Our girls are dreamers. From the time some of them start out on the ball field, they dream of playing in the big leagues, with the big girls, in the arena of college softball. As they grow up, it becomes obvious that some are born with the gift of softball – and possess the amazingly hard work ethic that goes hand in hand with what it takes to become an elite athlete
So what happens when that dream is within reach, and the girl is almost there – and then something happens, something personally tragic, that seems to all at once derail her from her goals?
And what happens when this same setback happens twice?
What happens to any of us when we work our tails off for something, only to feel like we are working against some unseen force that seems to perpetually pull us backward, to stop us?
Many, (most) people tend to quit, to find a new dream. But this is exactly where the inner strength of the individual human spirit is revealed, and character is revealed. In these devastating moments is where we find out what sets us apart from the pack, and where we get to join hands and take some control over our dreams and destiny.
Moments like these are all too familiar to elite softball player Kristen Green. Two years ago after finishing an amazing Freshman season with Bremen High School and her travel team the Atlanta Vipers, during the softball ‘off season’ she adorned blue and white in the form of a soccer uniform to play for Bremen. During the last practice before an Elite 8 state play off game, a simple jog down the turf resulted in a softball players worst nightmare.
A torn ACL.
Having spent a tremendous amount of time on finding her right collegiate fit, and just a few weeks away from the fast paced spring travel season with the Atlanta Vipers, she suffered an injury that would take her off course for the duration of a year. In one moment, she went from being a starter and key element to her travel and high school teams success, to being on the bench – forced down the road of what would be a long and exhausting recovery
This all happened during the Spring of 2016, just weeks before she was to start her sophomore year of High School.
But Kristen didn’t let it stop her. She showed up at every team practice, at every game, at every tournament for both her travel and her High School team. It literally killed her inside to not be able to play the game she loved with her teammates, but she kept her spirits high and tried to keep a smile on her face.
After surgery, she had months and months of physical therapy and conditioning with a trainer. And even that didn’t keep her from bettering her game. When she couldn’t stand – she sat on a bucket and hit balls off a tee. She threw from a stationary position. She lifted weights and worked out, all in her efforts to get herself back on the field. When she was finally released to hit from her feet, she stayed after practices to make sure she was getting her cuts in.
All the while experiencing tremendous disappointment, worry, and personal struggle familiar to any elite athlete after an injury. While the physical body can heal, the emotional and psychological body takes a lot more time.
For teenagers in particular ‘missing out’ on important calendar events and seasons, the innocence and timelessness of childhood is lost forever – replaced with worry and anxiety and often times for so many athletes, depression.
Kristen persevered, and continued to chase her dream of playing college softball. After several trips to Nashville to visit Belmont University and after meeting the coach, Kristen felt positive she had found her post High School home. She was surprised and grateful that the Belmont University Softball coach, Brian Levin was able to look past her injury and verballed her in January of 2017. His belief in her work ethic and talent gave Kristen even more incentive to work hard toward her recovery to come back better than she was before. (And she did just that!)
Finally, the day came and Kristen was released to play softball. She had a stellar Junior season with her high school team finishing 4th in state, and was back on the ball field with her travel ball teammates doing what she loved.
Then, almost two years to the date from her first ACL tear – during a playful, school spirit filled Powder Puff Game on the same high school turf, another easy jog down the field brought on an all too familiar popping sound in her ‘good’ knee.
And in that singular moment, just days away from the start of her Senior Year, during a time where she wanted to celebrate where she should be able to celebrate – she knew. She knew.
And she was devastated. Rocked to her core with disappointment and worry, feeling as though all she had worked for, tirelessly for the past decade was for nothing, and that all her dreams were shattered?
How would she tell her soon to be college coach? How could life be so cruel to give her the same injury, with the same grueling recovery, twice? What had she done to deserve this? What kind of God would do this to her? Why was life so unfair? After everything she had been through to get where she was, Kristen felt like she was being punished. Her mom described the event as almost feeling “like a death.”
A week later, as the swelling went down, the MRI confirmed what Kristen and her mom already knew. Her ACL was torn. Again. And she would be out another season – for Kristen the most important and memorable season of her softball playing life….her senior year.
Softball is For Girls, will be following Kristen through her injury, surgery and RECOVERY as she bravely makes her way back onto the softball field. Like so many girls who get injured, the feeling of having something unrightfully stolen from you is almost as difficult (maybe more so) to recover from as the injury itself.
And through Kristen’s testament to strength, and to her unwillingness to give up, Kristen hopes to help other girls navigate through the complicated web of injury and personal tragedy so that they too, can make a comeback both physically, mentally and emotionally.
We hope you follow us weekly as we are Keeping Up With Kristen, proving just how strong the human spirit is, and how powerful the dreams our daughters dream are. What may be just a game to some of us, is truly LIFE to many of these girls, and we cannot be prouder of a young woman with the stamina and bravery to take her destiny in her own hands.