I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.
I have to be considering everything that’s happened to me over the last couple of years. An injury, illness, and COVID nearly stole away my love for the sport of tennis.
That old saying “when it rains, it pours” is probably the best way to describe my last two seasons. If I’ve learned anything in that timeframe, it’s the fact that you should never take anything for granted. A snap of a finger and everything you’ve worked for can be taken away—just like that.
But it can always come back if you surround yourself with the right people. If you have the right support system, you can overcome anything life throws your way. I often think of how different my life would have been if I didn’t commit to Presbyterian College.
Maybe, I would have never made it back on the tennis court.
I’ve had a tennis racket in my hand ever since I was four years old, and in all of that time, I’ve never had a serious injury.
But physically, I’ll be honest, I just wasn’t ready for the leap from high school to college. There was a lot of training and exercising I wasn’t used to doing. So it was just this big shock to my body initially.
I started getting used to it after a few years. I was hitting my stride as a college athlete and began to get my legs underneath me.
And that’s when it happened.
It was fall of my junior year on the day before I was leaving for regionals.
We were just doing our normal conditioning routine when I strained the plantar fascia ligament in my foot. The injury basically happened from overuse.
I was in total shock.
Just like that, my regionals trip for the weekend was canceled, and I was shut down completely. I spent an entire month keeping pressure off my foot and doing physical therapy in hopes of helping it heal on its own.
That’s when I found out that I’d been misdiagnosed.
All of that work for an entire month—it was all for nothing. So I was back at square one. By this point, the frustration was really starting to set in. I just wanted to be back out there competing with my teammates. I was so used to always playing, and now, I was watching precious time tick off the season while waiting around on the sidelines.
I did my physical therapy every single day and eventually graduated from crutches to a walking boot and finally back to walking on my own two feet again.
And trust me, that was no picnic.
I basically had to practice learning how to walk again because I was too tentative to put pressure on my foot. I didn’t want to reinjure myself.
But at least I was ready to get back on the court. After being out for nearly five months, I was finally back to doing what I loved doing. I even won my doubles match in my very first game back. Things were starting to look up.
And then COVID happened.
The thought of being shut down again had me in a really rough place.
I struggled so much trying to come back from that foot injury that I got to a point where my play started to slip during practice because I wasn’t having fun anymore. My trainer suggested I needed to find my love for tennis again. So we’d go out for about 30 minutes and just hit around for fun and get in a few laughs together.
Those personal sessions really took the weight off my shoulders. Slowly but surely, I was starting to find my love for the sport again.
And out of nowhere, we were all being sent home due to COVID.
We eventually came back for the fall season—well, at least most of us did. I got mononucleosis and had to sit out for the entire fall.
I tried going out for one practice at the end of the fall, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t in any shape to be playing tennis. So my trainer shut me down, again. The hardest part was knowing, physically, I was in no shape to help my team.
It frustrated me a lot, and I wasn’t in a good place mentally. I even got to the point where I was contemplating walking away forever.
By the time I got back on the court in January, it had been over a year since I played in an actual tennis match. It wasn’t an easy transition, and I spent about two-and-a-half hours every day exercising and conditioning.
It helped to have really positive teammates that would lift me up when I got down on myself. Without the other girls, I probably would have just fell into a downward spiral.
They really saved me, you know?
Today, I’m really glad I didn’t walk away.
This was my senior season, and I wanted to end it on my terms. One of the greatest moments of my tennis career was verbally committing to PC over the phone when I was still in high school. I remember the excitement and relief I felt to finally fulfill a dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember.
I thought back to that moment during the final post-match speech of the season from our coach. I thought about the good times, bad times, and everything I’d gone through over the last couple years. That’s when it really sunk in that my tennis career was over.
I had to put the racket down.
But what is life like without playing tennis? What is life like without that on-court competition? What is life like without my teammates?
I’m not sure, but I’m also ready to see what all it has to offer.
Besides, I plan on sticking around for at least another year to attend graduate school at the University of South Carolina. So I’ll be keeping a real close eye on the women’s tennis team at PC. Those girls believed in me when I was at my lowest. They never stopped encouraging me and always pushed for me to be the best version of myself.
And I’ll do the same for them on the sidelines, while thinking about how different it would have been if I signed with another school.
I guess everything really does happen for a reason.