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3 Ways to Become Stronger From Injury
In high school I loved the game of football, being under the lights, scoring touchdowns, making tackles and hearing the crowd and my teammates cheering me on. The hours spent in practice, the locker room and long bus rides created a camaraderie and brotherhood that really meant something to me. Putting time in the weight room with my teammates, after an academically demanding day, created a special bond between us as we physically and mentally pushed ourselves to the limit. However, one aspect of the game that wasn't enjoyable was being injured, and I should know, because I sustained injuries during each of the 4 seasons during my high school career. Freshmen year I got turf toe during the first scrimmage, which took me out for the next 4 games. Sophomore year, I fractured my fibula. I had to sit out 3 games. Then both junior and senior years, I missed a couple of games because of ankle injuries. The most painful part of the recovery process was not the actual physical pain, but having to spend time away from my team. During those times I was always questioning myself, replaying the moment I got injured in my head, and trying to think of what I could have done differently. During the time I was injured freshman year I became very self-centered, because my sole focus was on how quickly I could recover and how quickly I could get back in the game. For an injured player those are common thoughts, but as I progressed through high school I learned three ways to handle injury or unexpected setbacks that have helped me beyond the football field.
The pain of standing on the sidelines in street clothes was blunt, sharp and mentally taxing in ways I wasn’t even conscious of as I stood there. As a freshman, I would always watch the person playing my position and focus intently on what I would have done if I were in the game. I don’t know when exactly it happened, but one day I realized that meditating on what I would have done wasn't beneficial for me or, more importantly, my team. Thinking about what you would have done constantly can become overwhelming for the mind, and make life miserable for you and those around you. By my junior year, I’d gone around the injury mountain enough to know better than to fixate my mind on what I couldn’t control. Instead, I paid attention to what the person in my position was doing in order to encourage him or offer advice, which was much more productive for both me and my team. I was pleased to discover how looking for ways to speak positivity genuinely improved my state of being in the midst of a painful situation. Everyone suffers setbacks in life whether it be physical, mental, or emotional, but it's how we handle the setbacks that makes or breaks us. Staying positive and encouraging others during setbacks is a powerful testament to everyone around you.
Being Well Rounded
When I received the news that my turf toe injury was going to prevent me from playing at least four games in the season, I was pretty devastated. That summer all I could think about was getting to don the blue and white Rockhurst uniform. All my energy and passion had gone into having a great freshmen football season. But when that expectation was jeopardized, it was hard for me to deal with the disappointment. There were nights when I was unable to sleep, because I could not stop thinking about my injury. I couldn't handle the reality, because the one thing that I wanted was temporarily taken away from me. Now, I realize how important it is to be a well rounded person, because if you place your identity in only one thing ,outside of God, then severe disappointment and frustration should be expected. Whether it be in playing a sport, maintaining a relationship or working hard in business you should never allow one thing to consume who you are, because eventually it will destroy you.
Going through setbacks can be very painful and even a dark time for people, but I know that persevering through those challenging times yields real fruit. Becoming stronger from an injury or any adversity isn't solely about knowing that you can muster enough willpower to get through tough times. Real strength is harnessing the fortitude that God works in you through the difficulties to show compassion towards others you meet along the way who are struggling, and making yourself open to those in need. I saw this shift in thinking happen in my life. During the times I was able to play I would make it a point to ask the ones who were injured at the time how their recovery process was going and just how they were feeling in general. It was important for me to do that, because I remembered that when others showed me genuine care and concern it encouraged me and helped me make it through. The true sign of someone becoming stronger from injury or adversity is the measure of compassion and willingness to open up to those in the same or similar situation. To make it through a tough time and not offer to help others persevere in their fight is weak and selfish. It's a blessing to come out stronger from any real adversity, so to help others find their way is something very special.