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Ever since I was 8 years old, I have been known as the “softball girl.” Weekdays were filled with games, weekends with tournaments. Even though it felt like my life was consumed by a sport, I loved the competitiveness and friendships that I had made in the game. The happiness and overwhelming joy that I felt whenever my team came together to get a win was irreplaceable. I loved it so much that I devoted my life to it and even planned my future college life around the possibility of continuing my softball career after high school. Little did I know that my first game of my ninth year of travel softball would change all of my future plans. As I was making a routine pick off throw, I suddenly felt a sharp twinge on my shoulder muscle. My arm felt as though the muscle had popped out of place, then back in. Pain surged through my arm with shock and discomfort. I hoped that this pain could be cured by Ibuprofen and an ice pack. Unfortunately, the irritation and aching feeling that I had at that moment was only the beginning.

The following Monday, my mom and I went to see a sports medicine doctor who examined my shoulder. He determined that it was only inflammation and that after a couple months of therapy I would be back to playing full time again. Unfortunately, what the doctor determined to be “only inflammation” turned into a lifetime injury that could maybe be healed by an unnecessary surgery and extensive recovery time. Since having the surgery would take me out of softball indefinitely, I tried to fight through the pain of the injury, limiting my throwing, stretching before and after every practice, and icing and heating my shoulder any chance I could. But everything that I did could not stop the inevitable. Softball would never be the same. The sport that I loved so much that made me feel strong now made me feel weak and anxious. Everytime I threw the ball, I felt afraid because that throw could possibly put me in even more pain if the muscle were to twinge. I asked myself, ”Is it worth it to try and play even more after high school, or even now if it means that I could possibly put myself through more pain?”

After hearing other’s opinions about what they thought was best for me in my situation, I realized that this decision on what to do about my shoulder was about me and how I felt, not about what everyone else felt was best for me. With that in mind, I decided to call my travel coach and let him know that I would not be playing travel softball anymore and that I would be stopping altogether after my last high school season was over. Even though he wished that I could have been a part of the team, he respected my decision and hoped that this would help my shoulder to recover. I knew it would be hard giving up my childhood dream and part of my identity, but choosing to stop playing did not erase it from my life in total. Softball has changed my life. It has shown me how to be a leader, a teammate, an encourager, and so much more. Everything that I have learned from the sport has shaped me into who I am today. The question is, what is my identity? Who am I without softball? I am a leader, a sister, a student, a Christian, a friend, a daughter, an American, an artist, a musician, and now even a writer! Never let anyone else tell you who you are. Your identity is up to you.

© Mya Stoller . All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.