One Tiny Pop

by | December 15, 2014, 9:00am 0

A series of incoherent, indescribable murmurings escaped my mouth as I attempted to explain to the doctor the sound I heard when I twisted my knee.  But all she wrote on my medical sheet was a single word, “pop.”  This is the word I had been dreading the most.  The simple, one-syllable word that I knew meant the end of my season and a change that would affect the rest of my life.

When an MRI officially confirmed that I tore my ACL, I cried for days.  Instead of fully enjoying a beautiful spring of my junior year, my life became an unending series of doctor’s appointments and “I’m so sorry”s from friends.  I asked myself many questions as I tried to understand how this could have happened.  Why did this happen to me?  Will I ever be the same again?  Why do I even play ultimate?

Carolyn and the dreaded knee-bending machine.

Carolyn and the dreaded knee-bending machine.

The days after surgery were awful.  The pain was sometimes unbearable.  Unable to walk for any substantial period of time, I sat on my couch for most of every day.  The other hours were spent with my knee in a machine that bent my knee over and over again.  I was miserable.  But, all the while, I received constant support from the ultimate community.  I got numerous texts and emails from teammates wishing me luck.  Fellow players who had gone through similar injuries offered their advice. One of my teammates came and sat with me on my couch for hours. And while I was still unable to see it, these small acts of kindness were tiny pieces of a larger picture.

For months, I worked to regain strength in my leg.  At some points, it felt like it would never end.  Some days, my knee felt better, and others, worse.  But the one thing I secretly dreaded the most was coming back in the Fall as one of the captains of my team, still forced to sit out at practice after practice and watch others play the game I had been yearning to play for months.  I was worried that these feelings of sadness and frustration would hurt my ability to be the fun, positive captain that my team deserved.

Instead, I experienced entirely the opposite.  Recruiting our new group of players and watching my team grow from the sidelines rejuvenated my love of ultimate.  Instead seeing the game only from an inside perspective, I saw the game in a whole new light.  I saw our rookies experience the joys of learning how to throw, getting their first D, and scoring their first point, all while developing close friendships among each other and returning players.  I saw our returners develop as players, take on new leadership roles, and strengthen already existing relationships while creating new ones.  I saw the excitement of our new coach in learning about our players and our program, and his commitment to making our team better.  And I will never forget the many exclamations of “I love this team!” and “Joining ultimate was the best decision I have made!” and “I am so happy!” that rang out throughout our first tournament.

My first time playing again was one of the happiest experiences of my life.  The excitement and support from my teammates on that day was more than I could have ever asked for.  And now, 7 months, 5 days out of surgery, I finally feel I have the answers to those initial, seemingly unsolvable questions.

Why did this happen to me?  Because, like all athletes, I love my sport. And with all great loves also come struggles, disappointments, confusion, doubts, and unfortunate incidents that may initially seem unconquerable.  But overcoming those challenges makes the love all the more rewarding and fulfilling.

Will I ever be the same again? – No, I won’t.  I will be better.  I will focus on full-body fitness, balance, and strengthening in my workouts to minimize injuries.  I will practice proper cutting and lifting form.  I will rest my body when it craves a break.  I will appreciate every day I am able to play ultimate.  And as a result of all this, I will be a faster, stronger, better ultimate player.

And finally, why do I even play ultimate? – Because I am lucky enough to be a part of the most welcoming, nurturing community that I have ever had the opportunity to partake in, and I will never give that up.  Because this loving group of people has helped me to grow in ways that I never thought possible.  Because the smell of a grass ultimate field, the taste of a bagel with peanut butter during a long tournament day, the touch of a high five after a hard-fought point, the sight of smiles on a sideline and the mere presence of my teammates vastly overwhelms the sound of that one, tiny pop.

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