I was brought up playing netball – my mum was a netball player so got me interested in the sport, and soon I was playing for the university team, the county team and Sheffield Division One. You could say I loved netball!

Then life happened: family, a busy schedule, and I stopped playing. At one point, when I was feeling really unfit, I decided to take up CrossFit to get myself back on track. Unfortunately, I damaged my back quite badly doing the CrossFit and ended up with a slipped disc and a scary visit to A&E.
I already had a child at that point and a hectic home life. After the back injury, I didn’t feel I could really do anything fitness-wise, especially since I was having another baby. But after he was born I kept feeling that little niggle: I really missed netball.
Breaking down

At that stage, I thought, I’ve had my two children. I want something for myself. So I set up my own netball club. It was fantastic.

Until one night when I was training. I guess I landed funny because my back just went again. I thought that was it – the end of me playing netball for good.

I was talking about it with my partner Adam over dinner one night, and halfway through the meal, for no reason whatsoever, I just burst into tears.

I told him: “This is just awful. I just don’t feel like me.”

Performance psychologist Tom Bates advises others in situations like Mel’s to remember that what they’re going through is just a temporary setback, paving the way for a long-term comeback.

“The social element is very important,” he says. “Can you go watch your teammates play and support them and speak to them? And seek out those who can give you support in other ways, like the physio.”

Bates also explains one of his philosophies: the smallest deed is greater than the greatest of intentions.

“Just because I’m not playing, I’ll still stretch. If I can’t run, I’ll walk. If I can’t walk, I’ll crawl. I’ll do something every day. I’ll still strengthen where I can, specific to my rehabilitation. That engagement of physical activity will improve that sense of self-fulfillment, satisfaction and happiness.”

Coming back

I hadn’t been part of a team for so long and I missed it so much. Just being on the court with the girls – I’d loved that.

Since I was so desperate to get back into the game, I went and spoke to my physio. He told me the good news: I can play. I would just need to work on strengthening my back and my core.

I went back into training after a long period of no physical activity. The first training session was intense: I hated every minute of it. My chest felt tight. I felt sick. It made me realise how badly I needed to get my fitness back and how this was the first step in doing so.

More than anything, I felt really frustrated because as part of that session I did a run that I used to be able to do about five times without even thinking about it. And then I did it once and felt horrific.

“Being stronger physically fuels the mental muscles required to succeed,” says Bates. “Do something for you. Reinvest time and energy in physical activity and the rewards will come to you. Turn that intention into action. Don’t just think about it. Get out there and do it.”

Once I started training regularly, things got a lot better and I started feeling good about it. Fitness is still an issue, but I’m getting there.

Also, I’m changing my mental state: I’m flipping how I feel about it and seeing every session as a positive now.

Overcoming the fear

Now I’ve reached a point where I can be honest about things: I’ve been frightened about having a go at this, and I’m terrified my back will go again and I’ll have to walk away and that will be it. But it feels so good to be back.

“A lot of people think injury is a reason for them to not be active. Actually it’s the opposite. The no-limit people out there see past the temporary setback – you either see the setback or the opportunity. Remember the times you’ve come back from setbacks before. Your response defines how quickly you bounce back and return,” Bates explains.

I’ve still got a long way to go before I get back to how good I used to be. But it’s a start. It’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself.

And it’s time to be positive and just go for it.

Article first appeared on huffingtonpost.co.uk and was written by Melanie Bowler – writer and mother of three.

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