College athletics can be a grueling process on an athlete’s body, but athletes still get into certain routines.
For redshirt-senior defender Qyara Winston, everyday routines have become even more grueling. Winston is playing on a torn anterior cruciate ligament, more commonly know as an ACL.
Although this may seem like an impossible task, Winston said she finds inspiration to keep playing for her grandpa who died the spring before her senior year of college.
Winston, an All SEC Second-Team selection last year, has had a history of injuries in her soccer career.
It all started when Winston was 14 years old. In her freshman year of high school, Winston said she was running in a game and was tripped from behind. She tore her ACL. This would start a series of five injuries, all to her left knee.
“I tried to walk it off, but I couldn’t,” Winston said.
Winston said the recovery time for this injury is six months to one year. Once she was healthy Winston was back on the field, but in her senior year of high school, she tore her lateral collateral ligament.
For Winston, the recovery time for this injury was three to four weeks.
“I don’t believe I built my muscle back up,” Winston said. “Once I thought the muscle was there, and once I passed the test I played.”
Winston said her third injury, which occurred during her freshman year of college, was the worst.
“My coach passed me a ball at an awkward angle and my meniscus flapped underneath my kneecap,” Winston said. “I had to go into emergency surgery. My mom was freaking out because she was in Texas, and she couldn’t get to Fayetteville to be with me.”
Her fourth injury, during her sophomore season, Winston re-tore her medial meniscus. Winston said the injury was building up during the season and after the last game, and it needed major work.
“I just wanted to get back to playing,” Winston said. “Some muscles were working harder than they should.”
Now, for her senior season in college, she is playing with a torn ACL.
“I was devastated when I found out,” Winston said. “The decision was up to me and my mom. I strained it in the fall and kept playing on it, and this caused me to partially tear it. I rested it in the spring and then this summer as I was working out I felt pain and found out it was torn completely.”
Winston said her coach let her make the decision if she wanted to play this season.
“He said ‘no pressure,’” Winston said. “He said, ‘If you want to play we can talk about a schedule’ because for me I can’t play everyday and play in every game. The doctors think I won’t last. I practice what I need to practice. I’ll do some team drills and for warm up, I’m there. I can’t play full games but he works with me very well. He makes sure I’m in treatment, and it helps.”
Winston said one of the most difficult aspects of playing on an injured knee is the mental aspect. She said getting back into shape is difficult but trying to build up the confidence to play is the hardest part.
“I think the one thing that scares me most is being able to walk and be a normal human after this,” Winston said. “I won’t have as much impact on my knee after this but I have really nothing left in my knee holding me up.”
Winston’s grandfather, Melvin Davis, who passed away the spring before her senior year of college, is a big part of why Winston continues to play through the pain.
“I was devastated,” Winston said. “I was more so worried about my mom because she lost her dad. He raised all of us and was the father figure in our lives. That was the main part, trying to figure out how to move on.”
Winston said he suffered from kidney failure and was in need of a transplant. He was 77 years old when he died.
“It was very difficult,” Winston said. “He went through dialysis a lot and needed a transplant, but he was ready. He had been through a lot, and it was taking over his body.”
Now, Winston has a pre-game ritual to honor her grandfather.
Besides the necessary precautions that tend to her knee, Winston said she writes a note to herself and puts it in a jar to remind herself who she is playing for.
“He passed away this spring, and we do it to remember his memory,” Winston said. “I am a big writer, and I write a note to myself before each game with my assistant coach (Kristi Kiely) and we put it in the jar. It represents my whole reason for playing.”
The Garland, Texas, native is starting her final season at Arkansas and is hoping to have another record-breaking year. Last year, the Razorback women’s soccer team had the best season in the program’s history after posting a record of 18-5-1.
The team took second in the 2016 SEC soccer tournament and reached the second round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship. They also knocked off No. 2 Duke at the 2016 home opener on Aug. 26. Shortly after, the Razorbacks took down the Florida Gators, 2-1, on Sept. 16.
“We are capable of going very far,” Winston said. “I hope I can make it. It’s questionable every day.”
Although Winston will be dealing with an injury all year she said she won’t forget who is cheering her on.
“He is a big part in everything we do,” Winston said. “I started sports because he coached my mom and still coached as he got older. I think now I play for him and my family.”