I have been blessed with the opportunity to play this game for thirteen years, and professionally for four. I have also been fortunate enough to have never dealt with any serious injuries in those thirteen years. Yes, there have been a lot of scratches and bruises along the way, some sprained ankles back in high school, a black eye, and plenty of jammed fingers, but never anything that kept me sidelined and out of the game. However, that all changed this year.
This past winter playing in Russia for Dynamo Novosibirsk, I was having a personal best season. I lead the league in rebounds and was among the top in scoring. Although our team was not at the top, we did qualify for playoffs which had been the goal that season. The day we qualified for playoffs would end up being my last game with Dynamo because I was invited to move up and play with Sparta & K one of the top 4 teams in the league. At first I wasn't going to go because I felt like I would just be quitting on my teammates. But, when my agent told me what a great opportunity this would be for me, I packed my bags and moved from Novosibirsk to Vidnoe (Moscow Region).
I enjoyed playing with my new team. They were talented young players who were very skilled and extremely well coached. I was challenged, pushed and tested every practice and I loved it. I could feel my game improving during the short amount of time I was with the team... that is until my body betrayed me. I went to practice as usual ready to compete and get better. Warm up was going well until we started shooting. I went up for a layup and felt a slight pain in my back. Hoping it wasn't serious, I went up for another layup, and the pain was worse. I tried to take free throw and had to stop, because the pain literally brought me to the ground in tears. I was suffering from back spasms and all the motions needed to play the sport I love (layup, shooting, post move) was causing me excruciating pain.
My first thought was born out of fear: 'Why is my body betraying me? What if I can never play this sport again?' Then came anger: "I was healthy all season long in Novosibirsk, then when a wonderful opportunity for my basketball career happens and I can no longer play?" Next was frustration. Since I can be dumb stubborn at times, I tried to practice again three more times after a full day of rest and rehab hoping I would be better the next morning... I wasn't. My inability to play lead to frustration because I felt I was letting my new team down, they brought me on as an extra body to play and instead I was on the sidelines cheering them on. Lastly, I kept asking God why. 'Why are you doing this to me? Why won't you let me play? Why did this have to happen now? Why? Why? WHY?'
At that point I had to go back and reflect on God's word and promises. I knew he had a plan for my life. I knew that he already knew my future and everything that will happen to get me there. I knew that he loves me and cares for me. And although hard to grasp initially, I knew that if he chose to take basketball away from me, that it was because he had a different plan for me after this game. I always have to remind myself that a situation may look bad from my perspective, but I am only seeing a small portion while God sees the WHOLE picture.
My back spasms had me sidelined for two weeks, but they did eventually go away. With the benefit of hindsight, and after talking to my parents about it, I believe that it was God's way of giving my body a rest. As a female basketball player we essentially play the whole year with little to no extended time off which really takes a toll on our bodies. I truly believe this was God's way of giving my body some much needed rest so that I could feel rejuvenated going into my WNBA season (which I did)! I am thankful for that time off because once my season ended in Russia, I landed in Canada and had just 36 hours at home before I was on a flight to San Antonio. So a situation that initially felt like the end of the world, and my career, was actually a HUGE BLESSING in disguise.
I wanted to write about this experience because a very similar event took place recently (currently) while playing in the WNBA. Stay tuned for part 2 to find out what happened.
Thanks for stopping by and God bless.