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It’s crazy looking back at the past. People, places, experiences, good times, bad times, things that have shaped you as you are today. The fact that who you have become is a direct result from every single thing that has happened to you, every moment you experience, every person you encounter, makes you curiously wonder what is to come. It can be hard looking back at things that you wish you would have done differently and could go back and change. Everything we do, all the moments in our lives, create a story. A story, good, bad, short, long, it doesn’t matter. Everyone has one. This is mine. Well, part of mine.
The story that has shaped me more than anything else in my life so far began in my freshman year of high school. At 14 years old, I already had my number one goal for the next four years: a Division I basketball scholarship. That might seem like a large task especially at that age, but it was well within my reach. I had been playing my whole life and hard work came naturally to me. But most of all, I loved the game. There was nothing in the world that I would rather do, nothing that made me happier. This fueled my hard work and my game took off. I was getting better and better each day and had a great season. Everything looked like it was going to fall into place, or so I thought. Behind that dedicated young boy, an obsession started to grow, arrogance started to set in, both creeping their way into where discipline and ambition had always been.
After the season ended, my hard work started to turn into and obsession. I had usually had a good sense of awareness to where basketball stood in my life. Even though it was very important, it always came after God, family, and school. But suddenly, this had all changed. I remember Coach Dunn taking me into his office towards the end of the season because he heard that I was having problems with my mom because all I ever wanted to do was go work out and get shots up. He gave me a flat basketball resembling that someday basketball is going to be over, and my faith and family are what really matter. Looking back, he couldn’t have been more right. Instead, I shook it off like it was nothing.
By the time offseason began, obsession had fully kicked in and arrogance was at its highest level. Instead of working hard because it was what I loved to do, I was working too hard because it was what I thought I had to do. I would go to the gym straight from school, get 400-500 makes, lift (improperly), and then go to team practice or play pick-up games. Now, when you’re 15 years old and you are still growing, and your body is still developing, that much stress on your body is not good. There has to be some sort of recovery period, and I never gave myself one. My body just couldn’t take it.
In April at practice, I started to feel pain in my groin area to the point where I could barely run. A month later, I found out I had a torn labrum in my right hip. I was devastated. I had no clue what that even was and soon found out that most doctors don’t even deal with it. I had no idea what to do. I was basically told to rest all summer to see if it would heal itself. I was depressed, confused, shocked, and scared. I went on like this all summer until we found out about Dr. Philippon and the Steadman Clinic in Vail. Dr. Philippon specializes in hip arthroscopy and is one of the leading hip surgeons in the world. I thought this would finally be my answer. On September 30, 2010, I had arthroscopic hip surgery to repair my torn labrum in my right hip. With a 12 week recovery, I was hopeful to be back playing again halfway through my sophomore season and everything was going to be back to normal. Little did I know of everything that was to come.
At this point, I had learned some valuable lessons, but basketball was still an obsession. I even changed schools because I ignorantly thought that it was best for basketball. The biggest problem was that after surgery, I went back too early. I was officially released, but it was just too early to go back full speed to a sport like basketball. Then, all of the complications began. I started to get groin pain again because the muscles that were supposed to be supporting my hip were not strong enough. The physical therapist that I was with was doing the completely wrong thing, and I didn’t know any better. This continued on for months. Finally, I went back to the doctor and started doing things right, but it had gotten pretty bad. It had been about a year and I realized that my hopes and dreams had been crushed by this injury, and now all I wanted was to just be “normal” again. For the second summer in a row I was injured and it was tough, to say the least. Everything we were trying wasn’t working. My labrum was fixed and my hip was structurally sound, but I still had this chronic groin pain that we couldn’t figure out how to fix. By the time summer was over it was the same story. I was headed into my junior year and I was still like this, desperately trying to find a solution. I tried new things that would work to a point and then I would plateau every single time. I just could not get over that hump.
Unfortunately, I am still trying to get over that hump. I’ve had surgery, six MRIs, two PRP injections, and two cortizone injections. I’ve gone to four surgeons, five physical therapists and have tried countless treatments like massage therapy, rolfing, ART, and now MAT. Oh, and I just turned 17. It has been almost two years now, and it has been a long, hard road. Basketball season started about a month ago, and there is nothing harder, nothing more painful than sitting on the sidelines when I should be out there playing like any normal kid. Every day is a struggle, every minute is painful, every second seems like an eternity. Waking up in the morning is sometimes the hardest thing I do all day. There are days where it is just too hard, and I just want to quit. My hopes have been crushed countless times, dreams snatched right out of my hands. Depression has taken its toll, stealing hours away from my life. My story has no happy ending. But it is not over yet.
Why don’t I just give up? That is a great question. It would be a lot easier to, and believe me; it has crossed my mind a few times. I’ve been told that I should just focus on other things and that I might not ever be normal again. But no matter what I will never give up. I just can’t. There is something inside me that is never going to quit until it gets what it wants. I’ve always loved quotes and have written down almost every one I have ever seen. There is a great quote by Ralph Marston that says, “The more you feel like quitting, the more there is to be gained by continuing to persist.” It couldn’t explain my situation any better.
Though it has been the hardest time of my life, I have learned so much from this experience, and it has changed me in a way nothing else could. I’ve learned to treasure everything I have in life because it could be taken away at any second. I’ve learned how much more there is to life than just me and my own little world. I’ve learned to put others before myself. I’ve learned that obsession and arrogance cannot be substituted for hard work and determination. I’ve learned how to work hard AND smart. I’ve learned to be happy despite the circumstances. I’ve learned to be thankful for all of the blessings that I have been given. I’ve learned to have relentless faith and have grown more in my faith than I ever would have before this experience. I’ve learned that every experience, even bad ones, shape you as a person and that there is so much to learn from everything you do. I’ve learned what persistence and obstacles really are and what hope and faith really mean. Finally, I’ve learned the hard way that the list of priorities should go: faith, family, school, not: me, basketball, me. Sorry Dunn, I should have listened to you.
Do I have regrets? Yes. If I could go back and change things would I? Definitely. But can I see at least some of the meaning behind my struggles? Absolutely. My experiences have completely changed me as a person and made me who I am today. Without them, who knows where I’d be. Despite the constant struggles, I am sincerely grateful for who I have become. That little boy struggling to get more has finally become a young man grateful for all that he has.
I often, probably every day, get asked the questions, Can you play yet? or, When will you be able to play? It’s never, How are you doing? or, How are you holding up? Though it can get frustrating, I understand where they are coming from and would probably have done the same thing. I usually answer with a, No, but hopefully soon or, I don’t know yet. But I hope and pray for the day when I can answer with just a simple, Yes. And I will finally have my happy ending.