We’ve all wanted to be the ones on the court. The ones who create art with dunks, jumpers, and crossovers. The ones who are able to share their own stories through this medium. The ones who roar. Pound their chests. Shout to the crowd. Bask in greatness. To become like our heroes is the dream.

But in the stage of the basketball court, there are other stories meant to be told. The ones from the stands. The ones who lineup for tickets in as early as 9 in the evening the previous day. The ones who spend time making banners and posters. The ones who try their best to copy their heroes when they play pickup.

The story of the athlete matters. But the fan also has his own story to tell, ones that are just as important as their heroes. This is our KuwentongBola.

By Kyle Reiner Pineda 

Having three student-athletes in the same batch is not normal—let alone in high school. Juan Heredia, Kevin Limbaco, and I were at turning points in our high-school basketball careers when three of the most dreaded words in sports gave us a wake-up call to the harsh reality of life: ACL.  

Since we were the shooter, slasher, and defender respectively in the same team, we were forced to adjust our game styles during the rehab period. We needed to, especially if we wanted to come back stronger so we could continue to be a part of the success of the team once our senior year came. A career-threatening injury during our teenage years was something none of us were prepared for physically and mentally, but that moment helped build the mental resilience and the drive to succeed in anything we do until this day.

As teenagers, none of us expected to suffer from a catastrophic and potentially career-ending injury so early into our lives. Either during scrimmages at night or in the middle of casual summer-league games, the basketball gods showed that no one was spared from the injury bug; not even the young. We all heard the dreaded “pop”. After multiple MRIs and more swelling around the knee, the diagnosis of a torn ACL was confirmed. Being as young as we were, frustration and denial seeped in slowly as we were in utter disbelief that at such a young age, we would have to endure the pain of surgery, rehab, and disability the next months would bring us.

“I never thought it would happen to me. It was just those things you thought that you see in movies or on YouTube. Heck, I even wanted to play after the first occurrence but my knee gave way again and that gave me the confirmation.”- Juan Heredia

Right after we got our surgeries, we all started the rehab process with our respective doctors, each of us having different timetables. The first few days and weeks were definitely the hardest as sleeping, walking, and moving around were so difficult amidst the crutches, knee brace, and pain killers. This was not only a physical battle of enduring the physical pain but also a mental one where doubts of coming back and the sacrifices needed were overwhelming for a teenager with that injury. 

There were parts of us that told us to give up, fortunately following the rehab schedule and having a great support system helped tremendously in overcoming an injury like this. If anything, going back to play the game we loved and just overcoming this injury were sometimes the only motivation we needed to push on and progress through rehab. Those daily leg strengthening workouts, box jumps, bicycle drills, were crucial as these seemingly small programs helped us build the necessary strength in our legs, refresh our muscle memory, and keep the passion we have of running to the courts and playing ball alive. We needed to trust ourselves again, physically and mentally, that we could drive to the basket or make hard cuts to the paint without fear. The mental hurdle was a much bigger obstacle to overcome especially if we wanted to play at a competitive level again. 

“My experience actually gave me the inspiration to put more effort and more passion into things. I didn’t take basketball seriously until I got injured. That is why I give my 100% in everything I do now whether it be in acads, orgs, or working out. I can even feel the FOMO (Fear of missing out) right now (quarantine season) when we all can’t play basketball. You truly do not appreciate things until it is taken away from you.”-Kevin Limbaco

They say that basketball is also a mental game, not just a physical one. That’s why preparing ourselves physically and mentally was a challenge we all had to overcome before getting cleared for full-contact games. We were afraid to do the same move that caused us to get injured. We were afraid to put pressure on our operated knees. While the operated leg is actually stronger than the opposite leg physically, you can’t help but still be scared to rely on both legs equally during games. Coming back from our injuries in 6-8 months, we could all attest that it was religiously following the slow rehab process that gave us the confidence and wind back on the court. Initiating contact, getting fouled, and diving to the floor were things we did not want to do at first, but after multiple practices and real games, we all knew that our game needed to evolve in order to make an impact whether it be through the three-pointer, defense, passing, etc. The opponent does not care if you are hurt, everyone on the court is there to win. We all had that implanted in our minds once we started to trust ourselves again.

Looking back at the long process we took in coming back from a torn ACL, it is one of the biggest achievements in our lives so far, to come back and even feel better of ourselves moving forward. Perhaps life gave us a big challenge early on as a reminder that it is possible to come back from any injury no matter the age. NBA stars and other professionals are able to play better post-surgery as medical technology has continued to advance to lessen the recovery period and reduce the chances of re-injury. While we obviously do not want it to happen to any of us again, there are zero regrets and are even grateful it happened to us so early into our life. 

When asked about what they would say to young athletes who are suffering from a major injury right now and are looking to come back, these are what they said. 

“When I was in pain, I was asking, when will this end? All the pain, all the setbacks, all of this are eventually temporary. Don’t be fooled by the pain you are in right now because looking back, everything will be okay once you get through this. Trust your doctor and trust your process. Your mindset towards this hurdle will define how you attack your rehab. You cannot change the situation you are in, but you can change how you look at the situation. Look up and be optimistic. Don’t feel bad about yourself because it’s really going to feel worth it afterward.”-Juan Heredia

“You might not realize it right now you’ll eventually get back. All the pains will subside and always look up. Look at the past, reflect, and the same joy will come back to you sooner rather than later. Do not be anxious. Do not take your exercises for granted. Think about the future and look forward to transforming yourself into a different animal but the same beast. ”-Kevin Limbaco