The topic of injury is a particularly sensitive one in sports which is funny because we all have them. Whether it’s a bump, bruise, tear or break – physical, mental and emotional injuries are part of any sport.

What I want to talk about this week in regards to injury is the question coming up in many conversations – How did I contribute? It can be a hard and uncomfortable question to ask and it took me years to really be able to face it, let alone understand my contribution. But face it I did and I share that story with you today to show all athletes just how much your risk for injury is something you can reduce.

This is the story of how I failed myself as an athlete. I failed to listen to myself, my teachers and medical experts and in the process, I managed to exacerbate a perfect storm of circumstances that lead to the end of my athletic career.

While the tale may sound grim, the moments of opportunity are what I want you to see most. As you read on, be a detective and look for places in my story where one small choice may have created a completely different outcome.

Here’s The Skinny

I began my journey as an athlete at the age of three when my mother took me to see the Nutcracker. I do not remember much of my childhood clearly, but I remember a single moment from this experience.

I remember a girl in a tutu, twirling and spinning on her toes. I remember the lines her body made and the joy she exuded with every step. I remember the excitement I felt and the inspiration to dance as she did. From that moment on, I was hooked.

While I tried other sports – soccer… gymnastics… – nothing ever stuck like dance. Before I was 9 years old, I had jammed my fingers, sprained my ankles and broken my left fibula. At 10, after being diagnosed with Chondromalacia patellae and Osgood-Schlatter disease in both knees, a doctor told me to take a break or at least dance less. I assumed it was just an option, not a requirement, and I took it personally as if needing to stop meant I was weak or incapable. I intentionally pushed back against this idea and dug myself deeper into dance.

By 13, I had chronic pain in my knees, especially my right one. I had to stop repetitive styles of dance, like tap, in order to manage my pain and continue dancing. By 17, when my knee dislocated for the first time, I was again told to take a break and let my body rest but not dancing would have been like not breathing. Without understanding this fact myself and without maturity and ability to really explain this to anyone; I just kept forging ahead.

By 20, my right knee had dislocated twice, and I had two knee surgeries. My right hip was in a constant state of pain from bursitis and I had a bulging disk in my lower back that made my legs and feet go so numb it was hard to sit through lectures. By this time, I had stopped dancing but not because I didn’t want to. I just didn’t want to live on one small bottle of Advil per week to make it through each day.

In short, from the age of 3, I believed there was only one way to live that was right for me. This myth of dance being my “one right way” while amazingly motivating and inspiring – aka. the epitome of GRIT: drive, passion, courage, stamina…- ironically doubled as my downfall. How could the path and the vision I used to gain success as a dancer be the very same path that took me to my failure and loss of dance?

How Could Grit and Commitment Lead Me To Failure?

It comes down to one word and one skill. It’s a skill all athletes have but often use selectively to fulfill their vision of achievement and reality. I’m talking about the skill of listening.

I didn’t LISTEN. I wasn’t trained to LISTEN to myself and I didn’t know how to LISTEN to anything I heard that fell outside my “one right way” such as, “you need to stop dancing for a while”.

My body was in pain, my mind knew I might be headed for disaster and yet I pushed on. I’ll write more in the next blog about the challenges athletes face when it comes to listening. For now I can say for sure that I blocked out words that I didn’t want to hear and I failed to see the value in doing anything but walking the “one path” I knew how to walk.

So What?

Right now, you may have started up again with your sport or you may be thinking of starting your sport. As you do this, please know that listening to your body AND STOPPING BEFORE you feel discomfort or pain, is more important than ever.

You can come back after a Corona break full force, right where you left off, and what will it cost you? What toll will it take?

You can come back with the mindset that you are behind because sports stopped and what are you behind at?

Everyone stopped or slowed down and everyone is trying to figure out how to ramp back up.

Right NOW, your body is not in the same place that it was 3-4 months ago and it’s up to YOU to return to sports without putting yourself at risk for injury.

Whether you:

  • Listen to Tamara Frayssinet and take a creative and playful training approach
  • Listen to Tony Brown and work on your mindset to prevent injury
  • Learn from my experience and see how ignoring your body for the sake of achievement will limit your ability to achieve

As you return, listen to someone and something outside your usual internal story. Take the opportunity that is NOW and build a new path to return to your sport. If you have no idea how, it’s ok. You don’t need to. Call a coach, use one of the resources I’ve posted on YouTube for the past few months and start asking questions in your inner circle.

Whatever you do – do not go it alone and do not return to business as usual.

Do educate yourself as to your risk of injury and begin to get curious as to how you might be accidentally increasing it.

Return to your sport safe, healthy and ready to adapt and move forward because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Corona Virus, it is that life can change in an instant and both your survival and your success in sport depend on your ability to adapt.

Wishing you a successful return to all the things you love in life and a healthy and injury free return to your sport.

With Love,

Coach Jen