It was roughly a year ago that women’s soccer senior defender Haylee Blach suffered a torn ACL in a match against South Dakota, sidelining her for the rest of the season.
Recovering through an injury as serious as Haylee’s is no easy feat, and it could be easy to grow disheartened and frustrated through a year of surgery, physical therapy and sitting on the bench. However, she chose instead an attitude of positivity and leadership.
Faith was a driving force for Haylee’s attitude through her long recovery. “I just thought, ‘I have to give this to God in some way,’ and I took it as an experience to serve my teammates. And it wasn’t going to be an easy recovery, but I gave to them and they gave back to me, and now I’m able to join them back on the field. So it’s been a long year, but it’s been a good one.”
Haylee’s teammates praise her characteristics as a leader from both the field and the bench, but her recovery process was also encouraged by a unique form of support from her mom, Karen.
Upon her recovery, Haylee tweeted out a picture of her mom with the caption:
“A year ago yesterday I tore my ACL and today I had the chance to play my first real game back with my team. Before we know what was wrong with my knee, my mom said she would run 2 miles a day until I was back on the field and she NEVER missed a day! That describes a mama’s love!”
Karen’s inspiration for the challenge came as she was running along the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge the morning after Haylee’s injury.
“I just thought I would clear my head, kind of work through a plan to support her, and I began my jogging… as I was going I began praying and realized how calming that was for me, and right there I said, you know I can help her with all the medical stuff, the meals, the getting through it, but it’s gonna be a long haul for her and I thought ‘well I’ll keep that prayer chain going and run daily.’”
Though she admits to “cheating” every once in a while by using the elliptical, Karen’s dedication to running every day for Haylee was not easily shaken. She even continued the challenge as she traveled with the team for their games in Argentina, running up and down a practice field adjacent to the girls as they played.
While the methods were unique, Haylee’s teammates and coaches weren’t surprised by the outpouring of support from Karen and the rest of her family.
Coach Ross Paule is familiar with the Blach family and praised their support of Haylee throughout her recovery.
“I know how supportive they are and how they surround each other with support, so for her [Karen] to get in alongside of her [Haylee] with her own challenge… it didn’t surprise me because it’s such a loving family.”
Paule also stressed the value of a strong support system for student-athletes to have as they navigate the volatile environment of college sports.
“Having a family… that supports you is huge, just because being an athlete has so many ups and downs… It’s huge just to have that foundational support of family that wants the best for you.”
Senior defender and midfielder Emma Braasch felt Karen’s challenge was “inspiring,” and also noted how the team was impressed with the feat of being able to run two miles every day.
Drawing inspiration from Karen, Braasch told her own mom, who underwent meniscus surgery three months ago that she would run a mile every day in support.
“I probably lasted a week,” she laughed.