Moving Forward

Feb 22, 2010

Alissa Yoder - Lovington High School
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues


I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you that will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.

- Albert Schweitzer.

My childhood was picture perfect. My life was very busy, full of exciting times: school, church, family, and gymnastic competitions. I competed in seven national championships and earned eight national titles by the time I was sixteen. Gymnastics had become a central part of my life, and I was beginning to harbor big dreams about my future in the sport.

During my freshman year in high school, one bad landing crushed those dreams. On January 27, 2007, I competed in two trampoline events, winning both. The following day, at the tumbling competition, I blew out my knee. One day I was on top of the world, and the next day life as I had known it would never be the same.

During this time in my life, I discovered that my identity was not based on athleticism. This accident made me see that life is fragile and our plans can change without warning.

Following this accident, I had an intense drive to get back to my sport. I was on the United States National Tumbling Team, and needed a successful recovery by October in order to try out for the team again. Fate intervened. A difficult knee surgery offered a temporary fix, but after recovering and making the national team again, I reinjured my knee. I received the devastating news that I would never be able to play sports or run again. Emotionally, this was like a death sentence to me.

After a time of grief, I chose not to accept this diagnosis. I researched online and found a doctor in Chicago who performed an innovative knee surgery.  After seven months of therapy and enduring the worst mental and physical pain I had ever experienced, I was finally back on my feet, but my dream of going to the World Championships in Russia died with that second injury.

During this time in my life, I discovered that my identity was not based on athleticism. This accident made me see that life is fragile and our plans can change without warning. When this happened, I wondered if I could ever really enjoy life again.

Slowly, I came to the realization that my disappointment over not being able to participate in gymnastics was more limiting than the knee injury itself. My focus had to change, and fortunately did. I started spending my time helping young gymnasts pursue their dreams through coaching, helping to instill confidence in them.

I believe that for every situation, one has two choices: get bitter or get better. My dreams literally took a tumble, and I had to make the choice to improve my attitude and change my focus. Instead of focusing on perfecting my own skills, I now am finding more joy in giving to others and am finding some of the happiness described by Schweitzer. I hope I can be an inspiration to other young athletes, instilling my belief that people have the ability to turn hardships into success and triumph.