Elon University volleyball senior outside hitter Megan Gravley injured her knee Oct. 17 against the College of William & Mary. Gravley posted a status on Facebook one week later, stating that the injury ended her volleyball career. With her permission, The Pendulum is printing her first-hand account.
I began playing volleyball when I was a twiggy middle schooler looking for another activity to occupy my time. Since I didn’t yet play a fall sport, I decided to pull up some kneepads (that were way too big for my chicken legs) and give volleyball a try. Throughout my seventh and eighth grade years, my coach — Coach Davidson, now Kelley Davidson Johnson — taught me to love the game. It is not until now when I looked back and realized she had taught me so much more than the game of volleyball, but the game of life.
Throughout my adolescence, I clung to the team-oriented system of the sport. I relied on my teammates on the court, but even more so off the court. High school led me to become involved in Triangle Volleyball Club, a highly competitive (think AAU-ish) travel program located in Morrisville, North Carolina. I made some of my best friends through Triangle, many of which I still talk to regularly and occasionally see on the other side of the net.
I was privileged to play for a high school coach — Nicole Stemier O’Connell — who pushed the program to greatness each year. In 2010, our necks were draped with State Championship medals and we could call ourselves the best in the state. Not many people get the chance to say that, and I will never take that moment for granted. Thanks to my Apex teammates and coaches, I fell in love with the sport every day I walked into the un-air-conditioned, memory-filled gym.
This brings me to now. I have been fortunate enough to call myself a Division I student athlete for the past four years at Elon University. I have devoted my life to the sport, as I’ve attempted (key word) to balance a social life, academics and existing as a varsity athlete. The chaos seen daily as a student-athlete is something for which I will always be thankful (I’m sure some of my fellow student athletes just cringed, but it’s true).
Last Saturday at an away match at William & Mary, I went up to hit a ball and came down on my left leg, tearing my ACL, MCL and meniscus. There were tears and there was pain, but the worst part was the repeating film reel of my middle school, high school and collegiate careers playing in my brain. All of that was gone. That — in all honesty — was the most painful part of it all.
I certainly know that I am not the only one to have their athletic career uncontrollably cut short by an injury. It is a common occurrence in sports, which is entirely too unfortunate. To be honest, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, as it is both a harsh physical and mental battle. The pain of not being able to put on an Elon jersey, step on the court and compete with my teammates masks any physical pain I may feel. However, I always make a point to think “It could be worse,” as this is a very minor setback in the scheme of things. It is certainly devastating at the moment, but — to be honest — is quite a minute obstacle.
I’m surrounded by awesome people and have the most incredible support system — my coaches, teammates, family, boyfriend, friends and, yes, opponents. It’s these people who are getting me through and they have no idea how much I thank God for them every single day.
I want to use this obstacle to try and spread an important message.
I encourage you to think about the most important thing you do — whether it is a job, competing in a sport, taking care of your family, etc. Whatever you value, put your heart and soul into it. Sure, there will be some days you would rather go sit in the middle of an erupting volcano than lace up your shoes or sit in your cubicle, but there will come a time when you won’t be able to do it anymore. Whether you tire out, succumb to an injury or just get too dang old (as my dad always says) to do what you love, there will be a time when you have to sit on the sidelines and just watch. I encourage you to not take this time for granted, as I sometimes did.
I received a text message containing this verse from a former Elon volleyball player whom I look up to very much, and I hope others can use it to help them through dark times, as it has greatly helped me:
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” — Romans 5:3-5
Have a great Saturday!