Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Your Story: "When One Door Closes..."

This next story comes from a gifted athlete, who once new she'd be playing high level collegiate soccer... or so she thought. The ups-and-downs she went through was obviously disappointing, but ironically resulted in helping her find her passion and career choice.

I'd love to hear Your Story, be it inspirational, painful, or something that forever changed you. Email it to dgingo@cox.net.

"When One Door Closes..."

My story starts when I was 5 years old and my parents signed me up for AYSO soccer. I was captivated by the sport, and by the time I was 9 years old, I knew I wanted to play in college. Before my freshman year in high school, I tried out for the better club team but didn't make it. I worked hard for 6 months and then in January made the team. It was my first taste of what it takes to succeed at the highest level in soccer. From then on I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't drink or do anything stupid outside of soccer and school. 

My sophomore year, we went 11-0 in Coast Soccer League Gold, which moved us to Premier (considered one of the best leagues in the US). We had a rough season but it is where I got more looks from college coaches. In my senior year, I looked at a few Division I schools but decided I wanted to go smaller, so I chose a small private school in my hometown. Since I knew where I was going, my senior year was set. My high school team had the best season they had ever had. We were unranked, but made it to the Division II CIF final, and tied the number 1 ranked team for a CO-Championship. We were queens of the school! In the back of my mind, I knew that I would have an amazing college career. I never suspected that I would not have a college career. 

Throughout my senior year, my left knee had been bugging me. They thought I might have sprained my MCL, or maybe had knee cap issues, etc. Nothing kept the pain away, so I just played through it. Finally in July before my freshman year of college, I decided to have a "clean-out" surgery, thinking that would fix it. It turns out this would be the beginning to the end of my soccer career. The doctor ended up doing a completely different surgery, telling me 6-8 weeks, when I found out later it should have been 6 months. I came back too early, tearing my meniscus in that time, requiring another surgery in Feb of 2007. I had NEVER been out of soccer for more than a couple weeks, if that. 

I now didn't know what to do with myself. I was depressed, confused and unsure. I realized I had gotten all my self confidence from soccer and now had very little. After season (we had dry season), I started partying and drinking too much. I began to rely on my boyfriend at the time for WAY to much. When we broke up, I then turned to other guys for a solid two and a half years, whether I was dating someone or not. 

I came back for my sophomore year not in great shape, but wanting and ready to play. My knee was still a mess and it was a horrible season. I played better in the Spring, but had 2 serious ankle sprains that kept me out most of the spring. Little did I know that a friendly scrimmage, in which I had my second ankle fracture, would be my last one in my schools uniform. In my first summer practice back, I made a sharp cut and felt my knee give out. Pop! Left ACL gone. 

I had no clue what happened. I even tried to run and play on it a little. It wasn't until the next day, when I saw the doctor that I heard the news. This created a whole new can of worms for my Junior year. I now knew I was out for the ENTIRE season. At this point, I had learned to handle things a little better than my freshman year. I had to raise my GPA, making this my main focus. I wasn't allowed to go to practice or travel if my grades weren't up to par. In hindsight, I'm SO very thankful for my coach doing this for me. I ended up with a 3.5 GPA for the second 2 years of college. At this point, I don't regret going through this injury, as it forced me to grow up in areas that I had on not yet.

I was released on April Fools Day, ironically, about 9 months after surgery. I was stressed about having my appointment on that day, but was trying not to be superstitious. I was able to play and was so excited until May 18th, 2009. Yes, I remember every date that I had surgery or got injured. Just playing on the same field, in the same situation, a summer training day. I went to pass the ball, planted my left foot, and heard a pop and felt a slide. My knee gave out again! This time, way more painful than before. Not sure if it was more because I tore my meniscus too this time or if it was the fact that I knew exactly what had happened. I knew I had torn my ACL again. It honestly becomes this sixth sense... I instantly know when someone else goes down, if they've torn it. It becomes this weird club that you become apart of. It's the understanding of what it takes to recover from the surgery. 

It took me a long time to cope with the fact that I only played in about 20 games my entire 4 years in college. I still think about it, but know that all things happen for a reason. The result of all my struggles is the fact that I found my passion. I want to guide other athletes going through similar situations, specifically helping them cope with injuries. I hope to provide inspiration and guidance to them... something I wish I would have had more of when I was in college. Since my knee surgery in June of 2009, I'e had ankle reconstructive surgery, as well as shoulder surgery. Both pre-exisitng injuries I chose to ignore for quite sometime but needed fixing.

I learned quite a bit in college, two things specifically. First, I wouldn't have tried to pre-plan my life like I did. I had so much hope in the fact that I would have a successful college career, I unfortunately didn't focus on anything else. If I had it to do all over again, I would've had a more well-rounded approach. Secondly, I found what I want to do for my career. I'm going into sports psychology and want to work with high school, college and professional athletes. I'm planning on getting my Masters in counseling, with emphasis in sports.  

As always, I will continue searching and acting on my passions! 

1 comment:

Rettakat said...

You have a great attitude, Brenna: "...always living and learning as I go..."

I love that you took your injury experiences, and resulting loss of your dream, and transformed it into a NEW passion! And it was your attitude that did that... to learn, to be open, and see the good that came out of it.