Pain AND Gain: On the Edge of Injury AND Glory

The First Ladies of Soccer

I got to spend my mornings last week with the First Ladies of soccer, the Washington Spirit. I have never seen that kind of soccer quite so up close and personal. These women are phenomenal. Just standing by, I can hardly believe the power and accuracy and quickness of their ball drills and their small-sided play.

But after a hard morning’s work on the turf at the SoccerPlex and then doubling up with an afternoon session in the gym, these girls are sporting plenty of ice bags.  What fortitude it must take to keep up this training day after day?

I am hearing Helen Reddy (yes, showing my age, here) in the back of my head singing …

I am woman hear me roar… In numbers too big to ignore … I am strong…I am invincible…I am woman…

Watching these girls, I started thinking about pain and the way women manage it.

  1. Women have high thresholds for physical pain. Sprains, no problem. Tears, no biggie. Surgery, all in a days’ work. We were made that way.
  2. Women have low thresholds for emotional-psychological pain. It hurts to lose. It hurts even more to lose a friend. It hurts most of all to let our friends down. We won’t do it.

Mix 1 and 2 together and I have the recipe for potential injury.

  • I put up with physical pain to avoid emotional pain.
  • I play with potential injury until it becomes actual injury.
  • I endure surgery after surgery and keep coming back.
  • I may return to play too early because I miss my friends and need to recover my identity.
  • I go too fast too soon in order to avoid being called a quitter.
  • I may dismiss physical warning signs of pre-injury because I am built to handle physical pain better than the pain of seeing disappointment on the faces of my teammates.

I am woman.

Coaches, parents, players, we need to find the recipe for helping our young women prevent injury and pursue glory. They need:

  1. Pre-season training to build a strong physical foundation and ingrain healthy movement for injury prevention 
  2. Us to help them identify the warning signs of injury and to create a culture that gives them permission to take a seat to rest. No questions asked. No disparaging looks. No playing time cuts. 

When all our female athletes (heck, all our athletes!) have access to these, it will be a beautiful day for women’s sport. For all women. We are, after all, the stronger sex.

Abby Wambach…#160…Any questions?

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