August 7th, 2008.
Sophmore preseason. I came in that year stronger than last and passed my fitness test with flying colors. I felt like a leader, like I was ready to make an impact on the season. I stepped my game up over the summer to make sure I was ready. It was a casual 110 degrees heat index and practice #3 of the day in the swamp. We were doing one of my favorite defensive drills. I always performed well in this drill. I stepped to my teammate with the ball at an angle to force her to use her left foot. I plant my feet. I shift my body to the right…but my feet stay. Pop. I immediately fell down. Something wasn’t right. My whole right leg was numb. My teammates were yelling saying they heard a pop 20 feet away. I was sick to my stomach because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to finish practice…..not even realizing what I was in for. ACL tear #1.
My mind was racing for days. I mean what do I do now? This is why I am here (so I thought)….to play soccer. Will I keep my scholarship? Was I fit enough? How could you be so lazy and not pick up your feet? Why did you let fatigue get the best of you? Will you be the same player? I have to learn how to walk again?!
So many questions, so much confusion, boat loads of emotions. Surgery was a few weeks later and the road to recovery began. My teammates, coaches, friends, family all rallied behind me forcing me to celebrate small wins like raising my leg
or bending my knee another few inches. It took a village to keep my attitude in check. My patience has always been thin and this process tested it more than ever. Slowly, but surely I rehabbed that bad boy and 9 months later I was released.
I was home for the summer and ready to get after it. I’m back! I have a new knee, let’s see what we’re working with. I was playing semi-pro for a WPSL team back in St. Louis. We had a friendly match that would be my first game back. I was nervous/excited like it was my first high school game. I was playing center mid and going up against one of my old teammates from club. She cuts, I turn with her…plant my left foot, turn my body the opposite way…..POP. I fell to the ground…yelling NO, NO…in very dramatic fashion. It was my other knee….left this time. It was all too familiar. Same feeling…numbness…jello. Almost exactly 9 months later, my very first game back I tore my other ACL. ACL tear #2.
So the questions roll in again. Is this real life? How does this even happen? Did I rehab wrong? How could I be so lazy? Am I really meant to play soccer? I was devastated. The feeling of failure consumed me. I couldn’t stop crying and at the time couldn’t fathom having surgery and rehabing all over again.
“You never know how strong you are…until being strong is the ONLY choice you have.” I have always had a fire about me. I am so passionate about life and I was able to share that through soccer. I fell in love with the game when I was 5. It was my life. The thought of not being able to play broke me. I was depressed and could not stop replaying plays and trying to make since of it all. I would attempt to isolate myself at my apartment (my roommates didn’t allow much of this)..doing the occasional leg lift in my room before it was time to head back to treatment. I had to find it somewhere inside of me to overcome this. I would tell myself...”you have to play again...it’s who you are.”
This time around I had about five football guys that tore their ACLs within a two week span of mine. We were all around the same timeline recovery wise, so we did a lot of exercises together. Lord knows I needed them. My teammates, coaches, trainers, and the rest of my support system were incredible this time just like my first rehab. I was just. So. Sad.
Time went by….every day, twice a day in the training room getting treatment and physical therapy. 8 months later I was released to play. It was all a blur, I don’t know how I managed to come back again…back to back like that. The body is an amazing machine. The mind is equally remarkable.
Fast forward a bit, I was healthy for Spring season and made it through that Fall season injury free! I’m back to my old self, healthy, strong, reliable!
The following Spring season rolls around and we were playing our 7 vs. 7 small sided games in practice. Spring season was always more relaxed and fun. One of my teammates and I went up for a header and I came down….POP. Right knee. I fell to the grown…..laid there for a second. The whole team comes sprinting over of course, because they know my track record. I get up and walk off….”Oh, I definitely just popped some scar tissue…no worries!” I am walking around….feeling it out. I tell coach I am ready to go back in. I go back in, jog five steps and fall. Jello knee again. I still didn’t believe it until the MRI results. ACL #3.
ACL tears in women are very common. I can rattle off 10-15 of my teammates (Tessa being one of them) that have had at least one in the their soccer career. But 3? I really had to do it 3 times? Why? I wanted to be all conference, my stats were in the toilet, I wanted to play pro one day….no one was going to take a chance on me with all this. Let alone the thought of rehabbing another knee….then again what’s one more?!
I had 4 months until my senior season was going to start. I had already red shirted twice and had no aspirations of being the 23 year old senior. With that being said I rehabbed that knee in 4 months and managed to play most of my 6th season. My playing time was limited to 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes a half until my knee could tolerate a full game.
I have had some minimally invasive surgeries since then, but all in all my knees are well and good! Looking back on my journey I am beyond grateful. Here I am 10 years later, not just walking without knee pain, but running on these knees and training at a high level! Our bodies are so resilient and have the ability to overcome adversity of any sort when we invest in them. Nutrition, sleep, movement, and stillness have all become nonnegotiables for me and my body.
I say all this to say, if you’re faced with a setback or your path takes an unexpected turn…rest, don’t quit. Rest, reset, then put your head down and get to work. Sis, we were born to do hard things. And on the other side of this mountain you have be assigned to move is endless joy waiting for you. The most fascinating part about “the journey” is what you find out about yourself along the way. Soccer used to define me. That is no longer my motivation or story. It was all bigger than the game. Soccer will always be my first love, but I am more so grateful for the doors soccer opened and the lasting connections it has allowed me. It has led me right here, to you, my sisters in sweat! Thank you for taking a walk down memory lane with me. I hope my lessons of patience, perseverance, and resilience find application in your life too<3
All my love,
G babe (article credit) & T babe