They say everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face, right?
Well, in my case, I had a plan until I picked up an injury during my freshman season.
When all you’re trying to do is focus on your performance on the field, any injury can toss your plans upside down.
Unfortunately for me, this one injury led to another one.
And soon, instead of showing my skills on the field, I was just trying to get healthy.
But there is always a silver lining, you know?
These injuries changed me and gave me a new perspective.
By overcoming these adversities, I came out the other side as a stronger person and mentally tougher athlete than I was before.
But let’s be real for one second…
Injuries suck. No need to beat around the bush.
And once you actually deal with one, you get to experience how much they suck.
During my first year here at Oakland, I was redshirting and didn’t expect to play much.
As a new player on the squad, particularly a goalkeeper, that’s often how it goes. So, I wasn’t surprised or disappointed. I just tried to focus on practices, improve, and get ready for when my time came.
But then, I just hit a really bad luck streak.
It all started with me losing my uncle Jeff on September 10th. I was really close with him and had a tough time dealing with the loss.
Mentally, it was really challenging to stay motivated and focused.
But then, during a practice session heading into the Horizon League tournament, I suffered a high ankle sprain.
It was painful.
But what was far more ‘painful’ was the consequence of my injury — I was officially out.
There’s a big difference between not playing and not being able to play, you know?
I wasn’t just sitting on the sidelines; I was sidelined.
I was out for a couple of months before I finally got to join practices again in early January.
And man, it was awesome to be back.
Well, at least for a few days.
Four days, to be precise.
Four days after my return, I tore my patellar tendon in my right knee.
And as much as the ankle sprain hurt, this one was really serious.
It was bad.
I wouldn’t be cleared to play again until early August.
This whole stretch was a really, really challenging time — especially from a mental point of view.
You got to keep your spirits up somehow.
Do you wallow in self-pity and go to a dark place, or do you turn this negative into a positive?
I decided to improve myself in all facets of my life.
I started reading more, worked hard on my nutrition, studied as much game film as possible, and watched more soccer than ever before.
This was key to my recovery, ensuring I got my mind and body right.
Especially the mental side.
To return, I had to be ready to give my all physically without fear of getting hurt.
That’s tough to do when months of recovery are in the back of your mind.
You must train your mind as much, if not more, than your body.
And reading helped so much with this.
Adding this hobby to my life made me a more knowledgeable and well-rounded person.
For those days when I needed that mental boost, I’d watch motivational videos to give me inspiration and perspective.
And after a very long spring and summer, I was ready and cleared to play again.
I was officially back!
As a backup keeper, you never know when you’ll get your chance to play.
But you have to be ready at all times.
My time came roughly a month after I returned in September against Butler. Unfortunately, our goalie Finn got hurt, and I had to step up.
And man, I was so nervous at first.
It was my first start, and it was just a month or so after pretty much a 10-month break.
And obviously, the goalkeeper is a really important position.
The pressure just felt very real in that moment.
But the excitement — man, I can’t even describe it.
Today, I’m just focused on getting better daily.
Yes, I have goals like making the All-Freshman team and being Goalkeeper of the Year, but I want to win more than anything.
I want us to win the Horizon League again and get an NCAA bid.
To get there, I must remember everything I’ve overcome in the last year.
The back-to-back injuries, the recovery, and the lessons I learned along the way.
I’m glad it’s behind me, but this journey will always guide me.