Dear Warrior - Stay the Course
Life has an interesting way of teaching you the most impactful lessons through setbacks. Whether we’re competing with a teammate for a position on the field, trying to pass a team fitness test, learning a new skill, or working through an injury, ultimately we’re being challenged to step up and be better than we were before.
After my freshman year of college, I found out that I had torn my labrum in my hip. Once I met with my surgeon, I learned that I also had something called FAI. Basically, my hip was shaped abnormally and had bone spurs that restricted movement. This explained all the pain I experienced while playing softball. The best way to solve this was surgery. After consulting with my surgeon, I decided to put off surgery until the end of my sophomore season.
That spring was one of the toughest seasons I’ve ever had. I was in the training room every day trying different things to relieve the pain. I’ll never forget how it felt losing the MAC Commonwealth Championship that season. I had spent all year focusing on finding a way to play the game I loved and now that the season was over, the fear of surgery and the unknown set in.
A few weeks after our season ended, I had surgery to finally repair my torn labrum. The rehab process was one of the most difficult, but humbling experiences of my life. The pain and discomfort I felt trying to regain my range of motion was indescribable. I pushed myself hard, but felt like I was going nowhere. It was the longest 6 months of my life. Being without softball changed my perspective, and it has continued to do so to this day.
I had always struggled to differentiate between myself as an athlete and my identity as a person. Having softball taken away really helped me separate the two. Through the struggle of rehab and trying to find my true identity, I was able to lean into my faith more than ever. I’ve always heard friends say that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but I think that sometimes He does. He may give us more than we can handle so that we find Him and place our trust in Him rather ourselves. God is greater than the hills and valleys of life and this painful experience brought me to a new place of surrender and trust in His plan for me rather than my own.
Like many athletes, I sometimes find myself taking the opportunity to lace up my cleats and play for granted. As I went through the rehab process, I realized how much I truly missed the game. I realized that God could take it away from me, just like that, and I had my priorities mixed up. I had wanted to win the championship that year so badly, and quite honestly, for selfish reasons. It’s okay to want something for you, but it’s so much more empowering to want something for the girls standing to your right and your left. My motivation every day of rehab was envisioning wearing those championship rings with my teammates.
I can say with full confidence that, looking back at everything, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The next season, our team walked away with the first MAC Commonwealth championship in program history and went to the NCAA tournament for the first time.
That recovery process from surgery changed the way I look at the game. For a long time I felt sad, angry, and discouraged about my situation. It's okay to feel this way and it’s important to acknowledge these emotions. But there came a time when I decided it was time to flip the switch. Flip the narrative and look at the situation from a different perspective. What could I learn from my situation? What was it trying to teach me? How can I come out better on the other side? You can ask yourself the same questions...
If you look hard enough, there’s always a positive lesson that can be drawn from a negative situation. If we let them, these negative experiences can be used to make us stronger, wiser, and better people. Through my experience, I have learned to never take softball for granted because the next game, inning, practice, or season is never promised. Life does not always turn out the way we imagined, but there is always something positive that can be taken out of even the hardest and most confusing seasons of life.
Work hard and don’t give up when you're walking through one of life's valleys. You never know the light that could be waiting for you just around the corner if you keep climbing!
Stay the course,
A recent graduate from Arcadia University, Mary studied global media and pitched for the Arcadia Knights. In her junior season, Mary helped lead the Knights to their first MAC Commonwealth title in history as well as their first NCAA tournament appearance. Mary is also a member of the Great Britain Under-22 National Team and has studied abroad in Australia and England. In her free time, Mary enjoys hiking, traveling, and writing. She hopes to one day be an Athletic Communications Assistant for an NCAA school so that she can encourage and motivate the next generation of student-athletes in their journey.