It was Thursday, October 9, 2003. Old College Practice Field was placed amidst a forest of trees, where the color changing leaves were noted each fall season. Thursday practices were typically light, as we tapered to prepare for our Friday game. At the end of each Thursday session, my coach announced the starting lineup for the next day, and had the remainder of the team set up as the scouting team to simulate anticipated tendencies.
My name had been called every single Thursday as a starter for Michigan State University women’s soccer. Before October 9, I had started all 32 games in which I played. However, every single Thursday, I still stood there with my stomach tied in a knot, anxiously awaiting to hear if “Konnie” would slip off his tongue when it came to my position as a midfielder. And every Thursday, when I heard my name, I would sigh in relief, almost surprised that I made the starting lineup again.
However, this season was different. I was battling an eating disorder and severely underweight. Yet, I was still starting for MSU, and playing significant minutes in games. But, at what point, was I going to be too sick and lose my starting role? I was hanging by a thread. Gripping to the title of a starter, fully aware I was in no condition to be competing at that level.
That Thursday was one of the more traumatic days of my career. My coach stood there, listing off the 11 starters who would represent MSU against Purdue University. It was a home game. My entire family, student section, and other coaches and teams would witness my worst nightmare: not starting a game.
I had never not started a game. This was going to be the day for it? I was so sick. So weak. So emotionally rattled. How could my coach possibly do this to me and create further devastation? I didn’t even have the strength to hide my emotions, as tears welled in my eyes and liberally dripped off my face. My statistic of starting every single game in my college career was tainted by that Purdue game.
A full-ride scholarship player not starting a game because of performance? That was the epitome of unfulfilling expectations. How embarrassing, appalling, and terrifying. What were people going to think? Should my parents even drive up to East Lansing to see the game if I’m not starting? These were all questions and thoughts that raced through my irrational mind.
As bitter as could be, I showed up to the locker room with a chip on my shoulder. I still had fight, drive, and determination to prove he had made the biggest mistake of his life by not announcing my name. Nine minutes into the game, Purdue scored a goal and went up 1-0. I heard, “Konnie, let’s go. Warm up.” I entered as a substitution, and the first touch I had on the ball was a cross to a teammate, which was an assist to the equalizing goal. The final result was 1-1. There after, I heard my name every single Thursday.
That same weekend we played Indiana University on Sunday afternoon. Earning my starting position back, I opened with the first goal of the game to lead 1-0. Though the final result was a loss, I, despite battling anorexia, won.
I sat down with my psychiatrist the next day, who advised me how lucky I was to have produced and performed so well that weekend. He explained that the entire athletic department had met and planned on medically disqualifying me after the weekend came to a close because of my emaciated condition and depressed behavior. However, my effectiveness on the field continued to prove my value to the team and program, even in my most feeble and afflicted time.