BYU senior Kim Wilson is back in action this season after redshirting in 2005 due to injury. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
The minute Kim Wilson woke up that January 2005 afternoon and looked at her right arm, she knew there was a problem. What had begun as a routine shoulder scope for the women's volleyball standout had obviously ended with something much more serious.
"When I woke up and saw the huge sling on my right arm and felt the pain, I knew I was in trouble," said the 6-foot senior from Provo, Utah.
"My stomach just dropped. I was very disappointed and sad. I had no idea how long the recovery would take or how much it would take to get back to normal."
Wilson had been experiencing pain in her right shoulder for a year prior to undergoing surgery. But typical of her competitive nature, she kept quiet and kept playing, earning All-Mountain West Conference honors as a junior outside hitter during the 2004 season. Finally, at season's end, she decided to find out what was going on.
"I believe she had been playing with pain for almost her entire junior year," said Wilson's mother, Lola Dawn Wilson. "She didn't ever complain so we didn't realize the seriousness of her injury. We found the best surgeon we could and hoped for the best."
"I didn't have to have the surgery, but my shoulder kept hurting," Wilson said. "So we decided to have it scoped. If there wasn't anything wrong, I'd keep playing. If there was, they'd fix it. I went into the surgery not knowing whether or not I'd be playing afterwards."
The results of the scope were devastating. Wilson had torn the rotator cuff in her right shoulder along with her labrum and some cartilage. While her injuries were recoverable, the road would be long and hard.
For the first two weeks after the surgery, Wilson needed help with even the smallest daily tasks, like getting dressed. The Provo native had plenty of family around to help her during the recovery process, but the going was slow and the frustration mounted.
"There were a lot of times when I wondered if I would ever make it back to the court," said Wilson. "My shoulder was immobile for the first couple of months, and I couldn't swing at all for the first six months. Even when I started swinging again, it hurt really bad. I thought it would never go away and I would never get my strength back. There was a lot of doubting."
Wilson's first task was to get her range of motion back. With the help of Gaye Merrill, BYU's head athletic trainer, she began doing simple stretches. While it was a slow and often painful process, Wilson gradually began to see progress. Once her range of motion returned, she began doing light rehab work
and then progressed to playing in the back row.
"I really have to give credit to my coaches and Gaye for helping me get through rehab," said Wilson. "They helped me a lot and motivated me to do whatever it took to get back on the court."
To Play or Not to Play
Eight months after the surgery, with the 2005 season approaching, Wilson had a difficult decision to make -- play or don't play. The 2004 starter still had a redshirt year left and could opt to sit out what was supposed to be her senior year. But sitting meant even more time away from the game she has loved passionately since the age of 13. In the end, however, it was her love for the game that helped her make the decision to redshirt.
"It was unrealistic of me to expect myself to be full strength at that point," she said. "I wanted to play so I still considered playing, but I wouldn't have been able to perform the way I wanted to in my senior season. It wouldn't have been a good thing. So I decided to sit and make sure that I was 100 percent when my turn came."
And so the 2005 season began with Wilson on the bench, supporting her team from the sidelines and working hard to make her way back to her previous All-MWC prowess. As she watched her team's phenomenal season -- a 20-0 start, a national ranking as high as No. 12 and an MWC regular-season title -- she found it hard to stay positive.
"When you see your team doing so well without you, there's always something in the back of your mind that says 'I'm not playing and they're winning; is it me?'" Wilson said. "It was hard, especially when they traveled, and I didn't get to go. I was pretty down because it seemed like the team was moving on without me."
But the Cougar hitter who has been described by her parents as fun, vivacious and resilient didn't let herself wallow in self-pity.
"It got better as the year went on and I started playing more and being more involved in practices," she said. "I was still so proud of my team and so happy for them. I just tried to stay involved and be supportive and encouraging."
For all of the hard times last year, Wilson's future is definitely looking up in 2006. Her shoulder is fully healed, and she has already returned to competition, seeing action with the Cougars in the spring and playing in Europe for two weeks during the summer. Her family is especially excited to see her back on the court and has already purchased 15 season tickets, promising to be out in full force to support her.
"I think the decision to redshirt last year was a wise one," said Lola Dawn Wilson. "While it was really hard to watch her on the sidelines, it gave her shoulder time to heal. Watching her play in spring ball and now in fall camp, I feel she is stronger and will be a major contributor to the team's success."
BYU head coach Jason Watson agrees.
"Prior to redshirting, Kim was an all-conference selection," Watson said. "Her return adds depth and experience to our roster, so we're very excited. She upgrades our systems and offers us flexibility in every aspect of our program. She has matured greatly during her time with us, and it's her maturity and leadership that will help guide our team during the season."
In addition to her quest for a second All-MWC selection and, more importantly, another league title for her team, Wilson will have added excitement during the upcoming season as she is set to get married at the end of September. Ironically, her fiancÃ½e, Trent Sorensen, is a junior middle blocker on BYU's men's volleyball team, making Wilson the third women's volleyball player in just over a year to marry a men's player.
"I don't know what's going on between the men's and women's teams, but it seems to be working out well," said Wilson who joins 2005 seniors Lexi Brown Patterson (Casey Patterson) and Lauren Richards Evans (Taylor Evans) in the ranks of volleyball hook-ups. "Lexi, Lauren and Lindsy (Hartsock, who is also married) have been excellent examples to me of how to juggle school, volleyball and family. It'll be hectic but I'm excited."
And so what began as a dismal January day comes full circle this fall when Wilson takes to the court with her teammates, coaches, family and soon-to-be husband cheering her on. If Wilson's past is any indication of her future, good things are going to happen.
"I'm ready," she said. "I've proven to myself and everyone around me that I can do and overcome anything. Not playing last year just gave me extra drive. I'm determined to play well and help our team have a great year."