September 25, 2008

Standing Tall

Sept. 25, 2008

By Phil Landry
Special to GoHolyCross.com

With the season Shelby Stand is having, you would never have guessed that she was faced with the possibility of never playing soccer again. Her leadership on and off the field have contributed greatly to the Crusaders' soccer program. However, last season was a completely different story when Stand battled with concussions, a serious injury that can have long term consequences.

Her troubles began at the end of her first year on the team. "I got my first concussion against Army my freshman year which put me out for two weeks," said Stand. "Then I got two against Colgate. I got hit and knew I was not right, but I was afraid to come out because I knew I would have to sit out. Then I ended up getting hit again in that same game."

Her third concussion ended a stellar season in which she started 13 games and ranked second on the team in scoring with 12 points on five goals and two assists. After a trip to the doctor, Stand realized exactly how serious her injury was. "When I went to the doctor my freshman year, he told me I should hang up my cleats. I just lost it in the doctor's office. He told me to take off a year, and then we would see where I was," said Stand.

Her concussions posed Stand with a challenge of uncertainty. "It is different from a knee or an ankle, because the doctors do not know how long it takes to heal," said Stand. "I would say `I'm good to go,' but then they would tell me `It's your head.' I would always try to come back too early and I'd get hurt," she said.

Stand's difficulties also affected her off the field. "It really affected my schoolwork," said Stand. "The doctors had me on a regimented schedule of how much I could read. I would read 15 minutes then take a break, then another 15 minutes and take a break."

After being told she could not play her sophomore year, Stand was surprised and excited at the news that she was cleared to play by her doctors only a few days before preseason started. "They said they did not know what would happen, but that we would give it a try," said Stand. "I showed up for preseason and did all the fitness tests and two-a-days. We had two scrimmages, but afterwards I would get headaches," said Stand

Being close to her family, Stand could not hide her difficulties from them. It was her mother who ended up calling the doctors to tell them that her daughter was not alright. "I have never been so mad at her, but now I realize that it was the best thing that happened to me," said Stand

Stand's mother was not the only one who realized she was not ready to play yet. Her coach, Deb Cox saw that she was not herself. "It was easy to see that she was not the same person," said Cox. "It affected her mood, her personality and obviously her play. I have known her since she was nine years old and I felt like I was looking straight through her."

Cox was faced with the task of telling Stand that she could not play the game that she loved. "It was not hard in the sense that we were debating is this right or wrong," said Cox. "It was hard in the sense that she wanted to play so bad and it just wasn't going to happen. It was a no-brainer."

Stand sat out her entire sophomore season. "It was really hard because I had gone through all of the hard work during the preseason, and was then told I couldn't play," said Stand. "It was also frustrating because we had a lot of injuries last year as a team and I would sit on the sidelines thinking that I could play but not be able to."

While sidelined, Stand tried to surround herself with soccer and improve other parts of her game. "When I was out I coached a lot," said Stand. "My brother coaches in a premiere league, and I would help out teams there. It stinks that I had to sit out a whole year but I feel like I now have a better understanding of the game. Working on the mental part of my game was a positive. I think I can read the game better."

As a junior, Stand has had to adjust her game to prevent adding another concussion to the eight she has already suffered. "It is a completely different game now," said Stand. "I've had to change my whole tactical approach. You never realize how big of an aspect your head has on the game until you can't use it."

Despite her inability to use her head, coach Cox realizes Stand's importance to the Crusaders' team. "She offers so much more to the game, that it is not worth her flicking headers and us risking losing what she is great at," said Cox. "She offers so much with the ball at her feet, shooting, dribble penetration, distributing the ball and finding seams."

Stand's patience has allowed her to come back stronger than ever. After scoring a pair of goals against Siena on Wednesday night, Stand leads the team with 11 points on four goals and three assists. "The injury has made her hungrier," said Flaherty. "She's more dynamic than ever. I feel like she appreciates being out there every second."

With her injury struggles behind her, Stand hopes to lead the Crusaders to a successful Patriot League record. "I really think we can make the Patriot League Tournament. We have not done it since I've been here, but I really think we have a good chance of making it this year."