Madison Wolfbauer: Trust The Process

My story isn’t simple. I’ve had many challenges, but I would love to share in hopes that even one person can relate. 

I committed to the University of Illinois when I was 15 years old. My club soccer team was well known and many of my teammates went on to play D1 soccer at top schools across the country. I couldn’t wait to get to Illinois and make a statement. 

After completing and passing all of the fitness tests, on my third day on campus, I landed wrong when jumping up for a header. This resulted in a level five ankle sprain. I then spent two months in a boot and on crutches. I began to feel worthless and turned to food as my comfort. I gained a lot of weight and my coach did not fail to let me know that she was shocked when I passed both of the fitness tests. This resulted in the next two years being a constant mental battle of hate for myself and where I was. 

After my sophomore year, I decided to transfer. I was so worried what people would think of me or if I looked weak to my former teammates, other athletes on campus, or friends from home. With the support of my family, I transferred to Bowling Green State University for my junior year. They had previously won the MAC Championship and had a coaching staff I couldn’t wait to work with. 

The first summer game I played after my sophomore year, I tore my ACL and meniscus. I was completely crushed. The fresh start and new opportunity was exactly what I needed. I knew I would have to redshirt and watch from the sidelines at a new school for the entire year. 

My junior year was extremely difficult. My rehab was not progressing the way it was supposed to and I was in constant pain. I didn’t have any friends at my new school and stayed home while the team traveled. I put on a happy face and tried to be a good teammate. Deep down, I was extremely depressed and lost a sense of who I was. 

In October, I saw my surgeon again and I was told I would have to have a second surgery on my knee due to a cyclops lesion. This is not extremely common and this would set me back an additional three months.

I thought to myself, “Why me?”

After working my butt off over the spring and summer of 2020 while at home due to COVID-19, it was finally time to return to campus. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be good enough, and the fear of letting others down was mentally and emotionally draining. 

My first official day of practice was a day I’ll never forget. My teammates were so happy for me and we’re shocked as I did not look like I was coming back from a torn ACL.  

I wanted to share my story to say that you will make it through. Injuries are so challenging and unfair but I am so blessed to have gone through what I did. I appreciate the game so much more and I am proud of who I am outside of soccer. 

In my first scrimmage fully back, I scored two goals and was awarded player of the match. Things get better, trust the process. 

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