Lessons Through Injury: Taylor Neuhart, Lipscomb Softball

 

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How God Found Me through My Injury:

Coming into Lipscomb as a bright eyed freshman, I felt like I could conquer the world. I had finally made it. My one dream I have pursued since I was ten, to play and pitch Division 1 softball. I have wanted this dream for so long that after I verbally committed in my junior year of high school, teammates and their families that I grew up playing with told me they have known I would get here for as long as they have known me. As most elite athletes can empathize with, I missed a lot birthday parties, football games, homecomings and prom for softball, but I never thought twice about it because softball was who I was and who I wanted to be.

Freshman year fall-ball was good to start off. For the most part everyone gets an opportunity to play so the coaches can see how people play in game situations while trying various positions and defenses. As fall-ball passed and season got closer it became more apparent that I would be a relief pitcher. We had seven seniors that year and two were pitchers while the third pitcher was a returner who had a great year the year before. When season came around I got to throw two innings in our second tournament of the year and then for the rest of our 55 game season I did not see the field.

For as long as I could remember I have always been, “Taylor, the softball player.”

I worked hard to be one of the best on the field all of my life, and all of a sudden working hard lead me to hanging out in the dugout for an entire season. That year was a huge struggle for me. I thought because I wasn’t good enough to play, people and other athletes were going to think I didn’t belong on the team because I didn’t play; so I went on believing I was a fraud.

Fast forward to the start of my sophomore year I was super excited for the season. Two pitchers just graduated, I played ball all summer and worked my butt off; this was my year. In my mind if I was going to make an impact for this team and it very much felt like a now or never kind of pressure. I killed the beginning of the year workouts, but nearing the end of September something felt off when I was pitching. My control was all over the place and I was slowly losing mph’s. It felt hard to explain to my coach, but when I would release my pitches the release point never felt consistent.

Also at the start of sophomore year the other sophomore softball players and I started going to FCA every week. After seeing the athletes who also went to FCA every week and this relationship they have with God, I started to feel like I wanted that relationship too. After my realization, Ethos (the church I attend in Nashville) had a baptism Sunday where anyone can be baptized. While we were watching these people devote themselves to their Savior all I could feel was a tugging in my heart. It was like this is what God wanted for me, but I didn’t know what it meant. I later was connected with Shannon O’Brien and after talking with her for a while and hearing her testimony I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. My parents were coming into town that weekend for games and the timing was perfect, so I was baptized on October 4th at seven in the morning and then headed to the field for a double header.

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Pitching still didn’t feel right and finally on Halloween during morning weights I felt a pop as I went to lift a kettle bell over my head. After class I went down to see my athletic trainer to have her check it out. I was “banned” from playing for the rest of the week and was going to go see the doctor (the four days felt like an eternity). After about three appointments, multiple x-rays, MRI’s, steroid packs and physical therapy appointments I was finally given a diagnosis in December. With the diagnosis I was also given a surgery date. Turns out while I was overhead lifting my growth plate broke into my rotator cuff, which then caused one of two tears in my rotator cuff from rubbing whenever I moved my arm, the back of my labrum was shredded (10 anchors later..) and my capsule was too loose. When a doctor who works with a professional football team comments that it is the worst shoulder he has every worked on, you know it’s real.

I was devastated. There went softball. There went my year.

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I had the surgery in the beginning of January and sat in the dugout for yet another season. But this time it was different.

During this season where my identity of softball was stripped away from me, God was giving me a channel for my identity to become in Him.

For months I had a hard time praying for my own recovery because softball and my faith still felt like they were in separate boxes and I felt like I couldn’t get my hopes up. At the time it was like if I started to hope, I would only feel worse because recovery is a slow grueling process. And then during a devo I ran across my now favorite verse,

Romans 12:12. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.

There is no other verse that could help me anymore perfectly in my recovery. I learned that I could be joyful in hope and celebrate my stepping stones of recovery. I had to be remind myself daily to patient because there were definitely some days where it felt like I would never be able to lift my arm again. God’s timing is perfect. And lastly to be faithful in prayer, to learn that I can come to Him with everything and anything at any time was huge in my faith walk. Now that I felt like I could hope, it finally felt like I could pray for my recovery and pray that if it was in God’s will for me to throw a softball again or throw in games it would be for His glory.

Around the time I was figuring all of this out I was reading R.A. Dickey’s book, Wherever I Wind Up, while he was talking with the Rangers when he officially became a full time knuckleballer. He said he left his meeting and was reminded of Romans 5:3-4.

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” R.A. Dickey then went on to say, “Hope is good. Long-term hope is even better.”

I had just found my long term hope and he was right, I finally felt whole and I couldn’t even pick up a softball.

God’s timing is perfect. He found me where I was and used my situation to help me find Him for a relationship and a faith that will last for the rest of my life.

Through my injury I found God and an eternal kingdom.

While I would never wish major shoulder surgery on anyone, I would not change what I have gone and grown through these past three and a half years.

It took 695 days, two surgeries, so many tears, endless prayers, and a grown faith to get back on the field, and I can tell you two things for certain: it was definitely a journey, and God is SO good.

 

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Taylor Neuhart, Senior, Lipscomb Softball

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Lipscomb Softball Website

 

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