate around the D.C. area during visits and on game day.

After college, I refereed and played soccer on a couple of men’s and coed teams. I joined a running club and practiced speed workout on a track, which led me to sign up for my first marathon, the 2004 Marine Corps Marathon. After finishing, I was convinced I could run faster and set a goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon — the most prestigious in the world. It took me 16 attempts over seven years, but in 2011 I finally qualified in Pocatello, Idaho. To date, I have run 39 marathons in 25 different states, including five Boston Marathons, with a goal of running a marathon in every state.

Kenny Ames runs marathon

All of these experiences led to one another and positioned me to be ready when my dream job came along at Red Banyan. The principal and founder, Evan Nierman, was a classmate at GWU and remembered playing soccer against me.

Looking back, my life would probably be much different without Boston Children’s Sports Medicine. Dr. Micheli eased my parents’ concerns that I could continue to play the sport that I loved. Without him, I wouldn’t have continued to play soccer in high school nor landed the wonderful job I have today.

Remember, young athletes, don’t let anyone else tell you what you can or cannot do. Instead, show them what you are capable of and never let someone else define who you are.

Play on!


Sports enthusiast Kenny Ames headshot

About the blogger: Kenny Ames is Director of Client Relations for Red Banyan, a top public relations agency. He is a mentor, a husband and a father. And, he is an avid marathon runner and soccer fan.