Finding Identity

The timing for this entry is either really good or really bad, depending how you look at it I guess.

It’s about injury.

It’s about a season lost.

It’s about discovery.

It’s about something that happens on a seemingly regular basis, not because of anything someone has done, but simply because injury and illness happen.

I can’t believe it’s been over three years since the author of this piece, Annie Rhinesmith,  and the current basketball seniors arrived on campus.

That first year was a trial.  An 0-12 start to the GPAC season with a team trying to find its way.

A coaching change and an interim coach taking the reins for what would be a season of growth her sophomore season.

A season followed where the team made its first ever appearance in the NAIA National Championship field and with almost everyone coming back the sky truly seemed to be the limit.

Then, in April, an injury happened to one of the top guards in the program, Siennah Stamness and her return was cast in doubt.

And then Annie Rhinesmith suffered an injury just as official practice was getting into full swing in September. 

But you know what? The season wasn’t getting postponed, and the 11 other teams in the Great Plains Athletic Conference were dealing with their own challenges.  So, the team kept moving forward.

Siennah continued her recovery and Annie assumed a role as mentor and encourager as the season began.  Siennah eventually worked her way back to playing in early January and more and more of the ‘old’ Siennah was on display in practices and workouts. 

If this is Hollywood Siennah continues to improve and hits the game winning shot in a big game and everyone walks out of the movie theater happy. 

That’s not real life. 

February 1, Siennah injured her other knee in a relatively routine drive to the free throw line on a Saturday afternoon in Fremont, Nebraska.

And the prospect of another recovery is very real.

And I hurt for her and for Annie who are experiencing a season they didn’t expect.

I hope this piece Annie wrote gives some hope to Siennah and I hope the piece was therapeutic for Annie to write.

It gives a very real picture into the challenges some of our students face as things don’t turn out quite the way they had envisioned.

The attached photo is one caught earlier this season in a women’s basketball game against Morningside and features Annie Rhinesmith and Siennah Stamness as close as they would get to playing together this season.

I wish I knew the how and I wish I knew the why, but I oftentimes don’t. But, I do believe the words of Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Be thankful for the day you’ve been given.

mbyk

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The past four years of my collegiate basketball career at Dordt University was not how I had ever imagined it would be. From freshman to senior year, my class has been coached by three different coaches.

Reflecting back, it was difficult to continue playing not being led by the coach who had originally recruited me out of high school. I began questioning whether or not this was the right school for me. I felt I had made the biggest mistake and was wasting my eligibility playing at Dordt.

Through it all, God remained faithful and helped create an incredible bond between teammates despite changing circumstances. During our sophomore season, our team had an interim coach until Bill Harmsen was able to fill the full-time head coach position for my junior and senior seasons.

The adversity and adaptation my teammates and I had gone through the first couple years adjusting to coaching styles fashioned us into who we are both on and off the court. It was difficult to create consistency within the program which in turn developed into frustration—frustration because we recognized the tremendous potential we had as a group.

I recall my dad saying to me freshman season “by the time you’re a senior this team will be ranked top 10 in the nation.” I laughed at him because at that point we were a staggering 0-12 in conference games.

I recall my dad saying to me freshman season “by the time you’re a senior this team will be ranked top 10 in the nation.”

When the national polls came out at the start of my senior season, we were ranked 5th in the nation.

The news was a shock to my entire system thinking about how the program had evolved since early on. I had the opportunity to be the starting point guard on a team ranked 5th in the nation! When the polls came out, I immediately began visualizing goals and expectations I had for both myself and the team.

On September 30th, the seventh practice of the year, all those goals and expectations seemingly vanished. I went up for a routine left-handed layup—a simple move performed a thousand times. Suddenly my leg felt as if it were in two different places, feeling as if every part of my body went into shock.

Trudging to the training room, I remember glancing at Lindsay (trainer), her facial expressions made it clear the odds of returning were grim. I sat in the training room with sweaty palms covering my face in disbelief with tears rolling down my face. A week later, I found out I had completely torn my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and would sit out the remainder of the season.

I was utterly devastated.

I never imagined this type of injury ending my collegiate career.

It was challenging for me to watch the teammates I love most playing the game I cherish without me.

It was challenging for me to watch the teammates I love most playing the game I cherish without me.

There was tremendous support and encouragement from everyone in this community.

People I hadn’t known or hadn’t talked to shared encouraging words. It took a while for my emotions to settle down and realize being a basketball player did not define who I was. Throughout this trial, I’ve discovered my true identity and finding peace in knowing WHO I AM and WHOSE I AM in Christ. A peace that continues to keep me going when I feel discouraged.

Every day I strive to be a Christ-like leader and role model for my teammates. There are countless days I long to be on the court leading and inspiring, but God had a different plan. The girls have been uplifting along my journey and one of the big reasons I can still come to games and practices feeling encouraged.

My time playing at Dordt University was not how I had ever imagined, but I hope during my time I left an impactful mark on others. I pray for the girls who go through this program—for them to appreciate where our program started and thrive in the culture we created. Kobe Bryant said it best, “the most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” Whether that is inspiring people on the court or towards the cross.

Through my journey, it was made clear to me where my true identity is found.

I always have defined myself as a basketball player and when that got taken away from me, I felt lost and confused.

I always have defined myself as a basketball player and when that got taken away from me, I felt lost and confused.

I quickly realized the importance of finding my identity in Christ instead of earthly pleasures. Our earthly pleasures will not always satisfy us, but God’s faithfulness and love will.

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