Year on the Sidelines

By Becca Gaddy

When Katie Rolfe tore her ACL and meniscus this past summer, there was only one clear option for her to choose from. With a six to nine month recovery, she knew she would have to redshirt her sophomore volleyball season.

Amidst the excitement of signing to play a sport at the collegiate level, the thought of not being able to participate for a year is a foreign idea to many of the athletes looking to play at that next level. Playing a college sport is a dream for many of them. However, only few know of the unforeseen obstacles that interfere with an athlete’s dream. Many people outside of the realm of athletics are unaware of what it means to be a redshirt player. It means the athlete is not able to participate in any intercollegiate competition for the specific season he or she redshirts. This is normally due to an injury or for developmental reasons. This rule allows athletes five years to complete four years of competition.

Northeastern field hockey defender Sam Bodo was asked to redshirt her freshmen season along with four other teammates.

“Being taken out of your so-called team really affected me mentally,” Bodo said. “There were a lot of tough days where I didn’t want to go to practice. There was a moment that I almost gave everything up.”

However, through this tough time in their career, several Northeastern athletes feel that navigating through this obstacle was slightly less difficult with the support of friends, family, teammates as well as the opportunities that the university has to offer.
Even so Sam Bodo’s experience did present a variety of challenges, but it also gave her best friends. Bodo says that “not having them on the field with [her next year will be] the biggest struggle for [her].”

Bodo’s journey has been a remarkable one for sure. After her redshirt year, she “came back that spring […] like a horse out of a cage.” She was able to make improvements in every dimension necessary – fitness and stick skills – in order to see the field in future seasons. Bodo chose to utilize her obstacle in order to motivate herself to be a better player and ensure herself a role on the field with the team.

Although, redshirting is often associated with freshmen athletes, that’s not always the case. Athletes from all sports and of all ages may have the potential to experience another unfortunate obstacle which requires them to redshirt.

A fifth-year on the men’s soccer team, Harry Swartz, just concluded his final season with the Huskies. He experienced a torn plantar fascial in his heel at the beginning of his third season on the team.

“It was hard,” Swartz said. “It was really hard. Originally, we weren’t really sure what my injury was [but] it got to a point where I wasn’t really able to move much, so I got an MRI. It just made sense to redshirt.”

At the time of his injury, Swartz had already been a member of the men’s soccer team for two years. However, he still found that during his injury, he felt left out.

“The hardest part was trying to stay apart of the team without helping them win games,” he said. “  “It was miserable, but I knew it was always going to be better. I knew going through this that it was going to pay off.”

Rolfe has been able to find her way through her unexpected injury by adopting a new role off the court.

“Because I am not being able to play I’ve had a lot of time to watch and learn about the game that I wouldn’t have if I was playing,” Rolfe explained.

Rolfe has been able to use this setback and transform it into a step forward.

“I’d like to think that I still have a role on my team,” Rolfe said. “When some of the girls come off the court they’ll be like, ‘Katie, what do you think about this play?’ and ask other questions they have about the practice or game. Girls can still look to me to ask questions.”

Undergoing a redshirt season is not a means to the end of an athlete’s success, growth or career. In actuality, it serves as an opportunity for a determined comeback. Nonetheless, it represents a difficult challenge for an athlete to overcome. Support and guidance helped several of the athletes who have already been through, or currently experiencing, a redshirt year.

“Just because you’re out right now doesn’t mean you don’t have a role with your team or that you can’t still contribute in some way,” Rolfe said.

Featured image by Brian Bae.