Learning to Punch Challenges in the Face

 Leaving Ward Melville High School in Long Island, New York, I was a high school All-American, All-Long Island team member and captain of one of the best high school lacrosse teams in the nation. I had it all planned out; I was going to go to college, repeat my success, and call it a day.

Fast forward to my first practice at Lehigh University in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. It was a gorgeous day on South Mountain and the goal of the day was to roll the ball out and just play. These first two practices were primarily for the coaches to see in what shape the team came to the school year. It was also an opportunity for the freshman to make their first collegiate impression. The first day ended well: I had a few points, was able to adapt to the speed, and got my clock rocked by a senior midfielder that humbled me a bit.

Day two started: I was feeling pretty good about the day before. I started to open up, throw my body around a little more, and take some more chances. And then it happened. After a shot, I was going for a rebound right outside the crease. As many lacrosse players know, a loose ball around the crease is the battle zone. Sticks and bodies fly violently everywhere with the goal of making contact with anything. One wrong movement and my right knee no longer had an LCL—i.e., the ligament that runs along the outside of your knee, creates stability, and makes the knee ACTUALLY work.

Little did I know this was going to be a common theme in my college career. Fast forward four years: two back surgeries, one ACL surgery, and one wrist reconstruction surgery, and that’s it—my college lacrosse career was over. I guess my plan back in high school didn’t really pan out.

But what did pan out? Learning to punch injuries (setbacks, challenges, etc.) in the face. I can wholeheartedly state that coming back from injuries physically and mentally has changed the person I am today for the better. The injuries kept on coming through my career in college, but they forged me with determination to get back up, get better, and start playing again. I know it seems like a very self-righteous “I’m the man” statement, but it was the most humbling experience I have ever been a part of.

What did I learn?

Good question.

1. It very rarely works the way you plan it out. Keep on moving forward, and the outcome will be positive

2. Bounce the heck back. This was a huge process for me. The first time I was derailed due to injury, it took me a while to come back mentally. That time got cut down significantly with the more challenges that came my way, and it was easier to keep that mindset in any disappointments in life.

3. Door closes, try the window. My final surgery came in my last season in the form of a right-wrist blowout. Season over, now what? I needed to compete, create, and work towards something. That’s why I created InXAthlete.com. I’ve learned so much through my time as a student athlete, skills that I know translate perfectly to the professional world. I know businesses want people with the moral fiber of student athletes. There just needed to be a way to connect those opportunities with the student athlete community. This mission took over and creating InXAthlete and opportunities for student athletes to continue to grow after collegiate athletics filled the hole leaving lacrosse left.

4. Compete every day. The only way you get comfortable is by competing with yourself. Put yourself in a challenging situation and find a way to make it a success. Being comfortable is being stagnant. Keep moving forward.

Challenges take many different forms; many of mine came in the form of injuries. All people have faced challenges in many different forms. The only way to grow is to attack challenges with complete conviction, learning every step of the way, and to punch your challenge in the face!