Despite us being in the off-season, our weeks look very similar to the fall, but just without the excitement of games and with weekends off. We've had the 6am workouts reduced to once a week and we are now practicing outside on most afternoons. I never thought I would say this, but I actually started missing the 6am workouts. They may be early, but they are also inside. Once the sun sets on our practice spot in McGuirk Stadium, the temperature drops from the bearable level into the miserable range, especially for someone unable to participate and just sitting still. I bundle up, at times wearing three of our heavy stadium jackets. This Arctic layering technique leaves me unable to move my arms, but I was still left shivering at the end of practice. It is times like these that I'm most reminded that I'm hurt and that the next time I will be playing it will be the dog days of summer (and pre-season camp!).
Last week we also had our first spring game against Quinnipiac. Unfortunately this game was at night and it started snowing halfway through, reminding me once again that I'm incapable of running on the field to help my teammates - and to keep warm! This was our first game together since our defeat at Dayton and it seemed strange to be without any of our beloved seniors. I immediately recognized how small our pre-game huddle was, it looked just barely big enough to field a full team. We came out strong to start, scoring early and keeping most of the possession. However once we gave up a goal, we looked and played like an entirely different team.
I think this is where the leadership of our departed seniors would have shown through and helped turn the game back around, but without them, we struggled to a disappointing 2-1 loss. Not the greatest of starts, but still there were definitely a lot of positives to take from the game and I'm confident that new leaders will emerge for us. Of course like any loss, it exposed a lot of our weaknesses, but we now know to work on these in practice. There is only so much you can tell from practices, seeing most of what we do it small sided - so these games are great barometers for us. We will definitely improve as the spring season moves on and the more games we play the closer we will be to capturing the A-10 Title in the fall.
In regards to my therapy, I feel as though I've hit the sort of plateau that I've been warned of. I no longer feel as though I'm making huge strides each day, but instead find lots of frustration because I don't progress as quickly via the same old exercises. The most disappointing thing thus far has been getting my full extension back. I now go to therapy twice a day (every day) to work on it and any free time in the day I have I make sure I put my leg up and push down my knee. I actually have to bite down on a towel when my trainer pushes on it and get quite a few sympathetic looks from those coming in and out of the Training Room. It's baffling to me that I cannot simply push my leg down all the way like I can with my other one. I have about 10 more degrees to go and my goal is to get that back within the next week before I go on Spring Break and see my doctor. Hard to believe that the highlight of my Spring Break will not be a week in the tropics - but my 8 week check-up!
One of the positives from injuring your ACL is that so many athletes have gone through the same thing (its like a sort of morbid club). I tell myself everyday that I'm certainly not the first girl to come back from an ACL tear and if everyone else can do it, then so can I. Just the other day a basketball player was doing her rehab next to me and asked if I too had torn my ACL. She has yet to have her surgery (it’s scheduled in a month) but she was visibly worried about it - really worried about it. Like me, she has never had surgery before and is understandably nervous about the entire procedure. She's going to be a senior next year and is terrified that something will go wrong and that she will miss her last season. It was really gratifying for me to be able to talk to her and try to relieve some of her fears. I let her know (from all my experience) that the injury can seem devastating, but it's not the end of the world and you do recover!! I think that just by seeing me walk without a limp and bike without pain that it helped her. And I'm sure that the fact that my scars are so unnoticeable is also a great relief.
Similarly, just yesterday as I was fighting back tears as my trainer pushed on my knee to work on my extension, my strength to persevere came from a lacrosse player right next to me who had just got full extension for the first time after her surgery, which was months before mine. I understood more than most how exciting this must have been and it reassured me that soon enough, that will be me. Just in our training room at UMass, there are a handful of athletes in various stages of recovering from an ACL injury. We make up a rag tag bunch with many of the same problems and achievements and we all share one common goal - to get back on the field, court or rink! The fact that I'm not the only one struggling through therapy each day has been the most helpful thing thus far in my recovery.