What is it that compels athletes to come back, time after time, to continue to play the sport that they’ve chosen despite injuries, setbacks and even (for student athletes) difficulties in finding the time to play? Is it, as the story often goes, their “love of the game,” or does sheer stubbornness play more of a role?
“I think it’s both,” said Jack August, a freshman-sophomore player on the men’s tennis team at the College (as a third-semester student in his first year of athletic eligibility, defining his year is one of the difficulties August faces). “It’s just that I’ve put so much time into it, I don’t want to stop, and I really do enjoy it when I can play, so it’s frustrating when I can’t.”
August is returning to play for the Lions after a year away from the team, the result of a painful injury and the complications to life that injury caused. Despite the setbacks, August comes back as a starter in both singles and doubles matches, proof that he has more going for his game than stubbornness alone.
Primary among August’s playing woes is his left ankle, which, as one can probably imagine, is somewhat important when playing a sport requiring quick turns and hard stops. August’s ankle has not been the best at taking on the wear and tear of its owner’s sport.
“(I’ve had) three stress fractures in that ankle,” August said.
A stress factor is described as a small sliver or crack in a bone, brought about by continuous and unusual pressure, or “stress,” and is a common sports injury. August is unfortunately no stranger to this injury.
“I’ve had six (stress fractures) in the past six years,” August said. “No doctor can really figure out what the problem is, they just say tennis isn’t really great for your body. It puts pressure on your joints and bones.”
The most recent of these fractures has been the cause of August’s playing difficulty at the College, starting in the fall of 2011.
“I played my first semester,” August said. “I ended up in-season developing a stress fracture, which they didn’t find until after the season. They decided I needed surgery, and as it turned out I had a bone graft in my ankle that kept me out for the spring semester.”
The resulting aftereffects of the injury could be described as a stress fracture in August’s life, where unusual pressure causes tiny cracks that lead to bigger issues.
“I was still having some physical issues,” August said. “So I didn’t end up coming back to the school at all in the fall. I took the whole semester off to earn some money and let my body recover.”
After a year like that, it would be easy for most college students to stay away from their sport. August, as it turns out, is not like most college students, as he’s back at both the school (as a math major) and on the tennis team.
“It feels really good (to be back),” August said. “I’m just hoping my body holds up.”
According to August, he’s not the only one who hopes it either.
“Coach wants to take it slow, because I’m somewhat injury prone,” August said. “But I’m playing in both singles and doubles in our opening match. I’m excited to get back into it. I haven’t competed in over a year.”
Coming back to school after his time away, August said he has been busy.
“I’m still working about 30 hours a week and I commute from an hour away, so this semester is pretty full,” August said.
Busy or not, August clearly thinks he made the right call in coming back.
“Being back has been better than I expected, it’s been really fun,” August said. “I worked full time last semester, and that really can’t compare to being here, being in college and playing tennis.”
Maybe a love of the game is as great of a factor as the cliché implies after all.