Stepping onto the court, Melanie Hirsch ’18 felt nervous. It was the summer before eighth grade and also her first practice with the Girls’ Varsity Basketball team.
While training with her new team, she began to feel pain in her ankle, a discomfort that would wind up haunting her for almost a year and a half.
“During practice, I was having a lot of fun with my team, and I didn’t realize I had severely hurt myself until I finally went to see a doctor,” she said.
Although she recognized that practice was never the same after that day, she assumed it was the increase in difficulty of advancing from the seventh grade team to the varsity level.
For three months Hirsch refused to acknowledge that she had injured herself. Every time she ran, she ignored the bone in her ankle that clicked out of place. Trying to hold on to her varsity dream, Hirsch said she was in denial.
After several long and painful months, she had had enough and realized she had to take care of her injury. After a visit to a sports therapist, she discovered she had torn a ligament in her ankle, putting her out of the season for four months.
She would miss almost the entire preseason for basketball in eighth grade, making it almost impossible for her to continue competing at the varsity level when the season came.
“I was pretty upset because the doctor told me I would only be injured for four months, but it was actually a year,” she said. “I didn’t play basketball for about a year and a half.”
She tried to make the best out of what was to come by planning for the future and looking forward to using her time off to focus on schoolwork. When she returned to the court in ninth grade, she would use the injury as motivation to work even harder.
But after four months of sitting on the sidelines, the cast didn’t come off. She was not making the physical improvements her doctor had predicted, delaying her recovery indefinitely.
As she continued to watch her teammates train without her, she felt impatient and longed to play the sport she had loved since she was a little girl.
Hirsch persevered through surgery, physical therapy, multiple casts and a yearlong hiatus in her high school basketball career.
“Melanie is a very optimistic person and cheers everyone on, so her not being able to play on the court, we kind of lost some energy,” said her teammate Ashlee Wong ’18. “Now that she’s recovered, she will be a vital part of our team.”
Her doctor cleared her to play in September. Ever since, she has been practicing and playing with the team.
“The first time I played being fully recovered was this year and it was the first official practice of the season,” she said. “It was the hardest practice I’ve ever done in my life, and I was super out of shape and kept falling.”