By Rebecca Greenwell (2017 Duke University graduate, 2018 Duke FUQUA Business School graduate)
Disclaimer: I’m not writing this blog for people to feel sorry for me.
However, I trained over a year for a goal and didn’t achieve it.
A year ago today was bitter sweet. Bitter because I had a serious knee surgery, sweet because I was drafted into the WNBA. I knew going into it that it would be a long road to recovery but I was ready and willing if that's what I needed to do to reach my lifelong dream of playing in the WNBA.
I’ve come back strong from two ACL injuries, the meniscus wasn’t too bad, the scope was nothing, one more can’t be that hard right? A 9-12 month recovery? Easy! Bet I can probably speed that up a couple months, maybe catch a short overseas season before heading to the WNBA.
I thought I had the blueprint for success.
Months one-four: Internship. Do early stages of rehab in Chicago and get some work experience while I’m at it. Check!
Months five-twelve: Move to Durham and hit it hard in rehab. Continue physical therapy at Duke, train like a crazy person and by the end, be in tip top shape for the WNBA!
If only it were that easy. Turns out I wasn’t quite prepared for just how long or frustrating it would actually be. I did everything right. Listened to my doc, ice bathed every day, yoga, ate healthy, protein shakes, you name it. Heck I even started eating cottage cheese (y'all its actually so good).
I had a plan. I had a huge calendar in my room. I planned my weeks out in advance and wrote my workouts and physical therapy schedule for each day.
But for me that was my method for tracking my progress and how much time I had before my end goal: WNBA training camp.
PT, Lift, Basketball, repeat. There’s no telling how much time I spent in the weight room and the gym. I started to try and calculate it but then got overwhelmed so I stopped…but just know it was A LOT.
I was a fly on the wall for a year. I thought I’d be at Duke until January then head overseas. Then January turned into April and I was still rehabbing.
"Hey Becca, whatcha up to?" Rehab.
"Where ya heading?" Rehab.
"You’re still here?!" Yep... rehab.
Physical therapy can be very monotonous, especially when you’ve gone through several long recoveries. I know just about every knee strengthening exercise in the book.
I started to fall in love with the process. Small improvements each day got me so excited. The more tired or sore I was after a workout, the happier I was. I did stationary ball handling for nearly six months. Yes, six months! Do you know how boring that is? I wasn’t allowed to run until I was seven months post-op. So of course, when I started basketball workouts, I was ecstatic.
I thought I was in a great spot at first, but then it kept getting closer and closer. I quickly realized the overseas basketball idea was not realistic, but I had no doubt I’d still be ready come May for the WNBA. A full year to recover? I’d have all the time in the world! But the closer it got the more I realized, I may not be ready. I tried to deny it at first.
One day I’d be feeling great, the next I’d be hurting pretty good. It’s been a constant roller coaster filled with excitement and hope but also doubt and fear.
I’ve always been a very hard worker, so I naturally assumed if I did everything right, I’d be able to push my rehab along quicker, like I have in the past. But this time physiology stepped in and said: "you thought!!".
Then I went to DC to train with the Washington Mystics. It was then I realized I was further off than I thought.
I met with the coaches, toured the city and worked out with Elena Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud, two extremely talented players and cool people. The facilities were great, coaches were great, city was great, just a perfect situation to be in. Did I mention my favorite color is red? Long story short, I loved it.
After 3 days in a row of workouts, however, my knee didn’t love it so much.
The trainer told me to be smart, listen to my body, don’t rush it... something I struggle with. Up until then I’d blocked out the idea of not being ready, but after hearing her hint it, reality set in.
When I got back to Durham for my follow up doctor’s appointment, an MRI showed I had a bone bruise.
No ligament damage. No cartilage damage. Just a bone bruise. Basically, I listened to my body, and my knee was telling me:
"Hey Becca I know you want to reach this goal you’ve been working hard toward for a year, but uh... sorry you’re going to have to wait a little bit longer because I’m not ready yet.” Xoxo – Knee
While it’s only an 8-week recovery for the bone bruise, the timing will cause me to miss WNBA training camp and this upcoming WNBA season... again.
Am I upset? Yes. Do I want to play? Yes. It is tough to be so close yet so far away. But I’m not angry, I’m at peace with it.
Most athletes would probably quit at this point, but I'm not new to this. Adversity has built my mental toughness.
Adversity changes your perspective on things. It teaches you to see the positive and to focus on the things you can control. It teaches you resiliency, willpower and patience. Thanks to adversity, nothing phases me anymore, so for that I'm thankful.
More importantly, adversity has strengthened my faith.
It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that I may not be healthy for the 2019 WNBA season. I’ve put so much sweat equity into this goal, I thought there’s no way God would take it from me.
I read a daily devotional every morning and one day really stuck out to me.
"Instead of single-mindingly pursuing some goal, talk to me about it. If the goal fits into my plans for you, I will help you reach it. If it is contrary to my will for you, I will gradually change your heart. Seek me first and foremost, then the rest of your life will fall into place, piece by piece.”
Single-mindingly pursuing some goal? Woah, you talking to me? I read that and thought no, no, no…don’t change my heart. I’m doing this thing, whatever it takes! But by the time I found out I wouldn't be ready a few weeks later, I could accept the reality and even see the good in it.
A lot of people today want instant gratification. That’s what society teaches, we want it now, and I’m no different. I wanted to play in the league last year, I wanted to even more this year, but I've learned it’s a process. It’s just going to take a little bit longer than I expected. Just when you think you have a plan, life throws a curve ball at you but it’s how you adapt that matters.
Nothing worth having comes easy.
This whole process has taught me a lot. Did I reach my goal I single-mindingly tried to pursue? Not exactly.
I could dwell on the negative or wonder what I could have done differently. Maybe I could have had more cottage cheese? At the end of the day everything happens for a reason. God has a funny way of doing things and I’m excited to see what he has in store.
So what’s the new goal? First, get healthy. 100% healthy. Second, overseas basketball baby! A few more months of rehab then I’ll be on a basic economy flight (let's be real) across the pond! France, Italy… maybe Australia? Not quite sure, but I’ll just be grateful to lace them up again. Then I'll be ready to start my WNBA career.
I’m finally saying good bye to good ole Durham and I’m hitting the road here pretty soon to continue rehab and training in Atlanta! Sorry family, going to need that extra bedroom for a bit. Anyone looking for a summer intern? HMU! (but really...).
It's great to have big dreams but in order to accomplish them you have to focus small. Focus on the day to day things that get you there. Build good habits, keep them consistent, and everything else will fall into place, piece by piece.
I know what it takes to get there now, and if it’s going to take a little bit longer, I’m okay with that.
Accomplishing my dreams is well worth the wait.