By Marlena B. ’20
Throughout my entire life, I’ve always considered myself to be a healthy and strong individual; I exercise, eat healthily, leave time for myself to relax and just generally take pretty good care of myself. So, last winter during soccer season, as I sat down in Patti’s nursing another sprained ankle, a mysterious knee pain, and worries over an autoimmune disease, I was hit with the sudden and jarring realization that I could not remember the last time I wasn’t injured.
Then, for the first time in my life I wondered seriously, “Why do I even bother anymore? Should I just quit sports, heal and focus on other interests?” Admittedly, as a member of the cross country team, I have pondered these questions before (during grueling races or crawling up Bowhill), but this was first time the idea of quitting seemed viable.
Of course, my experience with injuries is far from unique. I feel like we’re lucky if there is no one on crutches or in a brace hobbling around school and having to slog up the mansion stairs. Then there are Crystal sports teams, essentially constructed of players injured in one way or another by the end of the season. It really got me thinking; why do so many young people in high school continue grueling sports when they are injured or have a history of injuries? Why do I?
I suppose there could be a lot of factors: worries over years of training and thousands of dollars all being for “nothing”, a sense of obligation to teammates, coaches or parents, never knowing life without sports to fill up the days or maybe a pure, unadulterated love of the game.
Over the next few months, as I went through another round of physical therapy and slowly worked to get myself healthy again, two questions continued to plagued me. Should I, or even did I want to return to sports once I was finally healthy again? I thought a lot about what my life would look like if I chose to stop sports altogether and found I couldn’t. Maybe this means I really need to get more hobbies and put more work into diversifying my identity but in another way, I believe I need sports, even if it’s not easy and at times is filled with far more disappointment than reward.
For me, sports provide a sense of progress and purpose; there is nothing more rewarding than sprinting the final meters, seeing my times slowly but surely decrease, hunting down and blocking another team’s vicious forwards.
Sports have also provided me with the best of friends; there is nothing to make people bond faster than constant pain, sweat and seeing the Saturday sunrises together due to extraordinarily early practice times. But most of all for me, sports are a way to center myself in my daily life; whether I am out running or playing soccer, my worries are soothed and my stress fades into the background. It is truly an escape I’ve failed to find anywhere else.
So I asked myself, that even if it meant having more pain and health issues later in life, or even in the next few months, if I could really imagine giving up something that provides me with so much purpose, satisfaction and joy. Maybe one day I will decide I’ve had enough, but right now, I don’t think I ever could.