It was the Winter of 1989. My Sophomore season of High School basketball was coming to an end. I had been working hard: lifting weights, jump rope, and squats. Needless to say much of my life revolved around basketball. The only problem was my knee started to feel “strange”. Periodically it would lock into place and I would have to “pop” my knee back into position. At times when I would be playing defense, my knee would give way, and I would stumble.
So, on the heals of our season, I had an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon named Dr. Sharp (I like that name for a surgeon). After a few questions, he had me lay on my back and began to manipulate my leg into positions in hope of diagnosing the problem. He immediately told me with the confidence only surgeons have, “You’ve torn your Interior Meniscus.” Come to find out this was Orthopedic jargon for my cartilage on the inside of my left knee.
At that age young men think they are indestructible. A surgery was out of the question. But soon I found myself under the hand of this Surgeon as he “shaved off” my torn cartilage. It would the first of a total of 4 surgeries I will have undergone on my knees over my life time (3 on my left knee, 1 on my right) due to later injuries.
Since my goal at this age was to play college basketball, I could have either abandoned my goal, or I could embrace the set-back and make the most of this experience. Two years later I would have my 2nd surgery and go through this process again right before going to college to play basketball. Below are a few ways faced a major set back and made the most of a negative experience:
- FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE: When I first learned the news, I was confused and worried. However, my mind-set soon became one of determination. I decided that a set-back wasn’t final and I could and would press-through and persevere. Set-backs can easily discourage. No matter your set-backs and discouragements, be sure to not allow the negative to dominate your thinking.
- WORK THE PROCESS: I was always systematic in my training. Now my training would look different. Three times a week I would visit the Physical Therapist. He would stretch my leg, have me lift it straight up without weights at first, and teach me to walk with no limp. I decided I would take no short cuts, and obey the process that was given me by my PT.
- LEAN ON YOUR TEAM: My team would soon consist of my Therapist, my Family and later the guys I’d play back-yard basketball with. The question you must ask yourself is, “Who in my life can help me move forward?” Since everyone plays different roles in our lives, understanding how they contribute to your life (as well as you to their life) is an important aspect of friendship, family, and teammates. No one person is called to provide everything you need. Draw on the strengths of those God has placed in your life.
- EXCEL WHERE YOU CAN: This became a time where I got real serious about upper-body training. Instead of being frustrated that I could no longer lift 5 lbs with my left leg (never mind jump-rope, squats, lunges, etc…) I had to focus my energy and training elsewhere. This same principle I implemented when in my Junior year of college I tore my ACL and missed the whole season (this was my 3rd surgery on my left leg). It was during this season of recover I was able to gain 15 lbs of muscle (primarily in my upper body) which helped me come back my Senior year of college and become a 1st-Team All American basketball player.
It is important for EVERYONE to remember that our set-backs are not final and they are not fatal. You can bounce back. The set-backs you are facing may be something physical like my knees which you have little control over, or they may be other set-backs in relationships, addictions or the decisions of others. Perhaps your set-back is a failure you have experienced or a sin you have committed.
Don’t allow your failures to define you. The one decision that is always yours to make is the decision to RISE AGAIN! Don’t quit, don’t give up. Get up and keep trying… for it’s not so much what happens to you, but what happens in your that matters!