Until someone gets hurt. Sports are a way of life, a source for entertainment for those who are playing as well those who are watching. There is a love for the game, whether it is basketball, football or even golf there seems to be something for everyone to get a hold of and admire.
For Valeria Lopez, it was a way for a brighter future, a way to push herself to her goals and dreams while enjoying the sport she fell in love with at a young age. Now about to go into her final year playing volleyball here at Florida A&M it is hard to believe that her journey began nine years ago when she started playing this game at 12.
It began with her parents, both played the game and both loved it. They seemed to pass the traditions on to Lopez who began to pursue her outlet for happiness. At first it was simply a game to play in her past time, a game for fun and enjoyment nothing more and nothing less. She grew for the sport, fell in love with the teams she had and the places she would travel to but soon came time for her to make a decision.
When her final year of high school came around, she decided that the sport she grew to love would lead her to her second love; architecture. Valeria Lopez became enthralled with the structures around her, how they were made and what went into the buildings that stood so tall and beautiful. It was then that she decided to make her way to America, using volleyball as a way to pursue her education and nourish her dream of becoming an architect.
“Playing at FAMU is fun, I came with a goal of learning English and thanks to my coaches and teammates I have gotten better.” says Lopez.
Through the hardships of learning to balance school work and volleyball and personal relationships, she made connections that will hopefully last a lifetime. It was worth it, for her the levels of stress she went through were worth it, until the day when it seemed like everything would be taken from her in one second.
“I thought it was broken,” were Lopez’s first initial thoughts that horrible day. ‘I have had a total of three ankle sprains but this one was the worst by far.”
It was during a practice, the drills going on with an urgency only the Florida A&M team could manage until there was silence followed by Lopez’s cries for help. She lay on the ground, cradling her ankle as the team formed around her watching the athletic trainer rush to her side.
Before this incident, the volleyball team seemed unstoppable in conference play and Valeria Lopez herself had earned MEAC Setter of the Week.
It would be later that it would be decided that Valeria gained a severe inversion ankle sprain. An athlete’s worst nightmare when it comes down to the end of the season.
There are three types of ankle sprains, “they are usually graded from one to three with one being the least severe and three being the most severe” says Kyle Gaines an Athletic Trainer here at Florida A&M.
Grade one can last merely days or it can last weeks. Grade two can last from 2-4 weeks while a grade three ankle sprain which can be a complete rupture of an ankle ligament may require surgery and if they do not require surgery they can last from 4-6 weeks.
Lopez had a grade three, “there were moments when I could see myself playing again in the season, but there were some sad moments that made me realize that the injury was really bad.”
The transition from star to bench was a hard one, followed by the stress of catching up in classes was hard on her. Every day though she would take herself up to the athletic training room and work for an hour to two hours on strengthening and healing the muscles determined to get back out there and play in time for the MEAC Championship.
Her exercises consisted of stretching, getting her ankle used to holding weight, and ice, lots and lots of ice. Some days the workouts would end with a relaxing stem and ice treatment.
After 4 weeks, Valeria Lopez was able to walk without the boot originally placed upon her leg and a week after that she was able to hop on one leg. Her progress was fast due to her determination and strive to finish her season strong.
When MEAC Championship came around she was rewarded for her efforts playing in the finals against Howard. Unfortunately, the volleyball team lost 3-1 taking second place in MEAC.
“I’m honestly just ready for next year. I am looking forward to getting back out there.” says Valeria, refusing to dwell on the past and instead focusing on the future.
Like many athletes that go through injuries playing the sport they love, Lopez won’t let this stop her from becoming the best that she can be.
check out my video on ankle sprains here! – Ankle Sprains