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  • Matt Ondesko

Breaking ankles

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

Injuries are part of the game. They are also the most frustrating part of the game. There have been very good players who say their careers derailed because they couldn’t stay healthy. They just couldn’t stay on the field.

It’s frustrating for both the player, coaches and team. They see that the talent is there, now it’s just about staying healthy.

Lancaster High School’s Brooke Radecki knows all too well about the injury bug. The junior central midfielder has been ankle injuries since seventh grade. It has gotten to the point where Radecki just couldn’t deal anymore and opted for surgery on the ankle to try and stop the sprains.

“Since seventh grade I have had at least 15 ankle sprains, for the past two years I have been deciding if surgery would be in my best interest. This spring with it getting worse, I realized that if I wanted to have a chance to play in college I needed to be 100 percent healthy and have nothing holding me back,” stated Radecki. “Since March I have not stepped on the field and it has been more painful to sit on the bench and watch then the physical pain I had in my ankle. Coming back from this injury has definitely been a challenge, but I just have to keep remembering that everything I do is so that I can come back to the game stronger.”

It hasn’t been easy for Radecki. Rehab has taken longer than it should have. The rising junior wasn’t cleared until just a couple of days before fall training. While the physical part of the rehab was tough enough, it was the mental part that wasn’t easy as well.

Not being able to be on the pitch with her teammates was probably more tough than going through the hours and hours of rehabbing the ankle.

“My rehab has been a little longer than expected, which has definitely been frustrating. It was definitely draining to see my team playing without me and having to take a seat on the sidelines for five months,” stated Radecki. “During rehab I would get angry with myself for not being able to do things the way I wanted and not being as in shape after the surgery as I was before. Getting cleared by my surgeon 4 days before school preseason was what I was shooting for and I was proud I reached that goal.”

With just her luck, Radecki didn’t last on the pitch long. Just a week into her training, Radecki’s right ankle went out. If she didn’t have bad luck, she would have no luck at all. Radecki finally was feeling better and ready to contribute only to have another set back.

Mentally, it has been tough ride for Radecki who just wants to get on the pitch and show Western New York what he is capable of doing.

“One week into preseason my right ankle went out. Being angry is an understatement. I got the surgery in March so that I wouldn't have to deal with my ankle problems anymore and then my good one gives out, and at the point I was just angry with everything,” stated Radecki. “Five months in my book was too long for recovery, and now I had additional time which kinda set me back mentally also. With watching the girls these past week and how much talent we have, I'm going to work to get stronger so that I will hopefully be able to join them on the field quickly and help us win a section title.”

On the pitch Radecki is a smart player who can see the field and make the plays she needs to make. Playing the center midfield position, Radecki is looked upon to be the play maker, a Pirlo type.

Radecki is looked upon to make the smart decisions and pick out the right players. She knows that her first touch on the ball is extremely important and being able to see the field a play ahead is also important.

“As mostly playing as a center mid my passing has to be spot on, I have to be able to get the ball where I want it whether it’s a ball into space or to feet. Playing in the middle  I’m always battling for the ball and playing a physical game,” stated Radecki. “Playing physical and technical is a large role in my game. On the field I take everything personally which helps with my drive and determination. Your first touch is how you can beat a player and open up the field. When I play I would say the one positive I can give myself is my ability to see the field. When I receive the ball I always make sure I have my head up ready to look for the smartest pass.”

Radecki isn’t your normal big center midfielder. She isn’t going to kill you with her size. In fact, you might now even see her out there. At 4-foot-11, Radecki isn’t the biggest soccer player in Western New York.

What she doesn’t have in size, Radecki makes up with heart. She will go up against any player for the ball in the air. She also knows that she needs to be smart out there, and that her positing in key on the field.

“With only being 4’11 my decision making definitely has to be fast. If a taller or bigger opponent wants to knock me off the ball I have to make my decision before the ball even comes to my feet of where the ball is going next. Knowing how to cut off the angles and read the ball has definitely helped my defensive game. Body positioning and defending have been important because over a taller girl I am not going to win a header so I have to be ready to defend and win the ball back. But overall my size has had not a large impact on the way I play the game,” stated Radecki. “Some people think it is crazy that I am under 5 foot, as I often have people coming up to me saying how small I am. My height has not greatly impacted my game. The only disadvantage to going against taller girls is winning the ball in the air. Besides that I think that I can play just as physical as girls who are taller than me, and it really has not been that much of a disadvantage. I think that not being as tall as others they think it will be easy to push me off the ball and I think I have just adapted and learned how to hold my own. Playing in the middle which is a very dangerous spot on the field I have had to learn to be aggressive.”

Radecki has honed her skills with Global Premier Soccer (GPS). GPS has been the home for Radecki for the past four years. She has taken what they have taught her and applied it to her game.

Radecki has just scratched the service of her soccer career. She is like a sponge and just learning more and more.

“I can truly give GPS majority of the credit for where I am today as a player. GPS has developed me into the player I am today and has helped me improve my technical aspect of the game,” stated Radecki. “This is going to be my 4th year playing for GPS and I am grateful for all the coaches who have improved on and off the field. GPS has also helped me start the college process and looking into the future which I am grateful for. I am excited to get started with Coach Ryan Louis this season because I truly enjoy his coaching style.”

But, right now, her midst is just getting back on the field. She knows she can’t help the team by sitting on the bench - and there is something special about this team. They have a chance to make some big noise in Western New York .

While she hasn’t been able to get on the field, Radecki is working on the mental aspect of her game. Some kids can’t take feedback from coaches. They take it the wrong way. Radecki, on the other hand, takes what the coaches say to heart and she wants to improve her game each and every day.

“Right now my mindset is coming back from my injury, putting in the work, and winning the section. The squad we have this year is something special and even though I have not been able to get in a game yet I can feel the energy just from the bench the second we all arrive at the field. I think having such a young team helps. When I can finally step on the field my mindset is to just give it all I can because for being out so long I have obtained a certain appreciation for the game. The girls on this team pushes me to be better for not only myself, but for them.  When I step on the field it is all mind over matter. Soccer is my escape from everything else. When I step on the field I only have one goal which is to win,” stated Radecki. “Being strong mentality has definitely helped me when playing the game. Especially with coaching critics. I try and improve my mentality by when a coach tells me something instead of taking it personal, taking the correction and doing it better. I think having a strong mental game is important because during a game there are all different people yelling and saying different things that you just need to block it out and ignore the negativity.”

Of course Radecki couldn’t do any of this without her family and their support. After all, they are one the ones that are getting up early and taking her to all those practice and tournaments. Family vacation might be a tournament in Ohio or Carolina instead of a normal vacation.

Time and commitment is something that her family provides, and it hash;t gone unnoticed.

“My family is a huge support system but especially my dad. My dad is the reason for where I am today in soccer. In 5th grade he was the one who took me to my first premier tryout and he has been on this ride with me since then,” stated Radecki. “He is the person who drives me to every tournament or game and makes sure I have everything I need to be able to succeed. He is the person who believes in me and the person I play to make proud. My mom and two sisters are also huge supporters and always cheering me on at local tournaments and school games.”


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