By Jacob Arvidson
She had cartilage damage beneath her right knee cap that was causing bones to rub together. The joy of playing her favorite sport was being tainted by the pain that came with every practice and match.
So early last winter she elected to have surgery, so she could be at her best for her senior season. Like many athletes, she figured that surgery would solve the problem and she would be good to go.
“It was so much pain it was beginning to become unbearable,” German said. “If I could get it done as fast as I could, then I could play more volleyball right after the recovery.”
But the operation wasn’t the fix-all that German hoped it would be. The procedure went smoothly, but when she went for her checkup shortly after, the news was not what she wanted.
She was told that she might be able to make it back on the court for her senior season, but only if she put in a lot more rehabilitation work than she ever dreamed of. And even if she did all that, there were no promises that her knee would be strong enough on time.
In other words, she would have to do what the doctors couldn’t do.
Suddenly German’s senior season, and her final opportunity to prove she had the talent to compete at the collegiate level, were in jeopardy.
“I was pretty upset, pretty heartbroken, pretty angry and frustrated,” German said.
“It’s a big deal when a kid who has worked really hard in your program, who’s been part of the varsity program since she was a sophomore, to have this big issue in the offseason,” Fruitport volleyball head coach Nicole Bayle said. “It was quite scary.”
But German didn’t back away from the challenge. She had a lot of work to do, and that’s precisely what she did.
There was physical therapy three days per week. There were daily exercises she had to do at home. There was after-school weight training on days when there was no physical therapy.
“It was a lot,” she said.
German said local physical therapist Mike Braid was a huge help..
“He wasn’t just the guy I did physical therapy with,” German said. “He’s a really good motivator and very friendly. He really affected my rehab process and made it easier and more enjoyable. We worked really hard together to get me back to where I am now.”
Bayle was amazed by Braid’s work and gives him a lot of credit.
“He was an awesome physical therapist for her,” she said. “He pushed her and he really worked to get her back to speed.”
In the end it all paid off. When the volleyball season rolled around in late August, German was with her teammates on the court.
“I’m so happy to be back,” the 6-foot middle hitter said. “Being off was hard. It’s hard not to play the sport that you love.”
“She’s very crucial to our success,” Bayle said. “She’s a really hard working kid who puts in a lot of time and loves volleyball. That type of behavior is really contagious on the court.”
Now halfway through her senior season, German said she feels just as effective as she was before. She is currently generating between two and three kills per game for Fruitport, a traditional area volleyball power that’s competing in its first season in the tough O-K Black Conference.
German says there’s still pain in her knee, but it’s finally bearable. But there is always the fear of re-injury, or overcompensating for the knee and experiencing some other type of injury.
“In our tournament on Saturday she wiped out in a pool of sweat,” Bayle said. “I saw both of her parents and grandparents in the stands gasp.
“It is nerve-wracking. Her and I and her parents have talked about how it’s not about her telling me or the coaching staff what she wants to do – it’s more about telling us what her body can do right now.”
Despite the nagging fear of being sidelined again, German said the experience gave her extra confidence and toughness.
“It made me believe that I can do things,” she said. “Before, right when they told me my surgery wasn’t very successful, it shut me down a little bit. I didn’t think I’d be back for my senior year. But after a couple weeks and learning how to get stronger, it really made me realize I could do it and I could get back. I just had to push myself.”