Play Through the Pain


This Blog post was inspired by the Book The Rise of Superman and the countless athletes that go beyond their limits.


Danny Way coming back from injury on the same day

The summer of 99’ was a big summer for me going into my senior year of collegiate soccer.  It was the year that I was working overtime to get ready for the season.  I ran 5 days a week and practiced with foot drills all summer, I even picked up yoga to add to my flexibility.  When it came time for tryouts, I was ready. I was in peak physical shape for the upcoming season.  Tryouts lasted a week and I made the team, and it almost seemed effortless as a glided through tryouts. I planned to spend a few days in Las Vegas after tryouts to have a little vacation before starting into the season and had to get special permission from my new coach (Lance) since I would miss a few days of practice.  He knew that I had worked hard on my conditioning all summer so he gave me the extra days.  After a few days of fun and sun in Vegas I was eager to get the season rolling.

On my first day back and during the first few minutes of practice, the worst thing imaginable happened, I went down with an injury.  It was a one-on-one situation dribbling towards the goal, I was fully committed to my shot, and my Brazilian teammate (and good friend Joao) made a stern tackle.  His foot won and my didn’t.  It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt and I cursed at my friend while rolling around, not fake Italian league drama rolling around, genuine hurt.  It took me almost 10 minutes to calm down from the pain and I knew that it was not good.  It was my right ankle that had been injured and I knew my season was over before it began.  That night I drove myself home with constant annoyance every time I pressed the gas, 20 miles of pure hell.

The next day I went to the orthopedic doctor to get x-rays to see if I broke my ankle. The results came back negative, I had endured a high ankle sprain. The Doctor said I would be out for 6-8 weeks.  The season lasted about 12 weeks, this confirmed that my season was, in fact, over.  I asked if there was anything that I could do to play this year and the he said “NO” and was stern about my recovery time, and that I would be seeing many hours of couch-time in the near future.  The doctor prescribed me high-powered painkillers and crutches in order to stay off the ailing foot to fully recovery.

The next day the depression crept in.  Not only could I not play soccer, I could not work,  which was also a big blow since I had to pay to keep up with my monthly responsibilities for school.  I sat on the couch while watching TV, hopped up on painkillers, my foot elevated with a bag of ice resting on my ankle, and sulked for hours. 1 tear might have been shed... The next day I woke up, the pain was less, and I could somewhat move my ankle. I had a shimmer of hope in my mind and while reaching for the painkillers, I decided not to take anymore.  I iced my ankle, off and on all day; I was mentally letting the pain into my psyche and learning to deal with the intense soreness and stiffness.  Being on the couch most of the day did not do anything for my depressive state and I made the decision to not let the injury get to me. I put on my shoes, the right being the most painful, proceeded to my parents garage and found my Dads rickety old bike and proceeded to ride 10 miles in agonizing pain.  At about the 5 mile mark I finally began to not let the pain overtake me and I was pedaling and riding like I had no ankle injury at all.  Riding the bike gave me the courage to fight off the injury depression and play through the pain. 

With my new renewed confidence I approached my coach the next day and told him I would be ready for the first game in two weeks, with no doubt in my mind.  Lance looked at me like I was the craziest person alive and proceeded to explain that the doctor suggested a 6-8 week recovery time. I understood what the doctor told me but I wanted to play this year with all my friends, many of us were on our final season.  He agreed to let me come back in two weeks with one stipulation, if the trainer could tape my ankle and clear me for game days he would let me play.  I left our meeting ecstatic and felt like I hadn't missed a beat after the intense training during the summer. 

The next two weeks were by no means easy and I was constantly fighting pain but I was bound and determined to play the season.  The risk was high since I would lose eligibility for a red shirt year (when a player can take an extra year if injured) playing in 1 game, and to me it was worth the risk.   The real work started in those training days when I did low impact exercises consisting of road biking, laps in the pool, and physical therapy.  Two weeks of training by myself proved to pay off since I could quiet the mind and focus on healing.  The second hurdle was a few days before our first game when I went to see the trainer.  The trainer asked how I was doing and asked me to rate the pain, I told him a 5 (out of 10) even when I was feeling more like a twelve.  He then said "great, I am going to tape your ankle so you can train today." He proceeded to tape my ankle and would later tell me that I had the most expensive ankle wraps he has ever done.  The tape job was excruciating, but I hid my wincing as best I could.  The practice was interesting to say the least but I was able to do light drills before the kickoff to our season.

The day of our game I was nervous and was beginning to doubt my decision in all honesty, but I decided to stick with my original intuition and proceeded with my half hour tape job. When the trainer  asked what my pain level was, I told him 12, and he laughed and said “well, you are all taped up you might as well give it a go”, and I did.  The first 10 minutes of the game was always the highest pain point, and as soon as I was engaged in the game there was no pain to be felt.

We had a mediocre year since we had a new coach and we lost good senior players from the prior year but we were able to beat some formidable opponents, one being San Diego State University (SDSU) and I can remember like it was yesterday. Their coach did not even speak to the players after the game, he just said “get in the F*&%ing vans and let's get out of here.”   The next year our university (USIU) won the national championship and I can’t help but think I had a part in the foundation that set the table for the winning season the following year.

You maybe asking yourself what does this have to do with golf and why did you make me read this soccer stuff?  Well, recently I have been struggling with my golf game with random shanks and high scores and I knew it was a rough patch and this too would pass, but for the life of me, I could not get past my own flaws and pains (albeit mental more than physical in this instance).  What helped me get out my funk was attributed to the story you just read and I remember how much pain and suffering I went through to achieve my goal.  Pain (golf swing included) can keep you down but mental toughness and fortitude can prevail in your quest for scratch.   

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