It’s truer than true – injuries suck! So why the hell are you playing sports? Or better, why the hell did I? Multiple sprained ankles, fractured tibiae, dislocated shoulder, concussion, torn lateral meniscus, 3 knee surgeries, and a broken back. I know the pain. Sitting out. Rehab instead of practice. The worst part, some injuries hurt so bad you wish you could jump out of your skin to escape the pain. But after the torment, there is another side, a GOOD side, a pure Champion-in-the-making side. And that — the champion I wanted to be — is why I played.
I enrolled in “Injury 101” when I crashed in gymnastics, age nine. It was the balance beam — 4 inches wide, 4 feet high. My coach said, “Leaps!” So I did: step, step, leap. Not great. “Higher!” she called out. So I tried harder. Leap! And another – Leap! But she yelled, “Higher, Lisa, split more!” Good grief, it wasn’t good enough. I wanted to be the best. So I went STEP-STEP-LEEEAAAAP! flying into the air as high as the sky! But my landing foot missed, my legs stayed split apart, and as I fell, the hard wooden beam whacked me up the middle — killed my girl parts.
I was on the ground, desperate pain, coach yelled, “Ice! Get her some ice!” When the frozen bag arrived, I would not put it on me – not there. People were looking. Slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y I got up. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I winced. Hobbled into the bathroom with ice in hand. When I peeled down my leotard near the toilet, I was afraid to go to the bathroom. Would it hurt? Then, I looked down and saw spots of blood. What! I panicked. Did I start my period? I can’t see. Did I damage myself? Will I ever have a baby!
I shook it off. I convinced myself I would be okay, I would survive. The rest of practice, I sat sort of sideways on a mat. My dad came to pick me up… I walked slowly to the car. “How was practice?” he asked. “Okay…” I lied. I decided he didn’t need to know I hurt my…you know.
1) Getting hurt is part of sports. To continually improve your performance, you must get out of your comfort zone and push yourself. Don’t be surprised when you fall, crash, get jabbed or hit. Shake it off and chin up. If you never get hurt, you are either protected by the gods, or you could push yourself harder. Many times, one can push harder.
2) It’s humbling to get hurt in front of others (especially in your private area), and especially if you want to be tough. But you are not superhuman. Apparently, I am not either. But humility allows others to help you. Help each other. A close team is a great team.
3) It is very important to be focused on the skill, first. Just before I got hurt, I was not thinking about the skill, I was thinking about being the best and pleasing my coach. I was distracted. Stay focused on the skill.
4) One good thing, I was aggressive. Even though I got hurt, Aggressiveness = Power. It sparks you to improve, it raises the efforts of your teammates, and makes you fight for what you want. Fight, fight, fight!
5) A serious injury makes you slow down. Take time off, see a doctor, do rehab. But the fact is – Off time is an opportunity in disguise. There are other ways to practice and you WILL improve – stretching, conditioning, mental practice, and supporting your teammates. OFF-time can be an Advantage!
6) Healing injuries and substitute workouts require effort. Don’t just sit – be pro-active. Talk to your coach. Eat right. Think positive. Heal yourself, typically with ice. Still workout – just other ways. Hey, if you can’t go through it, GO AROUND IT.
7) After recovery, you are forced to re-think. Break down the skill parts and make sure technique is planned. Before attempting a leap at the next practice, I made sure I knew the exact position I wanted my arms, hands, legs, and feet, and how to land safely. Seek ‘accuracy’ and you become a Mindful Athlete – now, you have a competitive EDGE.
(from the Mitzel files…age 11, I kept fighting, how about you?)
Reach, sweat, and believe,