I love sports. I love the feeling of being sore after a long practice. The stink of my cleats makes me nostalgic. Coming together with teammates and working towards a goal is exhilarating.
I played a lot of sports in high school. This sometimes confuses people, because I was homeschooled till college. My home of Omaha, Nebraska, has a large number of homeschoolers, and we all made teams and played against each other and local high schools.
I’m not saying I was a sheltered kid, but most of the time, playing sports was the time I got out of the house and had a social life.
I played a lot of volleyball and loved it. I played basketball so I could play some kind of sport when it wasn’t volleyball season. Basically, my life revolved around sports: when the next practice was going to be, and just waiting for a weekend tournament.
Because of this, I put a lot of my worth into sports. It was a good day if I played well at practice, and a bad one if there wasn’t practice. This caused a lot of frustration when I got injured and had to sit out and watch my teammates play. Like, a lot of frustration. I would put on a smile and high-five my teammates, then go to the bathroom and cry selfishly in discontent that I couldn’t play.
My injuries mostly had to do with my right knee, which would dislocate whenever it thought right. During the last volleyball game of my high school career, my knee dislocated halfway through the game. I almost lost it; I was so frustrated and angry.
I was putting my value in my ability to play, and since I couldn’t play, I felt useless and like a burden. I wasn’t there for my teammates that day, I was only there for myself and my discontent.
Fast forward to college, when I joined the Franciscan women’s lacrosse team. I felt great after joining, like something had fallen into place and everything was right. I was playing sports again. But the second practice into the season, my knee snapped again.
OK, when I told you I almost lost it before, I definitely did now.
I couldn’t imagine feeling more useless. I was given a leg brace and told I needed surgery this time. But I didn’t want to give up, so I stayed on the team and continued to go to practices. I went through the same emotions as in high school. But this time, I came out different.
By spending most of my first time on the team on the sidelines, I was able to see things differently. I saw that the team didn’t become stronger just because a teammate scored, but because we all came together to congratulate that teammate after she scored.
My teammates would come up to me, saying how great it was that I stuck with the team though I couldn’t play, and encouraged them from the sidelines.
Even though all I was doing was picking up balls and setting up cones during practice, it didn’t make me any less of a member of the team. I learned that it’s not the actual playing of the sport, but the coming together as a team that makes playing sports great.
Although I wouldn’t wish them again, I am grateful for my injuries. They’ve helped me to see that my worth on the team isn’t in playing the sport or scoring in a game, but by just being part of the team.
Playing the game is great but playing it with your teammates is greater.