The Strength from Within
By: Julianna Walker
It was a cold and rainy day here in Tacoma, Washington. It was Thursday, September 13, 2011. Five o’clock, time for practice. Not just any practice, but football practice. Now, I know what is going through your head: “Can girls even play football?” Well, yeah, I don’t see why not. Girls are just as strong and tough as boys. For all of the other people who are amazed at what I was doing, thank you, I appreciate it.
I came home that day from school, ready to finish my homework and get dressed for football practice. I was in the third grade, so all the homework that we had was multiplication facts to practice. After I finished my homework and things I had to get done, I got dressed. That day wasn’t just any practice, though. No, that day we had a scrimmage game against the “Eastside Angels.” They were these big, huge kids, and they were prepared for battle. One of the boys on my team said one of the rudest things that I'll remember.
“Coach, Julianna shouldn’t play this game because I don’t think that she can do it,” he said. Just as those words came out of his mouth, my friend Jaden, stood up for me. He was one of the only people I knew really well because he was one of my basketball teammates.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, I don’t think that you can say something like that, because she has been at practice all week, working her butt off, while you were at home playing “Call of Duty.” But you only said that because she’s a girl, and she’s taking your spot. So I suggest that you go do warm-ups and leave her alone.” I was so happy and grateful that he said that for me, because I was way too scared to say it on my own.
“Thank you, Jaden,” I told him as we shared a smile. He was indeed a great friend, one of the best I’ll ever have.
I was a backup quarterback, so I wasn’t supposed to get a lot of action, even though I wanted to. About halfway through the scrimmage, there was a point where something really terrible happened. I can remember hearing something snap, and it was the grossest thing ever. It was a leg that was turned one way, and you could tell that the pointy thing sticking out of this leg was a bone. It was so bad, I almost threw up in my mouth.
“Jaden! Are you okay?” I ran over to him.
Sobbing, he said, “I think I broke my leg! I can’t move it! Ow!!!”
My couch shouted at us: “Back away! Everyone back away!”
Now, his mom and my mom ran over to see what happened. My mom and I were so shocked at how this happened. If I wasn’t already nervous enough, I definitely was now. That right there was going to be my only moment to prove these boys wrong. I was gonna prove that girls can play football and be good at it. For the first few plays, I was doing great! I was passing and handing off the ball like I was taught during practice.
Then, it happened. I got walloped. Right there at that moment, I wasn’t thinking. I just got up like it was any other play. Of course, I got up super slow. But something wasn’t right with my left shoulder. It was throbbing like crazy! I had no clue what was happening. I was in so much pain. Every time I got hit, my shoulder would hurt even more than it did before. I didn’t say anything until after the game. It hurt especially when I took off my shoulder pads. I had to tell my mom what was going on.
“Mom, my left shoulder hurts badly.”
“When did it happen?” she asked, concerned.
“I don’t know. It just started hurting when I got tackled on that one play. I got blown up.”
“Come on, let’s get home so your dad can take a look at it.”
“All right…” I said, my teeth clenched from the pain.
When my mom and I got home, we told my dad about all the crazy things that happened. After we told him about my shoulder, he looked like he was kind of in shock.
As the next day came, my shoulder was hurting even worse. During school, I went to the nurse's office because it was throbbing badly, way worse than it was the day before. When practice rolled around again, my dad was very cautious for me, because I told him that I didn’t want to go, which is something I would have never said. Watching my every move, precisely the way that I moved around during practice. Eventually, when it was still hurting, I had to tell him to call a doctor.
A week later I was finally able to see a doctor, and for the first time in my life, I was so relieved to see him. That’s how you knew that something was terribly wrong, because who is excited to see their doctor? While I was waiting there, I saw a familiar face coming out from one of the nurse’s room.
“Hey, Jaden. Are you feeling better?”
“Better than ever,” he joked. That was one thing I really liked about him. Even in his darkest moments, he was still him.
“Hey, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at football practice?” he asked.
“Oh, right, you don’t know about my hurt shoulder.”
“What?! You hurt your shoulder? How?”
“Well, after you left, coach put me in and I got cracked by this big dude.”
“Aww man, I am so sorry. I wish I was out there to protect you.”
“Hey, it’s okay. I wish that I was out there to help protect you.” I joked with him.
“My mom’s here, I got to go.”
“Yeah, yeah of course.”
“ Well, get well soon! See you later!” he yelled over his shoulder.
As I entered the doctor’s room, I began thinking about basketball. Basketball is my main sport that I play because I purely love it. Football was a way to help me be tougher on the court, because I was playing against boys, and they were able to push me around easily. Whether or not I was going to be okay to play.
“Hello, Julianna. How have you been?” my doctor asked me.
At first I didn’t want to tell him that I was hurt, because if you’re hurt, then you can’t play basketball. Which is something that I loved to do, and still do. Right when I was going to tell him, my arm spasmed. That forced me to tell him the truth.
“Well, mentally good, but bad, physically bad. My left shoulder is still hurting. Like, every time I try to move it. Whenever I’m trying to put my clothes on, or when I try to lift my arm. What is happening to me?”
“Okay, and when and how did this happen?”
“It was on Thursday, last week and I was playing football.”
“Wow, football? That’s just amazing.”
“Yeah, thank you.”
“Well, let’s check that left shoulder out, okay?”
I was so scared that something was hurt, I had all of these negative thoughts that I couldn’t bear it anymore. So, it turned out that I was partly right; I was hurt and had fractured my left collarbone.
“Well, Julianna, it looks like you took a big hit and landed on your collarbone.”
“Wha- what are you talking about?”
“You fractured your collarbone, sweetheart.”
“Really? Will I ever be able to play basketball again?”
“Yes, your arm will heal up in about three to six months. We will check in with you next week, okay?”
I had to have my left arm in a sling. But of course, that didn’t stop me from going to the gym. The only difference was when I would go, I would be on the side doing something we call “form shots”; it’s a thing my dad tells my brothers and me to do when we are missing a lot, or if we want to gain our focus back. While my brothers were shooting, I was doing form shots with my right arm. I went to the gym every day with my family, and I never sat out.
Months later, football season was over with and now it was time to start basketball season. I was so excited that I could finally shoot with my left arm now! Just like I used to. Instead, I was shooting different and making it. That moment was so weird, because usually when you change your shot, you typically miss it. That wasn’t happening here. I would’ve never had thought that it would be possible. How could my shot change and be going in the hoop like I have been practicing with two arms for all these months? Well, that was just how my shot developed, and to this very day, I shoot this new way now. It's crazy how something like that can change your whole life. I say whole life because I can get a college scholarship from playing basketball. Getting a college scholarship is a very important thing to my family and me. It’s so important because a college scholarship is basically another way of saying,
“Hey, we’re going to pay for your college tuition because you’re so good at basketball and are a great person.” I realized that not all change has to be bad. Some are for the better and others are for the worse. But whatever happens to you, you can always change the way you view it.