Meghan Cathcart -- Surviving the Storm
By ODU Athletics
Oct. 3, 2002
After days of rain, the sun once again shines on the Old Dominion campus. And fifth-year senior captain Meghan Cathcart sits on the end of the bench, alone, inside The ODU Soccer Stadium watching her team practice. Although she is sidelined with a broken ankle, Cathcart remains in high spirits. She knows that although this day may be brighter than others, there is still an overcast of constant reminders-constant reminders that days weren't always so sunny. Some days, the rain fell so hard that she could have easily drowned in her own grief. But the people closest to her-her coaches and teammates-provided the inspiration and support she needed to help her survive every storm of her college career.
It was raining the night she broke her ankle. Three minutes into the first regular season match against UNC-Greensboro, Cathcart kicked the ball away from an opposing player, but somehow their legs tangled together. Cathcart fell awkwardly and rolled over her ankle. She heard it pop, and then she began to scream in pain. Because she didn't immediately bounce back up, her team feared that she was seriously hurt.
"We knew right away it was pretty serious because she doesn't react like that," said head coach Joe Pereira. "She can battle with the best of them. From her reaction, we knew it wasn't just a turned ankle."
As she was being carted off the field, her pain began to spread-from her ankle, to her teammates, and finally to the crowd. Much of the fire, intensity, and energy from her teammates and the crowd subsided when Cathcart was taken off the field, and the Lady Monarchs went on to lose the first of three consecutive one-goal matches-matches they feel they could have won with Cathcarts' leadership.
"She is still a leader off the field, but we are missing her leadership on the field. We have learned so much from her and we can't wait for her to come back," says fellow senior Christine Aulicino.
Even though sounds of disbelief were heard from the crowd, the last thing Cathcart wants from anyone is sympathy. Instead she takes a more optimistic look at her situation.
"Everything happens for a reason," she said.
"I am thankful that it wasn't my knee, it could have been a lot worse. A huge thing in women's soccer is ACL tears, and with that I would be out for six months as opposed to six weeks."
"I look at it as being lucky in a lot of ways," she continued. "It was a break, and once it's healed, it's healed. The bone that I broke, I was told, was a good bone to break because it's not weight bearing."
Cathcart is right, things could have been a lot worse. She could have suffered the same fate as teammate Heather Jones, a highly decorated newcomer who had blown her ACL before the beginning of the season. Her coaches, teammates, as well as herself could have also given up on her after an injury-plagued college career. But who could have given up on a person who has overcome as much as Cathcart?
During her freshman season, Cathcart underwent an operation to remove a benign tumor in her leg. During her junior season, a second tumor was found and this time doctors had to also operate on a bone in her leg. As a result, Cathcart had to red shirt her junior year, and she required eight months of rehabilitation after spending six months in a cast.
"That was a lot more strenuous," she said. "When I look back at that whole situation, this is really kind of minor."
If everything happens for a reason, then her early struggles with injuries must have been preparation for this season. It must have been meant to be for her to take the lessons she learned from her first two injuries to become a leader-a captain-for her team-a team that is made up of 19 underclassmen.
No one questions her leadership ability. Cathcart was voted as the only team captain for her team at the start of the season. In most cases, it is not uncommon to find up to three co-captains for a soccer team.
"I don't know why I had tumors in my leg, but it made me into a stronger person than I thought I ever could be," she said. "If I didn't experience that, this would be more like a tragedy."
It could be fitting to call Cathcart's first two injuries tragic, but even in Shakespeare's tragedies there are always lessons to be learned. Even though two years were robbed from her by circumstances beyond her control, Cathcart has learned patience and appreciation.
"My first injury taught me patience," she said. "It also made me appreciate how valuable everything is. Getting up to get a glass of water takes a lot of energy when you are restricted. So I take nothing for granted."
Even though Cathcart is always optimistic, she still needed the support of both her coaches and teammates to help guide her through her crisis.
"My teammates have been amazing and so supportive," she said. "When it first happened, I was very upset because I had already been through so much. Just their hugs and energy... made me feel that I'm going to do everything I can to get back out there, more than for myself and the coaches, but for my teammates because they mean so much to me."
One special bond Cathcart made was with her head coach. Coach Pereira began coaching Cathcart in a youth league while she was attending Walsingham High School in Williamsburg, VA. It was in high school when he began to instill in her the qualities that help make her the person she is today. Coach Pereira taught her the importance of staying positive and knowing that everything happens for a reason.
"I respect coach so much," she said "not only as a coach, but also as a person. He has taught me so much about life."
These lessons are apparent in Cathcart's demeanor and work ethic as she pushes to come back from injury. While in her cast, she lift weights, swims, cycles and everything else she can to keep her stamina and prepare for her return, which should by mid October.
"For her to overcome all this and be ready to play, it's incredibly impressive," Pereira said. "She's inspiration not only for the girls but the whole team because she has gone through things that most of us won't have to go through."
Cathcart, a speech-language pathology major, has weathered more than her share of storms throughout her college career, and looks forward to returning to her normal form on the field. Nothing scares this 5-5 midfielder from Williamsburg. Not even the possibility of getting hurt again.
"I don't think I would have this mentality if I didn't go through everything I've gone through," she said.