One morning I woke up, realizing that the only thing standing between me and long weekend was my soccer game. I walked up to Alumni for a team lunch and then started my normal game day routine. I stepped out on the field for warm ups, ready to beat Andover, not knowing that 10 minutes into the game I would tear my ACL, forcing me to be out of sports for a very long time. Eleven long, painful months later, I was finally able to get on the field again. Stepping onto the field for the first time was one of the most rewarding feelings I have ever felt in my life. Ever since I could walk, I’ve always been running around playing games and trying to keep up with my three older siblings. Being a part of such an athletic family, I have been playing sports as long as I can remember. However, it was the time when I found myself unable to play sports that taught me the most lasting lessons about the values of a team.
When my parents sat me down and told me I had torn my ACL, so many different emotions went flying through my head. This meant I needed surgery and would be done with sports for the rest of my junior year. This meant my dream of playing lacrosse in college was put into question. I knew I was going to have to work harder than I ever had before to get back to where I was before I got hurt. Going into surgery, I was scared. I had no idea what I would be facing and only heard stories about how hard the recovery would be.
The shift from being an athlete to being glued to the couch, unable to move on my own, was discouraging. For about two weeks I had to rely on other people to physically lift my leg up for me. I would have to have someone pick me up off the couch if I wanted to get up. In fact, one night when it was just my mom and me at home, Rich Messer had to come and pick me up off the couch, just so that my mom could properly place my CPM recovery machine on the couch. Rich was shortly followed by Anna Messer, who came to keep me sane and babysit me, because I could never be left alone. I would have to call my mom or dad in the mornings when I wanted to get out of bed, because I was unable to do it myself. I had never felt so helpless.
I knew I had to stay positive because if I didn’t I would have never made it. There were so many times when I just wanted to quit, give up sports, and walk away from everything. Waking up three times a week in the summer at 6:30 am just to go to physical therapy for two hours was beyond draining, but I had my family there to support me every step of the way. My older brother Patrick has always been my biggest supporter as an athlete, and he pushed me past my limits that summer. He always made sure I was doing my at-home exercises, he would force me to go out and shoot on the lacrosse net or play wall ball. He didn't let me slack off or make excuses. If it weren’t for him and my other family members and friends I don’t know if I could have worked as hard as I did. I don’t know if I would have been willing to do everything necessary to get back to full strength. Over the summer when I was away from my NMH teammates, my family became my team.
However, my team didn’t stop at my family. My actual teammates rose to the occasion and supported me as best they could. As difficult and painful as the physical therapy was, it wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was being stuck on the bench watching my teammates play and knowing I couldn’t physically support them on the ice or field. My injury challenged me to find my voice and became a better teammate, and support those who unyieldingly supported me in my recovery. I had to stand and watch, while freezing my butt off in our beautiful “ice rink,” and sitting in the pouring rain during soccer and lacrosse, and I found a deeper meaning in what it means to be a part of a team. Whenever I was tempted to feel sorry for myself, I was lifted and inspired by the love and support my teammates gave me. It was so important for me to be a part of the team and draw from my teammates’ strength when I needed it.
As I sat on the sidelines, I began to understand that a team is more than the players who line up next to you and try to win games with. A team is a family that goes through good and bad times together. They laugh, cry, love, and support each other in ways that can’t be measured in wins and losses. My injury didn’t make me realize I could never take my sports for granted; it made me realize I couldn’t take my team for granted — in the conventional and unconventional definition of the word. I love hockey. I love lacrosse. I kind of like soccer. When I was injured, not playing in games was hard, but the thought of not having my team was even harder.
I never thought that I would be standing here, in the spring semester of my senior year, not know exactly where I would be going off to college. Since freshman year, I always thought that by this time I would already know who my next teammates would be. However, now I know that teammates are not only the people who wear the same uniform as you, they are the people who support you throughout the highs and lows of every day. I have been lucky enough to be a part of the greater NMH team, so I challenge all of you to find your team, the people that will always be there for you and support you in good times and in bad, wherever you may be.