Share Your Story Series: Overcoming injury & keeping hope alive
"An injury is not just a process of recovery. It’s a process of discovery." - Connor McGregor
MY NAME IS ERIN JONES AND THIS IS MY STORY.
Former DI Basketball Player | Professional Overseas Basketball Player
Each year had its own challenges, but I faced more adversity and obstacles than I ever could’ve imagined in my last year of collegiate basketball. The summer of my last year, I found out I had a torn labrum in my shoulder. With there being a few months until November and the official start of the season, I decided to quickly get surgery so I could spend the rest of the summer and pre-season rehabbing and recovering. This was my first major injury and surgery, so knowing I wouldn’t be playing the game I love for three to four months was a mental obstacle; however, I was still very optimistic, hopeful, and excited to get back on the court.
After I was cleared and back to playing months later, I struggled on the court and lacked confidence in myself and my abilities. I knew I wouldn’t be the same player I used to be right away and knew I had to be patient with myself; however, that was much easier said than done. I was often questioning if I would get back to being the player I used to be.
The season continued and I still wasn’t doing well in practice, I had zero confidence in myself, and I was barely playing in games. I went from being a starter the year before, playing about thirty minutes a game, and doing well statistically, to a bench player who was averaging just over ten minutes a game. I had high expectations for myself to play better and help the team win just as many games, if not more, than the year before, but I wasn’t anywhere near reaching those expectations. My goal was always to play professionally overseas after my collegiate career ended, so I was putting additional pressure on myself to perform well. I wasn’t living up to the standards I set for myself and at that point, I was feeling hopeless. I didn’t think I could turn my season around.
I began having negative thoughts like “I’m a failure”, “I’m not good enough”, and “I’m letting myself and others down.” These thoughts began to take over my life and became an every day—every moment—thing. I began to link my value and self-worth as a person with my performance as an athlete. I wasn’t performing well on the court, so I thought of myself as worthless and having no value in life anymore.
Despite being at the lowest point in my life, especially in my basketball career, I still had some remaining pieces of hope that I could play overseas, regardless of how my season was going. I used that little glimpse of hope to give me something to focus on and look forward to in all the adversity I was facing. Even still, my mental battles and struggles with myself repeatedly overpowered that little piece of hope.
I went from laughing and having a smile on my face all the time, being happy, and living in the gym, to never laughing and dreading practice, and eventually, hating the sport I once loved. I didn’t recognize myself for months. I felt like I was in a hole that I desperately wanted to get out of, but just couldn’t.
I came to the realization that I worked so hard for the majority of my life and invested so much time and effort into this game, just to fail. I thought my sport defined me. This was when my depression and anxiety really set in and the idea of quitting the game I played for 20+ years, became a real thought. I wanted to quit so I wouldn’t have to feel like a failure anymore— so I wouldn’t feel like a disappointment to all the people who believed in me— so I wouldn’t feel worthless anymore.
Talking about my feelings and being vulnerable has always been uncomfortable for me. I’ve always avoided it because I didn’t want to be seen as “soft” or “weak” for showing emotion. I never wanted people to know I was struggling because of the stereotypes around athletes and their mental health. However, I knew talking everything out was what I needed, so as uncomfortable as it was, I got help. In return, I received constant support, reassurance, and advice from my support system and a few other special people in my life. They kept me going when I didn’t think I could go anymore.
I managed to finish out my season and not quit. After the season was over and my collegiate career came to an end, I slowly saw my mindset shift and saw myself transform back into the person I was— positive, determined, and happy. I’m proud of myself for not quitting and giving up, because I wouldn’t be here today, writing this from my house in Germany and getting ready to start my second year playing professionally overseas.
I am now trying to share my story and experiences with other athletes in hopes of helping and inspiring them to not give up, no matter how hard life gets.