A mix of pain and gain

Anna Wilson missed eight games this season with a knee injury, but the Stanford recruit gained mental strength, accountability and faith. Courtesy of Andrew Wiley

Anna Wilson, a sophomore at Collegiate (Richmond, Va.), is one of the best high school basketball players in the nation. The 5-foot-7 point guard, who has given a verbal commitment to Stanford, is also the sister of NFL star Russell Wilson. She blogs for espnW.

All athletes have to learn to deal with injuries. Although I have been blessed not to have had too many, I have definitely had my share. Injuries are not only a type of adversity, though. They are also a learning experience. We can try to prevent them as much as possible by stretching after practice, icing sore muscles and working in the weight room, but sometimes injuries happen because we are still human.

This high school basketball season, I was out for five weeks with a knee injury. I did not have any ligament tears, but it was a nagging bone bruise. Because ACL and MCL tears are so common in women’s basketball, you can imagine all the possibilities going through my mind when I heard the “pop” and hit the floor. I could not get up on my own and my knee immediately swelled up. Our trainer, Shannon Winston, instantly got on the phone with our team doctor and set up an MRI for the next day. I got my results back within 24 hours, and thankfully I was diagnosed with a bone bruise and I was able to return for the postseason.

Now you are probably wondering why I am telling you this story. Well, learning how to cope with an injury and staying positive is extremely important! Injuries usually happen unexpectedly and can keep you out for days or even months, so always be prepared mentally.

What I learned during my injury were patience, mental toughness and accountability. I sat out for several practices and eight games. And even though I hated sitting on the bench, I knew I was not ready to go full speed on the court. Mental toughness was the most important aspect for me because I am one of the leaders on my team, so staying positive and still being a vocal leader was crucial. Accountability came in when I had to do weight-room training on my own and making sure I did every rep with detail.

Also, when I was nervous about the severity of my injury, I grew in my faith. I had to believe that whatever the outcome, I would be OK. Other than the people from school, my coaches and my family, no one knew about my injury. I did not want to tell anyone while I was healing because I did not want any negative ideas in my head.

Learning how to cope with injuries, whether big or small, is a part of being an athlete. I know two girls who have had ACL tears -- Richmond women’s basketball signees Alicia Hudalla and Micaela Parson -- who have completely recovered and are perhaps even better than they were before their injuries.

I hope anyone who is reading this takes away that injuries are a part of any sport, but staying positive is the best thing you can do. Take care of your body, and rest is just important as working out or playing.

P.S. Congrats to everyone who did well in their state tournaments! Good luck to everyone playing this AAU season and to the seniors leaving to play college basketball. Stay healthy and work hard!