I’ll never forget rolling around on the ground while experiencing pain so intense that I had to bite a towel to keep myself from screaming. I had a gut-wrenching feeling that the injury I had just succumbed to wasn’t good. I was right.
Let’s flashback to 14 years earlier…
I loved sports from a young age. I never thought that sports would become my life for the next 17 plus years. I grew up near the University of Iowa. I remember going to football games with my parents. I spent my entire childhood following the football team. My parents thought I was crazy when I was screaming at refs as a seven-year-old in the stands—like coach Yoast’s daughter in “Remember the Titans.” In second grade I came home crying one day because the boys at recess started calling me “ball hog.” To be fair, why would I pass the ball to boys who were terrible when I was already scoring every point? I begged my parents to let me play flag football in third grade. Not to brag or anything, but I caught a game-winning Hail Mary touchdown over two boys who I later became good friends with in high school.
I started playing travel basketball and softball when I was 7. As I grew older, my love of sports began to increase. I begged my parents to take me to the University of Tennessee women’s basketball camp in elementary school so I could meet Pat Summit and some of her elite players. After that camp, I had my goals set on playing college basketball.
Let’s flashback to my childhood. Despite loving sports as an athlete, I also loved them as a fan. I watched Sports Center daily and started crying when my beloved Indianapolis Colts lost in the 2005 playoffs to the Steelers. I even made my mom stand with me in line with my newborn baby brother just to get a Bob Sanders autograph on a Colts mini-helmet.
I would’ve considered myself a good athlete in high school. I played with top-notch AAU basketball programs, and I played shortstop on a fast-pitch team that featured the state’s most elite players. I made the varsity softball team as an eighth-grader and started at shortstop all four years of high school. When I was a senior, I hit .471 and earned class 5A All-State shortstop. I also played varsity basketball as a freshman. We won the 5A state championship that season. I ended up playing in the state tournament three out of my four years in high school and later went on to play in college; that’s an entire story on its own.
I always possessed an eminent knowledge with any sport. Even as a current college student, guys seem to be surprised by how much I know about sports EVERY single time I speak.
Throughout my high school career people always asked which sport I preferred—and then, which sport I wanted to play in college. My answer was always, “I don’t know. I guess it just depends on which season it is.” In the back of my mind, I truly didn’t know. I was tall and skinny. The tall part was good, but I also lacked physical
strength and looked like a toothpick—something that college coaches became wary of.
As my senior year approached, I had a few major decisions to make. I didn’t know which sport I wanted to play in college let alone which college I wanted to attend. By November, I finally made a decision—I’d attend the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., because I had the opportunity to play both sports there.
I was invited to play in the senior all-star games in basketball and softball. I remember the softball senior all-star game particularly well. The only reason for this is because it was “the beginning of the end” for me as an athlete.
An opponent hit a double against the pitcher on my team, so naturally, I went over from short to second base to cover the bag. The play was going to be close, so I prepared myself as the right fielder threw the ball into our cut. Our second baseman threw the ball to me at the bag and as I went down for the tag, everything spiraled out of my control. The runner slid into my right ankle—at a full speed. I went down instantly.
A trainer sprinted out on the field while I lied there with thoughts rushing through my head. I sat on the bench the remainder of the game. My heart hurt. This was the first major injury I had ever experienced. My parents drove me home to Des Moines. I didn’t sleep much that night.
I had a dark purple bruise that went from my toes to my thigh muscle the next day. My mom took me to our family doctor. He told my mom to take me to the hospital and get images done. I got an x-ray an hour later. Yeah, my ankle was pretty messed up, to say the least.
My ankle bone was chipped away. I had a fracture in my right foot (apparently it happened before the accident), I sprained my ankle in all three ways (inside, outside and on top) and I tore every ankle and tendon in my ankle. It was the end of July, and I was one month away from returning to college for the fall semester.
My six-month rehab process began as soon as I stepped foot on campus. Basketball from the sidelines wasn’t fun. I started to dread everything related to it. I got cleared to play in mid-February, but I didn’t feel right. I couldn’t run as fast or jump as high. My ankle hurt every time I switched directions.
For the first time in my life, I hated basketball. Every single thing about it. So, after the season ended, I called it quits.
For the first time in my life, I wasn’t an athlete.
I decided to transfer to the University of Iowa for my last three years of college. I went home to Iowa City—where my love for sports began.
I spent my junior (and this upcoming school year) interning in athletic communications for the University of Iowa Athletic Department. I worked many football and basketball games and loved every single part of it. The “office” side of sports was different, but in a good way. The opportunity to work toward a career in the sports industry was a dream come true. I was literally getting paid to watch, write and talk about sports.
After my junior year, I traveled to Big Ten Conference basketball tournaments, and even Mexico, to represent the athletic department. I’ve made connections at ESPN, IMG and the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the last year—just to name a few.
I got my media intern gig at the National Sports Center this February after interviewing. As I conclude my second week here, I’ve realized how important sports are to me and how much I want to work in the industry. I might have hung up my basketball shoes and softball cleats, but that transition let me find a new passion that I’m determined to be successful in. Who would’ve guessed the best thing that’s ever happened to me was breaking an ankle?
Thank you, sports.