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Getting over the mental hurdle

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Just like that everything flashes before your eyes.

All the hard work you have put in is gone just like that, or at least that’s what you think. You think it’s over, that the colleges will just walk away from you. After all, no one wants damaged goods. No one wants someone who might not be 100 percent.

Again, that’s what you are thinking as you lay on the ground in pain. As your knee gives, and you hear the pop, emotions just start flooding your body.. It’s a surreal feeling as you lay there in pain.

Some of those cries are because your knee is in so much pain. The other is because you think your college playing days are over, even before it started.

As Lockport High School’s Reese Wroblewski lay on the ground in pan, after her knee made a pop, she didn’t know what to think. She thought the worse.

The tears started rolling done her face as she was trying to deal with the pain, while also wondering if she had to start looking for another college during the recruitment process.

“When I initially felt my knee pop, the first thing I thought about was college. Well yes, I was crying about being in pain, I was more so scared that my college coaches would walk away from me, and give up on me,” stated Wroblewski. “It was a horrible feeling. Spending months of hard work and commitment to getting recruited and finding my perfect school. I felt like everything had just gone down the drain and none of it mattered.”

As she was laying on the cart, it was the reinsurance of Winthrop lacrosse coach Kara Concheck that made Wroblewski feel better. The pain was till there, and it will be there through her recovery, but the fact that coach came over made her feel so much better.

It also showed that Wroblewski made the right decision when she chose Winthrop to continue her college athletic, and academic, carrier.

“Luckily, I have the best coach. My head coach at Winthrop, Coach Kara, came over to the golf cart, just minutes after it happened. She told me that she wasn’t going to leave me, and that I had so much time to recover,” stated Wroblewski. “I’m so grateful for her. That was the moment I knew that Winthrop was really the school for me. Since then, the thought of having to find another school and continue my recruitment process hasn't even crossed my mind, thanks to Coach Kara and Coach Hannah for their continued support.”

Now, the real work starts. The grinding to get back to how she used to be before the injury. Before the rehab starts, Wroblewski needed to get over the mental hump of being injured. This being her first major injury, you don’t know how she was going to react.

There are days Wroblewski just wants to be the same kid before the knee popped. The mental hurdle is a real struggle. Being laid up in the house, with nothing to do, can weigh on a person mentality.

“This past month has been challenging for sure. From having to learn how to walk again, to being stuck in my house all day, to not being able to play lacrosse at all, I can’t lie, it sucks,” stated Wroblewski. “Some days I feel like I’m finally living more of a normal life, and other days I feel like things will never get better. The recovery is definitely more mental though. I try everyday to be optimistic. Especially in the earlier days of when I initially tore it and right after surgery.”

If there was one thing Wroblewski didn’t want was for people to feel sad for her. Things happen in life, and this was just a small blip on the radar. Wroblewski would try her best to keep that smile on her face during the early part of her recovery.

She already had a great support system in place with her family, friends, past, and present, coaches checking up on her. The real challenge is right now. Spring practice starts in a couple weeks for the high school lacrosse team.

That’s when it might hit Wroblewski that she won’t be out there this year. The reality of not playing this season will be another mental challenge Wroblewski will have to overcome.

“People were sad for me and felt bad, but I didn’t want that. I kept a smile on my face as often as I could. I had an amazing support system the entire time. Past, present, and future coaches reached out to me,” stated Wroblewski. “All of my friends checked in on me daily and tried to lift my spirits as much as possible. My parents and my sister helped me everyday and tried their best to make me comfortable. I don’t even think the worst part of all of this will even hit until lacrosse season. When I can’t play and can only cheer on my team from the sidelines. But, I’m trying to make the best of it right now. I know that things will get easier and I will get stronger every day.”

Now comes the hard part. A video posted has shown Wroblewski starting the long road back. The rehab is grueling both physically, and mentality. There are times Wroblewski probably wanted to give up. Times she doesn’t want to push herself to the next level.

Then there are times you need to tell her to slow down. Wroblewski wants to get back on the field as soon as possible. It’s a mind game she needs to play with her self. Trust the process they say.

It’s hard to trust the process when you want to get on the field and help your teammates. Cheering can only do so much. She want’s to help them win. Help them reach the goals that where in place before she went down.

“Rehab definitely starts really slow, especially the first 2-3 weeks. I kept reminding myself that my brain has to process my surgery, but so does my body. Everything is working together to try and heal, so if I overdo it in one aspect, I’ll feel unbalanced,” stated Wroblewski. “It’s a slow process. My surgeon said a 7-9 month recovery. But as of right now, as I’m more than a month out of surgery, things are definitely picking up. I can walk almost completely normal now and PT gets harder every time. I love it though. I can feel and see more and more progress weekly. Soon I'll be in the gym and rebuilding all of the muscle I lost.”

Wroblewski can’t wait to get on the field. She isn’t kidding herself, she knows there will be times where she might be a little hesitant out there. There will be times that she has to remind herself to trust the knee.

That everything she is going through will be for the better. When she is finally able to step out there for the first time, Wroblewski has to remember that she will be the player that she was before the injury.

“Going back into playing full time will be a tedious process, for sure. I won’t be 100% immediately, but that's expected. I know how much work that I’m going to be putting in, and I’m not worried about not playing like I used to,” stated Wroblewski. “I’m confident that I will come back better, because I will not let my injury ruin what I had. I don’t think I need to prove myself to anyone, so I’m just going to do my thing, and take my time. I just can’t wait to play again and keep getting better every time I step back on the field.”

This season, Wroblewski will be more like a coach on the field. She can’t play, but she can still help out. She will get to see the game from a different perspective. She will be able to see how opposing teams line up, what kind of defense they are playing, and so on.

So, while she isn’t playing, Wroblewski will still be soaking in the game. Working on her lacrosse IQ even more, if that’s even possible.

“Although I won’t be on the field this season or the beginning of my last club season, I think I will grow as a player. I will be on the sidelines watching everything. Seeing what you normally don’t see mid game. It’s an experience that many people don’t get to have. Clearly, I wish that this never happened to me, but I am making the best out of it,” stated Wroblewski. “I can’t change the past, it's too late now. Throughout this journey, I will become smarter in my game play, and a better player overall. Luckily for me, most things now have become muscle memory as I have been playing lacrosse since I was 6-years old. Obviously, I will become rusty in some areas, but my rehab is a chance for me to rebuild my skills and become more precise altogether.”

With a year of not playing, many would think Wroblewski might be behind. This is the opposite. Wroblewski can still work on her stick game. She can still work on certain aspects of her game that won’t show up on the stat sheet.

Once the rehab is in the final stages, then Wroblewski can work on her agility. Testing out the knee to make sure it’s ready to go. It’s a tedious process, but one she ready to take on.

“Right now, the most I can focus on is stick work. As I continue my rehab, I think my agility will be one of the harder obstacles for me to overcome. The quickness of my feet was one of my stronger aspects of my game. It’s probably one of the last things that I will be working on before recovery is over, so it won’t be as developed as everything else I had been working on,” explained Wroblewsk. “But eventually, I will come back completely and I won’t need to think about my knee as something that I will need to be gentle with. Instead, it will be a norm to me. Once I have that mentality, and overcome the fear that I may gain about my knee, college lacrosse will flow smoothly for me. I will have an entire fall season and my senior high school season on me before going to college. I have a lot of time to be able to feel free with my knee, and I think I will be as ready as I can be to go to South Carolina and continue my lacrosse career.”

It’s a career that Wroblewsk earned 100 varsity goals. It’s a career that has seen her getting ready to play lacrosse at the highest level. When her high school career is over, Wroblewski will be heading to Winthrop to play DI lacrosse.

She will be the second in her family to play major college level lacrosse. Her sister, Ella, is a junior at Seaton Hill.

“I can’t even put into words the excitement I feel about being able to play at the D1 level for college. It will give me so many opportunities to get better, in the aspect of playing and building my lacrosse IQ. Luckily from what I’ve been around and seen at Winthrop, everyone loves everyone. The team chemistry is through the roof, “ stated Wroblewski. “Being so young when Ella went through her college recruitment process definitely helped me with mine. I was familiar with the process and the hard work that goes into it. Being able to see it first hand gave me an advantage of being ahead of my peers. With Ella being a junior in college, I have a sneak peek into the college life along with playing a sport in college. It’s cool to hear about her experiences that one day may be mine.”

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