Bobby Edwards returns for his second installment of his player journal, walking us through a summer injury and his outlook on the fall. For a complete listing of player journals, click here.
You picked up an unfortunate injury this summer. What happened and how did that alter your summer?
Back in January, I was having some pain on and around the outside of my foot. I was told to keep an eye on it, but it didn't seem to be anything serious at the time, so I continued to play. But then one morning our team had a fitness workout on the turf. We were running sprints and on the fourth one I pushed off my left foot and just felt it crack, followed by probably some of the worst pain I've ever experienced. I knew immediately I just broke something, badly.
It's funny in hindsight, but right after I had broken it I couldn't walk, so my 5'7" coach had to help carry all 6'6" of me off the field. Poor guy must have been in just as much pain as I was getting me to the training room.
I made my way to the hospital to get X-rays and there it was: a straight crack across my 5th metatarsal, aka a "Jones fracture,” an injury common in bigger athletes. (Kevin Durant suffered the same thing). I saw three different orthopedists and their opinions were the all same: surgery would be the best choice in order for me to play soccer again.
So I underwent the surgery. (Attached you can see the X-rays post surgery.) Basically it involved drilling a screw down the center of the bone to reinforce it, and then wait for it to heal. The next three months were really tough. Surgery on anything below your waist limits you to almost no movement, so my daily workouts consisted of bench press, abs, and some more abs. It got pretty repetitive and awful after day three. But worst of all, it was having to sit on the sidelines watching my teammates play the sport I live for, and not being able to participate. Any athlete will tell you the worst part of the injury - regardless of the severity - is having to sit and watch from the sideline.
Finally in May I was cleared to play, just in time to begin with the U-23 New York Red Bulls. It felt so great to be back - like I said in the last journal, I can't speak highly enough of the team at NYRB. From the players to the staff, it's all class. But one month into Red Bull and it happened again. A ball was slotted across the goal and I moved quickly laterally to my left. The ball is cleared, I stopped abruptly, and I heard a loud “CRACK.”
I can't really describe the frustration and anger I felt after having it happen a second time. It was brutal, so taxing mentally and I just had this sense of hopelessness. Took me about a week to finally come to terms with it and from there I moved on, best I could.
Luckily for me, the screw held up - it was the bone that failed. I wouldn't need to get surgery again. I just needed to wait for it to heal. As I write this, I am two months into the healing process and a week from the start of Saint Joe’s training camp, and the healing is not yet complete. There are a lot of questions yet to be answered about what the plan will be for this year. What I do know is that regardless of what does happen, my goal doesn't change - I'll keep chasing my dream of professional soccer.
How does your team stay in contact over the summer? Do most of the players go off and do their own thing or are y'all in constant contact?
We’re spread out so we pretty much do our own thing. One of the toughest things for a college soccer player during the summer is the choice that has to be made between soccer or a job. Playing PDL or another form of high level summer ball is pretty much a job in itself, and so working an internship on top of that is nearly impossible. It’s a tough choice to make.
The choice I’ve made is to pursue soccer as fully as possible to the very last chance I have. This means I chose to sacrifice opportunities to get ahead in the business world since my classmates are spending their summers building their resumes - I'm just kicking a soccer ball around. Some of my teammates have opted for high level soccer (PDL, NPSL, U-23s, etc). Others chose to take full time internships and play on the side when they can. Both work either way. Each player knows their personal responsibility to staying fit and coming into preseason ready to play. How they go about this is in their power.
Once I got hurt I knew I had to do something else with my free time, otherwise my summer would consist of sitting at home playing FIFA all day. Therefore, I chose to move back to Philly and take a full time coaching job with a great company called U.K. Elite. It allowed me to still workout with my trainers at SJU while doing something I'm passionate about: coach soccer. In all honesty, coaching has done well at filling the void of not being able to play. I was able to take on two summer teams, a U-9 and U-10 team for FCUSA Philadelphia. Even got a few medals along the way this summer! I cannot speak highly enough of both U.K. Elite or FCUSA. The standard of their coaches, professionalism, personality - genuinely the best company I have been able to work for and so helpful to me in my coaching career. Coaching is difficult, I learned that first hand this summer. It's so easy to sit back and say what should be done but to actually have to be in charge is a completely different beast.
Contact [with the St. Joseph's players] though doesn't stop. We have a group chat which is very active throughout the summer regardless of where everyone is. Players that are close to SJU can meet up and work out together or hit the field, and after I moved back down I was able to workout and see a bunch of guys close to campus.
When do you report for preseason? What has to happen for you to make sure you hit the ground running into the fall?
We report for preseason on my 21st birthday, August 11th. What a way to be spending my 21st!
But in all seriousness, I am really buzzing to be back with the team. We have a lot to prove after a poor year last year. Collectively, we all need to buy into the program. It's easy (and I am just as guilty as anyone) to remove yourself and try to do things differently than what is collectively asked from the coaching staff when things start going poorly. The "Disease of Me" as my high school coach used to call it. For us to be successful this season, we need to all be pulling in the same direction. This starts at the top with the upperclassmen and trickles down to the younger guys. We need to collectively choose an identity of the team we want to be. Are we going to be a team that locks it up defensively and outworks anyone we play? Are we going to be a team that attacks with pace and creates special things in the attacking third? A big issue I feel we struggled with last year is that we had no identity. No one really knew what kind of team we were.
For me, I've got a ton of responsibilities this season. This is obviously very dependent on what path I take regarding my injury, but either way, it is important I fulfill them to the best of my abilities. If I can play, then it's obvious: lock it down in the net, take charge and begin to bring an experienced voice to the back. A big step in a college career comes sophomore to junior year, because it's the bridge between young and old. I've had two years in net. Now it is time I stop the learning process and begin the teaching process. Young guys need a helping hand, the same way the juniors/seniors helped me when I was a freshman. My challenge is to find out the best way I can be that helping hand.
If I am dealt the latter and am forced to redshirt, this isn't a year off for me. I still have a responsibility to push the guys around me to become better soccer players and build up team chemistry, just off the field. I'm lucky (though unlucky for him) to have a goalkeeper coach who has been able to mentor me through the ups and downs of my college career. Scott Krotee himself knows the pains of injury too well, in fact he is just coming back off knee surgery. He was forced to take a year off in his college days, and we've talked a lot about the different roles and responsibility you are tasked with when faced with an injury. This year, he will continue to help me grow and learn regardless of which path I take.
Lastly, I would take a second to wish all my goalkeeper friends the best of luck in their seasons. Monmouth, Michigan, Rutgers, UCLA, Boston U, Columbia, Tufts, Williams and plenty more have goalkeepers from the best state in the country in their nets: New Jersey. Best of luck!