GREEN Jenna Trainer knows pain.
In fact, she knows it much better than most any high school athlete. The senior guard has battled through not one, not two, but three ACL tears in her career. Yet, as the Bulldogs rumble toward their most successful season since joining the Federal League, she’s on the court and in the thick of things.
"I’d have to say the biggest factor is our team chemistry this year. More than any other year I’ve had, we enjoy each other, more than previous years even though we’ve had good chemistry," Trainer said.
Getting on the court this season was not a given, as Trainer suffered her third ACL tear last season. It was the second time she tore her left ACL.
One injury came playing AAU basketball, then she tore her left ACL prior to last season. She worked hard, rehabbed and got back on the court, but suffered the third tear near the end of the season.
Going through the rehab and recovery process for a third time, there were both plusses and drawbacks to having gone through the experience before.
"Physically, it was a lot easier because I knew what to expect, but mentally it tougher for me to go through it all again," Trainer said.
She noted that when she first came back from the third tear, she could tell that she didn’t have the same quickness as before. Thousands of athletes across the country at all levels deal with ACL tears and recovery each year and while their success in getting back to their former levels of play varies, the reality is that virtually no one is near their old self when they first retake the court.
"When I first came back from the third one, I could tell that I definitely a step slower, especially on defense," Trainer said. "When see girl I’m guarding move, I can tell that I’m step slower."
As part of learning how to play after the injuries, Trainer has also focused more on shooting the ball outside the paint. With her speed and explosiveness reduced, she’s looking to get more looks from the perimeter rather than go to the basket and take too much contact.
In the midst of all of that, Green has racked up an 11-4 start and big wins over Canton McKinley and Jackson. Beating the Polar Bears was especially satisfying for Trainer, given her connection to Jackson’s best player.
"I would say beating Jackson was the biggest one. (Jackson senior guard) Taylor Mikesell, everyone who she is and she’s the face of that team. I’ve playing with and against her since we were little and we never beat them even in grade school," Trainer said.
That win could be huge in terms of confidence entering the tournament, as Green’s district is loaded with most of the teams from the Federal League, including Jackson.
She pointed out that Green coach Tracy Miller is emphasizing that because the Bulldogs don’t have a star player like Mikesell, they need to play as a team to maximize their chances to win. Losing standout sophomore post player Marissa Berlin hurt the Bulldogs, but as Berlin deals with her own serious injury, Trainer has tried to encourage her younger teammate and share what she’s learned from going through the same process.
The pain from those three torn ACLs has subsided, but Trainer still remembers what it took to come back from them. With the final few weeks of the season, she’s out to turn that pain into the joy of a few more wins.
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