Unless you’re an athlete, it’s hard to understand the level of passion or love someone could have for something as simple as a sport. To me, softball is my greatest passion. There is something about being a member of a team and sharing a profound amount of love for something that makes this concept hard to understand to anybody who isn’t a part of it. Softball is my outlet. It immediately changes my mood, and allows me to completely focus on being on the field, playing with my team, and just having fun.
Since the moment my dad put a bat in my hand, forcing me to be a lefty, I have had a love for the game of softball. I’ve played now for fifteen years, with the same dream as any little softball player- to play in college. I have just finished my freshmen season of collegiate softball; however, the road to getting there had its fair share of bumps. I suffered several concussions, a major illness, and a shoulder injury that led to surgery. All of these injuries forced me to sit on the sideline where I felt helpless. The feeling of not being able to play a sport that has given me an indescribable level of happiness, is something I struggled with the most.
For softball players looking to play at the collegiate level, the most important time for recruiting is the summer going into your senior year. For me, this is when I got my biggest and most influential injury. I had torn my labrum and the tissues in my shoulder surrounding my rotator cuff. In addition, my shoulder blade had become stretched and loose from overuse.
During basketball season of my junior year in high school, I dislocated my shoulder. The dislocations soon became frequent occurrences, and the pain grew to be so intense that I couldn’t raise my arm above my head or even pick up a jar to eye level. I eventually saw an orthopedic surgeon in January so that I could get an MRI to see if I had torn anything or needed surgery. The results came back, and my doctor told me all I would need to do was physical therapy, and that the injury should resolve itself. After five months of physical therapy and no results, my frustration hit its peak.
When the most important summer for my athletic future approached, I was struggling in practices. I suffered throughout the entire summer, feeling like my arm was going to fly off with the ball every time I threw it from third base to first. I didn’t want to sit the summer out, so I continued to play; by the time the end of the season came around in August, the pain had escalated so much that me and my family decided it was time to get a second opinion. We went to a new orthopedic surgeon who specialized in shoulders. Even before taking a new MRI, my new surgeon looked at my old scans and could immediately tell me I had a torn labrum.
I had now gone through eight months in extreme pain, making it worse every time I played. The amount of anger and frustration I had towards my situation was indescribable. I could have just gotten surgery when I saw the doctor in January, and all of this would be fixed by now. I kept thinking, if only that doctor hadn’t misread my MRI, maybe my shoulder wouldn’t have gotten so much worse. And with that, my new doctor scheduled my surgery for just two days after our appointment
I had verbally committed to Trinity College two months before I got surgery, and was terrified to tell my coach because I was scared she would no longer take me. I finally gained the courage to tell her and she completely understood, telling me to use this time to focus on simply getting better, and not to rush the process. I attended physical therapy four times a week for a month, and then twice a week for the nine months after that to stretch and strengthen my shoulder.
I was still an emotional wreck thinking about missing my senior year soccer, basketball, and softball seasons. During my recovery, I struggled. I never wanted to be patient, I just wanted it to be over so I could get back. I would try and push where I was in my recovery stage to make it seem like I was better so that they would clear me faster. I needed to understand my weaknesses and work on them, but also know their limits. This injury made me realize that not everything is in our control. This concept took me so long to grasp because I was so frustrated during that time.
What I realized was that the only thing we, as athletes, can control in our injury process is how we respond to it; how hard we decide to work for something we care so deeply about, how patient and understanding of the recovery process we can be, and how positive we can stay. It made me realize how much I truly loved my sport. The only thing that really mattered to me during my recovery process was to get back to playing so that I could be successful in my dream, to play collegiate ball.
These things that I learned during recovery aren’t things that solely apply to recovering from an injury, illness, or anything of that sort. I use these things in my life still, I always try to remind myself that not everything is in my control. If I try to control every situation in my life, I will never be successful. But what I can be successful in is how I respond to those situations and where I choose to go from there.