As a group, the women’s basketball team has all its cards lined up to have a successful season. It has the talented freshman class and the key returners, but what it is missing is the talented senior guard, Shay Tarver.
Thirty seconds into the Bobcats’ pre-season scrimmage, Tarver made one wrong move and ended up on the floor of the court, clutching her right knee in pain.
“It was within the first 30 seconds of the game,” Tarver said. “I just drove the ball and took an awkward step and everything went down from there.”
The end result was a torn meniscus and the question whether she would play through the pain or forgo her senior season.
This was not Tarver’s first leg injury. When she was in high school, she experienced a torn hamstring in her left leg.
“I would always call my left leg my bad leg, and now it’s my right leg, so now I have no good leg,” Tarver said with a laugh.
With one injury in the recent past, Tarver remembers the feeling of being injured all too well. This time she plans to be there for her teammates even if she can’t physically contribute anything. Tarver wants to be there for the new freshmen as their season gets going.
“I know I have to have a bigger voice now that I can’t be out there physically,” Tarver said. “The freshmen love coming to me to ask questions. They would rather come to me than bug our coaches during the game.”
Tarver is doing much more than sitting on the sidelines and cheering. Behind the scenes, she spends time with the team trainer to strengthen her knee so she can return to the court sooner and get back to her favorite game.
“I am doing physical therapy every day,” Tarver said. “It’s a big change for me. I have not always been the training room type of person. I know I am not going to be my 100 percent self, but I just want to contribute as much as I can.”
Beyond the training room, many athletes struggle with the mental side of an injury more than the physical side.
“Physically I feel like my leg is stronger than ever now that I am doing physical therapy, but it’s just like my own fear,” Tarver said. “I think to myself do I really want to put all my weight on this one leg, physically I can, but mentally I am scared.”
Tarver said playing scared is when the chances of injury are at its highest.
“You’re trying to play timid so you’re not going to be playing like your normal self,” Tarver said. “I am trying to alter my game around that and change the little things to prevent injury.”
Little things like getting back in shape and watching her team from the sideline make the process as a whole harder for Tarver, but she is not letting the little setbacks keep her from enjoying her last season as a Bobcat.
“It has been difficult mentally to get back into it, but I am learning how to deal with it every day,” Tarver said.