Why She Throws

Many times people ask, “How did Amy get involved in throwing?” It’s a fair question because it’s not a typical sport. To be honest, until Amy got interested and started competing, the sport didn’t interest me at all.

Amy has been involved in recreational and competitive sports since the age of five. She played soccer, basketball, volleyball, and tennis. Terry coached her in basketball from kindergarten through sixth grade. He often joked and said, “I could teach that girl to play football.” It’s true. She probably could’ve held her own with the proper protection. She was rough and tough.

In 8th grade, she was playing in the conference volleyball championship and she strained her back, or so we thought. Of course, her being the tough girl she was not about to come out of the game. She continued to play. It was obvious she was in pain but all athletes play with pain from time to time. She was no exception.

The first thing we did when we arrived home that evening was put on ice her back. (Side note: all of my kids will tell you that “ice” is Terry’s answer to everything.) She was a little sore the next morning but didn’t moan too much. I gave her some ibuprofen and took her to school. We kept icing and using ibuprofen for a few days and she wasn’t grumbling or in substantial pain. Basketball practice was already well underway and they were getting ready to begin their season. She and her friend Kasey were the two starting guards. All was moving along as planned.

They played their first two games and Amy performed well. She complained a little with her back but nothing major until one evening when Terry and I picked her up from practice. She quietly got in the car and immediately I knew something was wrong but didn’t ask. I turned around to look at her and saw big goose egg tears streaming from her face and she said, “It’s my back.” Amy doesn’t cry. This was serious.

We were very fortunate to get her with Dr. Maxwell an Orthopedic Spine Specialist, within a few days. After x-rays and examining her, he identified her injury spondylolysis. He told us these are common injuries seen in gymnasts but that hers was sustained from hyperextending her back while hitting the volleyball.

When asked if she could play volleyball again he said, “First of all, let me ask you a question. If you have a metal coat hanger and bend it back and forth numerous times, what happens?”

“It breaks,” she replied.

The room grew silent and still. After giving us time to pause and reflect on what we had just heard, Dr. Maxwell continued. “Yes, and if you were my daughter, and I have a daughter who played volleyball, I would tell her that it is not a good idea to continue. It’s entirely up to you and your parents. However, for the next six weeks, you cannot participate in any sports and that includes basketball and we will have to wait and see about track season. When I do release you, you are going to have to be very careful and if it hurts, you have to stop what you’re doing. ”

Ouch! It was a huge blow. This was not part of her plans. The wind had just been knocked out of her sails.

At the end of six weeks, he released her and she was able to play in the last few games of the season. Immediately after basketball, track practice began. Fortunately, running didn’t irritate her back too much. Then one day came home one day and announced that Coach Bond asked her to try thwoimg shot put because of her arm strength and length. It didn’t irritate her back either and she discovered she was pretty good at it. She taught herself to shuffle and throw.

During the summer she also started taking lessons and playing tennis again. Sometimes certain motions would irritate her back and so she would just stop and try it a different way.

After tennis season her Freshman year, she tried out for basketball and made the team. The day before team practice was due to start she said, “Daddy, would you be disappointed if I didn’t play basketball? You’ve always told us that we give 100% to everything we do. And you’ve always said that if we start, we don’t quit. Yarborough’s are not quitters! I don’t think I can give my best because my heart isn’t in it. I feel like I’m doing basketball more for you than me. My heart is in tennis and track and I really want to work on those two things.”

Terry said, “No, I am not disappointed. I would rather you tell me now. I’ve never pressured you into playing any sport. I’ve always supported whatever you’ve chosen to do.”

The choice was made and she didn’t play basketball. She did exactly what she set out to do. She improved in both tennis and track, specifically her throwing. By her senior year, she improved enough to win the state title in the discus and 2nd place in the shot put her senior year. More importantly, she received an invitation to WCU as a “preferred walk-on” and is now a scholarship athlete.

And that’s how that happened. And you can bet your bottom dollar if someone had told me twenty-two years ago. that my little girl would be a thrower girl, I would’ve laughed in their face and said, “Not my girl”

The reality is that sometimes we may think we know the path we want to take and “we can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Psalm 16:9