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How a broken collarbone made a stronger spirit

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Soccer

Grace Yochum celebrates after a goal during the Oklahoma State vs. Saint Louis match on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019 at Neil Patterson Stadium in Stillwater.

If 2020 has been a horror movie, then Grace Yochum got to see a preview before the film made it to theaters.

This year has been hard for student-athletes. Instead of dealing with questions like — “If we win the coin toss, which side will we defend?” — they are grappling with the odds of their seasons even happening being, well, a coin flip.

Though the perilous balancing act in which the Cowgirl soccer season is in may knock some athletes off-kilter, junior midfielder Grace Yochum has already dealt with her season being ended abruptly.

It was during a chilly October practice last year when it happened. Yochum broke her collarbone; immediately ending what had been, in coach Colin Carmichael’s eyes, a potential All-American season.

Yochum’s long recovery taught her a valuable lesson about the fragility of a season. Instead of shying away from her recovery, she learned from the healing process.

“That whole experience has been hard but kind of amazing because it showed me you can’t take anything for granted,” Yochum said. “When you are out there, you’ve got to compete because you don’t know when it’s going to end.”

By realizing how each of her games — which she works so hard for — can be taken away with such swiftness, Yochum is filled with a new vigor for playing the game she loves with her teammates. While winning is always a priority for her, especially at a school like Oklahoma State, she learned to take more joy in the road to getting a win.

Almost like reading ahead in a book, last year’s swift, unexpected end to a promising season gave Yochum a taste of what 2020, the next chapter, could be. However, like any good novel, the next chapter had a plot twist.

Shattered bones aren’t the only things that can shatter a season — how about a virus?

Now every player and coach on OSU is facing a similar situation to what Yochum had dealt with in 2019. Now its season could be ended swiftly, prematurely and unexpectedly.

The season happening at all is viewed as a blessing by the Cowgirls, and there is a feeling of joy permeating through the team.

“As a team and individually, we’ve had to come to come to terms with (the fact that) every single opportunity that you get this season…you can’t take it for granted,” senior defender Hannah Webb said. “You never know when you are going to play your last game this season, so it forces people to be very appreciative of what we have.”

Though this season is unprecedented, to say the least, the Cowgirls are thankful for what they have. Because every game could be their last, Yocum and her team are going to live each day with the team to the fullest.

Just like a movie, those that approach this dubious season with a positive mindset will take the most away from it. Besides, even horror movies can have happy endings.

sports.ed@ocolly.com