“Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates.” Magic Johnson
Prepared For Preseason
I came into preseason with my new team knowing that I was ready. The hard work that I had done in the offseason easily proved itself from the first training session. I was fit and playing with confidence. Passes were crisp. Tackles were hard. Communication was precise.
Each training session was different from the next. Like any first day of preseason, our play was a little frantic and disorganized, with each player trying to show off their skills. The coaching staff just let us play short sided with some technical work for the resting team.
An unpredictable winter storm loomed over our field the next day. Instead of going indoors, we played an intense but fun game of handball. Diving headers and sacrificial blocks resulted in being covered by a snow bath. Spending the whole offseason in Nor’easters, I was used to the white stuff. Unfortunately, the warm-weathered players were undoubtedly frozen in disbelief. McCall Zerboni, a former Solmate and forever-Cali girl shivered uncontrollably, even in her multi-layered training gear.
The third day we were finally forced inside due to the rain. I’m not saying that the reason why we opted on dryer conditions was because our field was ripped apart by my team’s victory lap, but I think if we could train in snow, we can handle a little rain. The only positive that came from it was my chance to show off my highlighter yellow and black Nike indoor turfs.
Turned And Twisted
On the fourth day of preseason we scrimmaged Kennesaw State University. The game started off a bit frantic, as our legs were a little sore. After finally gaining control of the ball, we were able to find the back of the net. A few easy goals were downplayed by the beautiful ones. We connected through combination play. I even had a sweet assist to Katie Larkin, another Solmate. I chipped a perfect pass over the KSU backline, where Larkin easily ran onto the ball, faked out the keeper, and ripped one into the goal.
What happened next, I would never see coming. It was a few minutes before half time. I went up for an attacking corner. The ball was driven in. It was finally cleared out by a defender right into my path. Perfect to hit back into the mix. I sprinted to the ball as a KSU defender pressured. Instead of one-timing it, I planted to the left to fake the shot and send the ball out wide to my teammate. My knee unnaturally twisted. And I crashed to the ground.
The thought did not even cross my mind. I was convinced that I only sprained my LCL and I would be back out on the field after a few weeks of rehab. But the MRI showed otherwise. I had torn my ACL.
Pre For Post
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.” Vince Lombardi
As this is not my first major injury, I somewhat knew how to deal with the physical and emotional pain. Two days after I broke my fibula in May 2006 I had surgery to install a plate and five screws. My rehab was structured to a typical leg fracture. In about three months, I was cleared to play.
ACL rehab is a lot different. The timeline varies depending on progress and emotional willingness. When you can start to jog depends on when you achieve full range of motion and whether you have total trust in your knee.
To make it “easier” on myself post-surgery, I did all the prehabbing that I could manage pre-surgery. My daily routine at training was an intense workout of biking, single leg squats, front and side monster walks, calf raises, lunges, single leg RDLs, and tons of icing. I even managed some careful, light jogging to warm-up. Our trainer, Cookie, must have gotten tired of me asking for exercises to do. But thankfully she was right there behind me, pushing me through every squat.
My teammates would joke with me. “You’re not really injured… I couldn’t even do what you’re doing when I’m 100 percent healthy.”
Tearing my ACL might have knocked me down. But I got right back up.
Mental For The Physical
“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do” John Wooden
It has been about seven weeks since my surgery. Every day I still wake up and realize that I tore my ACL. I still can’t grasp the fact that the game I love and live for has been taken away from me. The mental pain is almost always greater than the physical hurt. But I am starting to understand that this happened for a reason. A lot has been put into perspective. It is all relative to my situation. I never thought that I would have to relearn how to walk or that my calf muscle can shrink down to the same size it was when I was in third grade. But it is what it is.
I am ever so grateful that my mom came down from CT to help me with my surgery. However, I apologize to her for what she had to go through. Not only was I a critical back seat driver and needy patient, but the ten minutes it took to figure out how to get me out of the bathtub, was probably not a pleasant experience for either of us.
I am learning a lot about myself. I am on an emotional rollercoaster. I get that not every day is going to be a great day. This is a very humbling experience.
I am teaching myself virtues I never thought I could have. Knowing it will be a minimum of six months before I am fully recovered, I am accepting patience and achieving persistence.
A huge chunk of my life and my job have been taken away. But I have found other ways to keep it there. Reading the sports psychology based book, “Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence” by Gary Mack and David Casstevens has helped. The first chapter quotes Yogi Berra, “Ninety percent of the game is half mental.” My mental game can thank my injury for making it stronger and healthier.
To fulfill the need for a mental challenge, I have found a few substitutes. My knee may hamper me from playing, but it has not stopped me from enhancing my game. I plan on jamming out on my new acoustic guitar. Well, first I need to learn how to play. Monica O’Campo, our international from Mexico, will reap the benefits of my dedication to relearn Spanish. At least I will get correct translations of my horrible attempt at a Spanish accent. My roommies, Brett and Kia, will be brave as food testers for my love-driven (but not so talent-driven) attempt to chef it out in the kitchen.
Until the day that I can run and play, you will know me as a multicultural musician with a pallet to be challenged. Just don’t ask for extra sauce on the side.
My team may not have a winning record. Correction, we may not have won a game yet. But we have a lot to be grateful for.
My team, the Atlanta Beat is playing in a $16.5 million state-of-the-art, 8300 seat capacity stadium designated for women’s soccer only. Stepping onto the perfect pitch still seems like a dream.
Our team chemistry gets stronger every day. Our “Hotseat” interrogation moments off of the field reveal characteristics, personalities, and values. Fitness training sessions prove these.
The management and coaching staff are 100 percent committed to making us better. Whether it is an extra individual session on the field or an appearance in the community, we are increasing the Atlanta Beat worth.
A Magazine For Our Game
My offseason training buddy and player for the Boston Breakers, Tiffany Weimer started a magazine dedicated to women’s soccer. As editor-in-chief, Tiff did a great job organizing a great spread of articles. The first issue Our Game Magazine bleeds every aspect of women’s soccer. Professional. International. Youth. Health and fitness. Even fashion.
You can find an article about the start of the magazine at Pretty Tough and a link to a digital copy of the magazine at:
Look for the next issue at the beginning of August. I will be writing an article previewing the upcoming college season. I am looking forward to working with Tiff, a talented and crafty writer.
World Cup Fever
The world’s greatest stage for soccer is upon us. We are all soccer’s number one fan. You can be guzzling beer with your mates at your local pub as your home country defeats the favored team. Or you can be relaxing on your couch amongst margaritas, guacamole, and teammates when your favorite player scores the winning goal. Either way we all love this 32 team tournament for the same reason.
Of course I will be cheering for Timmy and his good old U-S-of-A team. But I will also be a fan of Germany’s Klose because I am in love with him. Portugal’s Ronaldo because my good friend “Gabe the Babe” is in love with him. Italy’s Cannavaro because everyone is in love with him.
Although I am a self-professed Chelsea fan, I will not be cheering for England’s Ashley Cole, John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Joe Cole. I promise, this will be the only time boys. But France’s FloMo and Nicolas Anelka are in luck.
My determination to come back stronger from this injury increases every day. Watching my team train and play is not easy. This is one of the hardest things I have to do. It is very easy to say that my teammates take the game for granted. I tell myself that I would rather feel the pain of fitness than the pain of rehab. But then I remember there is a reason why I am on the sideline. There is a purpose for me on the bench, where I can still the Deuce Deuce.