Editor’s note: This is one of a group of stories from students in Professor Michael Mudrick’s class and as part of a project celebrating Division 3 athletes.
By Jordyn Woodling
THE SUN glistened, the wind whistled, and softballs flew. On the very first day of practice, everything seemed perfect. Twenty-one girls were reunited for the first time, ignorant of the challenges that would lay ahead of them. One teammate in particular though, was especially excited for the new scenery.
Taylor Walls was a freshman at Gettysburg College during COVID-19’s prime time. The campus was shut down, as academics and athletics were put to a halt. With the future unknown, Walls decided to pack her bags after her first year and head east to York College of Pennsylvania to pursue a new path.
“I just didn’t see myself fitting in there anymore and I realized I had to go home and decide what was best for me,” Walls stated. “I had a few friends who went to [York] and I thought I would check it out. The school had a softball team and the major I was looking at. I was super interested and thought it would be a great fit for me.”
September arrived and the fall season kicked off in a full sprint. Practice three to four days a week and lifting two days. As the first couple weeks flew by, things were lining up well for the new transfer, having the potential to start in right field. However, as time continued, Walls started experiencing pain in her shoulder like nothing before.
“My shoulder had pain for the past couple of years, but I always thought it was just overuse and I needed to rest it,” Walls explained. “I didn’t think there was a much bigger problem than there actually was. But it got to a point where I decided to get an MRI to see what was going on.”
With the fall season coming to a close and the play day approached, her season would officially come to an end.
Walls was diagnosed with a SLAP (Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior) tear. This injury occurs in the top part of the labrum, which surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint, and is caused by rapid movement of the arm when it is above the shoulder. After the diagnostics, Walls officially needed a season ending surgery. The recovery time typically requires roughly four to six months. Or so she thought.
Walls’s daily routine in the training room was straightforward: heat, stretch, exercise, and repeat. Progress would come in small increments from her range of motion to strength.
As each month passed, Walls’s shoulder slowly lifted higher every time she tried. However, due to lack of lifting, her strength would not come back as easily. She encountered many setbacks due to this, as her training was limited. It was difficult to not only find movements that worked but worked without her shoulder hurting. In the end, her shoulder would still not fully strengthen to its full potential.
Every time she had a setback with rehab she didn’t give up and back down.She took it as a challenge and has been working so hard to achieve her potential.Morgan Sauers, one of Taylor Walls’ teammates
Due to these setbacks, Walls leaned heavily on her friends, teammates, and coaches during an unpredictable time. When she could not believe in herself, they did it for her,. kKnowing one day, she would reach her end potential.
“Every time she had a setback with rehab she didn’t give up and back down,” Morgan Sauers, fellow teammate, stated. “She took it as a challenge and has been working so hard to achieve her potential.”
Six months flew by and the new year came. Walls is now currently a junior with an inconsistent arm. Throwing once again, but only every three days and on game days. Her throwing pains have not gone away, and once again feeling a lack of strength. Walls is experiencing the same injury from the cause of the SLAP tear. The biggest challenge was accepting that the recovery process had to start once again.
“When I was recovering, I thought it was going to be easier. The six months would go by and I would be normal, but going into the 2023 season I’m still not fully recovered [which] is very frustrating.”
The pain did not stop Walls from playing in her first official season. The 2023 spring season officially kicked off in Florida, and Walls saw herself starting on the field for the Spartans. Walls started in all eight games in left field, and moved around in the lineup when needed.
“She has become more confident in her arm strength and her range of motion is back to normal,” exclaimed Emma Keller, friend to Walls. “I love getting to watch her play after a long recovery.” From the return to Florida, Walls continues to go to the trainers everyday and continue along her journey.
Walls transferred to York in hopes for a new start academically and athletically. Even though the first year was not what she had envisioned, she continued to work hard and push through the adversity. To this day, Walls’s journey is still ongoing, but further along than when she first came in the fall of 2021.
Jordyn Woodling is a sophomore majoring in Sport Management.
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