By Rebecca Fiorentino, Blue Devil Network
DURHAM, N.C. -- Life throws us many obstacles. They challenge us and test us, but we never know where they will take us.
Every athlete, whether they want to or not, is going to have to step away from the game they love at some point in their life. That moment could come at various points in an athlete’s career. Some will be forced to step away due to an injury, some will make it to graduation, and for the lucky few, they will make the choice to step away and retire from the sport.
For redshirt sophomore, Abby Pyne the time for her to hang up her cleats came a lot sooner than she had expected or hoped.
Before coming to Duke, the Dixmont, Maine native was an All-America and All-Region honoree as a high school junior, a three-time All-League and All-State selection, plus a four-time Maine State Champion. With 10 shutouts and a 0.36 goals-against average in her junior campaign, the 6-1 superstar had racked up all the accolades a college soccer coach would want in their future goalkeeper.
But sometimes life doesn’t go as planned.
After junior year, a knee injury resulted in surgery to repair torn cartilage in her left knee, followed by an 18-month healing period. However, that knee would never fully heal.
This past summer after having nine knee surgeries before her 19th birthday, Pyne’s doctors at Duke University Hospital told her the news she feared hearing – they would never clear the aspiring goalkeeper to play the game of soccer again.
“Woah, I’m not going to lie I struggled wrapping my mind around that,” Pyne said. “When you’ve poured your heart and soul into something and suddenly the thousands of hours of work you put in seem pointless, you start to question your purpose.”
Having to redefine your identity and purpose at the young age of 19 seems like a tall task for anyone, student-athlete or not. Pyne had goals to leave her mark at Duke with her name in record books and with a National Championship. Those things inevitably weren’t going to happen anymore. So how could she leave her mark now?
After all the surgeries and treatment Pyne had gone through, she developed a strong passion for helping others.
Pyne started volunteering at the university’s children’s hospital. But in order to be a volunteer it requires a lot of dedication including letters of recommendation, hours of orientation and a promise to volunteer once a week for an entire semester. For most student-athletes with schedules filled with practice, weight-training, film, travel and study hall, the time to fulfill these requirements seem out of reach. But that’s where Pyne comes in.
Because Pyne has the necessary qualifications and commits to going once a week, she’s allowed to bring other student-athletes with her.
Thus, Pyne created “Athlete Wednesdays” where any athlete who wants to volunteer can join her. She’s had athletes from a variety of teams attend the hospital, including the men’s basketball team and the track and field squad.
“The joy on both the faces of the children and the faces of those volunteering is one of the most rewarding things to see.”
Although she will never be in a highlight reel, the record books, or on the field helping her team work towards a national championship, her mark at Duke will hopefully be left forever with the continuation of “Athlete Wednesdays” long after she has graduated.
This is the highlight of her college career. While proudest moments used to always involve soccer, after starting this program Pyne has found a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude towards her knee injuries.
Tattooed on her left wrist are the words “Be Grateful.” Something Pyne says is a permanent reminder to her every day, because sometimes life doesn’t go as planned but wherever life takes us, be grateful.