In case you missed it, the U.S. Women's Soccer team just played one of the best games of their existence. Beat power house Brazil and Marta in a show stopping thriller game that had my heart racing. Game was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation. They went into overtime where Brazil scored pretty quickly. With less than a minute to go, the U.S came back to tie the game, and go into Penalty Kicks. Which they won, thanks to all of the players making their 5 PKs, and Hope Solo blocking one shot.
Every two years, the World Cup is played. This year, it's the women's team, in 2013, it'll be the men's turn. In preparation for the big quarterfinal game USA vs. Brazil, I wanted to get acquainted with this years women's National team.
When looking at all of their profiles, I was a little surprised with how many of them have had an ACL tear or knee surgery. Which quickly had me flashback to when I first 'partially' tore my ACL my senior year in high school. I was beyond devestated.
Growing up, my mom had always said I was born on the soccer field. My oldest brother, who is 7 years older than me played soccer, so my mom would cart me onto the soccer field to watch him play. We were a soccer family. All of my siblings played up into middle school. My oldest brother and my sister and I played into high school, my sister even lucky enough to play in college.
A 12 year old me!
Check out those headbands!
One of my biggest and only regrets is that I took playing soccer for granted. My junior year of high school, I decided to quit my select soccer team. Practice was taking up two of my nights, and by that time, I wanted to start working, so I could make money. Plus I was waaaay boy crazy, and wanted to
start continue dating and getting into that scene. I also figured, hey, I will still play high school ball, so I will not quit soccer all together. My junior year was by far my best soccer year. I was probably at the peak of my skills, made the All-County Team and was feeling pretty good. Going into my senior season, I thought "this is gonna be a great year, our team is better than last year, can't wait to start the season".
During the 2nd or 3rd game of the season, we played Dwyer. The very beginning of the game, I pivoted to the right, and bam, my right knee popped and I went down. This was the beginning of my ACL journey. First they thought it was partially tore, so I did lots of re-hab and strengthened my knee. Got a fancy custom-built knee brace. A few months later, the doctor cleared me to play soccer again, with my knee brace. Less than 2 minutes into the game again, it happened again. Pivoted, knee buckled, knee gave out, and I went down. This time, the doctor said I "completely tore" my ACL, and it would require surgery. To this day, I still think I had completely tore it the first time, but who really knows?
Since I was so young, the doctor had me wait to get my surgery, to let my bones finish growing. I had just turned seventeen at the time. So we waited till the day after my graduation. That's when I had my surgery. After surgery, there was lots of pain, rehab, more pain, and finally I got better. After I graduated, I helped coach my old high school team. Partially because I wanted to, partially because it would help me get back into shape. But no matter how much I trained, I knew my knee would never be the same. And it killed me. Moves I used to be able to do, I could no longer do. I'm left footed, but I could shoot pretty well with my right as well. Couldn't do that anymore. I also could shoot a cannon with my left, could no longer do that either.
A few years went by, I moved up to Gainesville and finished school at UF. Andrew and I went to a few of the soccer games, and I thought, I could be down there, I could do that again.
Another few years went by, I got married, moved to Orlando, started my career. And every now and then I got the urge to play soccer. So I started researching local soccer clubs here in the area.
Andrew finally urged me and convinced me to sign up for a league, so I did. I was beyond excited, but scared at the same time. I hadn't played in an actual game in over 6 years! I dug out my old cleats, soccer shorts, shin guards and ball. Every night, before the season started, I would practice in our back yard. Andrew would be my defender, my goalie, my biggest cheerleader.
Finally, it was game time. And this time, I wasn't going to take it for granted.
Our team was good. We had a lot of skilled players, some that even played in college. I played mid-field, left wing, my favorite. I quickly found out how out of shape I was! I was huffing and puffing up and down the sideline, but I LOVED EVERY SECOND. Andrew came to all of my games, like a good husband should do. I made some good plays, had some good shots on goal.
I savored every moment, took in everything. The smell of the freshly cut grass, the coolness when you sit on the metal bench for the first time, the yells of your teammates, "SQUARE!", "SWITCH IT!", "MAN ON!". The feel of the soccer ball as you head the ball away, and get dirt and grass all over your forehead. I did not take this experience for granted, like I had before. And somehow, I think I knew, that this would be my last hurah.
During one of the last games, I had the ball, was dribbling to the goal, and went to shoot the ball. I planted with my right, and when I went to swing with my left, the all too familiar happened yet again. My right knee popped, gave out, and I went down. I tried walking it off, but knew something very bad happened yet again. I stayed till the end of the game, couldn't even walk off the field over to Andrew by myself, I needed help. As soon as I got in the car, I cried like a baby.
I didn't tear my ACL this time, instead I tore my miniscus, and needed more surgery, more therapy. It was an out patient surgery this time, so the healing time wasn't as extensive. However, after the surgery, the doctor told me my new ACL was weak. And that I should never play soccer again, and probably never run again too. Otherwise I would need a knee replacement well before I was 30.
That surgery was almost 4 years ago. My knee is doing ok, and so is my heart. To this day, I still favor my right knee, but I'm ok with never playing soccer again. I got my second chance, and although it wasn't the best, and didn't have a great outcome, I enjoyed every second of it and didn't take it for granted.
As I watch the World Cup, I often wonder, "how did these girls have knee surgery, but still be able to play so well?" Did you know that ACL tears are much more common in girls than boys, especially soccer. Doctors don't have a definintive answer, and I hope one day they will, so they can combat it.
As I watch my daughter grow, I wonder what sport(s) she will want to play. Part of me hopes she will have the love of soccer that I have, but the protector in me hopes she never feels the pain and sadness that I went through, and still go through to this day. Who knows.....maybe I'll coach her team someday....
But until then, go watch the World Cup! USA plays France Wednesday. Get behind our team, show your soccer pride!
Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, USA......2011!
UF Alum, Abby Wambach, GOOOOALLLLL!!!!!!