HARTVILLE Being part of the team.
While it can get overlooked in the course of trying to achieve individual and group success in any sport, the simple act of being part of a team and connecting with teammates matters. That connection can be tested when an athlete suffers an injury and can’t be out on the field of play with his or her teammates, but as Lake Center Christian senior basketball player Aliah Bailey found out last season, not being in uniform doesn’t mean not being part of the squad.
"I played a little bit of the season last year, but toward the middle, I tore my ACL and the meniscus," Bailey said. "I did it during practice, but had to wait a month for surgery because there a bunch of people lined up (to have a similar procedure). So I had to wait a while and I didn’t know how fast I would get back."
She ultimately had surgery on the knee in February, but knew that it would take some time to get back to being active, playing sports and not having the injury slow her down. It ended up being a six-month process simply to be able to return to normal activity, and an additional three months before Bailey could be in contact situations and play in games.
With her knee in an injured state, she couldn’t be on the court with her LCC teammates, but not being able to play didn’t mean she pulled back from being involved with the team.
"It was hard at first … I didn’t realize it would be that hard," Bailey said. "Just be able to bend my knee at first was tough, but I love being part of team stuff, so I went to all of the games before I had my surgery and the team is always there to support you."
The hardest part of the process was game days, when Bailey would normally be getting ready to suit up and excited about the chance to compete. She couldn’t do that while injured, so she had to find other ways to contribute and stay connected to both the game and her team.
She’s known other athletes who have suffered injuries that kept them out part or all of a season and can’t recall any of them deciding that it was just too difficult to be around the game without being able to play.
"Everyone I’ve known still wanted to be a part of the team," Bailey said. "I went to even practice and I didn’t have to start therapy right away."
While she was out, she helped film games and that meant being stationed at the top of the bleachers, away from the action. Still, it was a way to be part of the team and as she went to rehab sessions where therapists worked on getting her knee to bend and regain its normal function, it was a welcome link to the sport she loves.
Once she had her surgery, the support from her team was a valuable part of the recovery process.
"They (the therapists) also had to do a bunch of stuff on my own," Bailey said. "My team is really encouraging and after my surgery, they all came and sat with me, brought me candy and sent me messages."
After going through that challenging process, Bailey has been able to return to the court this season and while the team hasn’t broken through the .500 mark yet, the Tigers are winning more often than they have in recent seasons. Win or loss, Bailey’s junior season taught her the value of being part of the team and how that bond can continue whether you’re on the court together or not.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB