April 2, 2011 was the day it happened. It was the day our daughter’s life changed.
We were told it would be about a year before she would truly “be back” as a soccer player with a torn and replaced ACL. Her surgeon and therapist cleared her to play six months ago and that’s because she was physically strong. But getting back her confidence—not to mention the kind of playing time a top-level player needs—was slower in coming.
Less than a month after her first games back on the field with her club team (Samba), they broke for the high school season. Unfortunately, her high school coach/teammates appeared to treat her more as the injured player she had become rather than the talented player she was. She trained daily with the team and grew stronger and more agile, yet she spent most of the season on the bench. Trust, it didn’t do a thing to redevelop her confidence, and it even threatened to take away her passion for the game.
|Willow the "Bruiser"|
What we learned during this three-month period is that you can’t always depend on a coach to take a special interest in your kid, nor can you get him or her to believe any other method, style or strategy may be more effective or successful than the one in which he/she believes. So, we just encouraged our child to hang-in there, keep working, and if she wanted to continue playing, her time would come.
I suppose it’s fair to say that as we kicked our way through the grief stages of our daughter’s injury and the near-fatal rip it gave to her soccer career, that this was the acceptance phase. She had a major injury. She needed time to fully recover.
|Willow Cozzens, #24, in the air|
Thankfully, the school season came to an end, the club season resumed, and Willow took her place back on the field. She was still not in a starting position—but she was given a respectable amount of playing time. And it wasn’t long before we were regularly seeing shades of the old Willow—or “Bruiser”—the nickname she earned last year.
“Did you see that slide, Mom?” she called to me between halves at a recent a game. I assured her that I did indeed see it, (and it didn’t even make me nervous). “That was for you!” she said with a wink.
Her team went undefeated in the AZ Division I State League season, clinching the championship and earning the first place seed for the upcoming State Cup tournament, which begins later this month.
After one full year and a lot of medical and therapy bills paid in full, all we can say now is: Go Samba! Go Willow! We love you; we believe in you. And it’s very rewarding to see how much you believe in yourself.
NOTE: We isolated this very short clip to show her tenacity on the field last weekend against the current state champions, a national team. She's the tall player in red on the left, who makes a tackle, gets tripped, recovers, and then fields the ball to her outside defender. Atta girl.