Two years ago, Alison Stymiest had it all. She was selected as an ACAA All-Conference player, which verified her status as one of the top players in the conference. She was the “franchise” player and the Seawolves were counting on her to lead them to an ACAA championship.
How quickly things can change.
Alison hurt her knee and thus began a journey she never wished to take.
In 2012-13, Alison tried to heal the knee without surgery but never had the confidence that the leg was solid enough to play well. She was in and out of the line-up and physiotherapy with hopes being dashed by one painful setback after another.
Finally, she came to the stark realization that surgery was going to be the only option. So, Alison reluctantly had surgery May 28, 2013 to have her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repaired.
She started showing her determination to recover immediately as after only three weeks post- surgery she was feeling better mentally than all the previous year and physically she was already beginning light range of motion and physical training.
Kevin Munroe, coach of the UNBSJ women’s basketball team and a highly respected personal trainer started working with Alison in late fall.
“I know that when she was referred to me she was kind of stuck not knowing what direction to take next, said Munroe. “There were the issues of wanting to get back to play immediately coupled with the psychological impact of returning from a serious injury.”
Munroe knows the challenges of an injury like this. “It is tough when you want to play but know that you cannot and then all of a sudden you are cleared to play and you are not sure that you want to.”
“So we started kind of slow but had her doing some really challenging movement patterns almost immediately.”
Munroe continued, “Her eyes would tell the story as she would give me the look as if to say, ‘are you serious or are you crazy?’ From there, the goal was to get her cleared with the surgeon in December to have her ready to go in the New Year.”
Munroe has been very impressed with Alison’s work ethic. “Alison was a gamer and she just started doing things without question. With the assistance of the doctor, we got muscles firing that had gotten lazy as a result of the surgery.”
“We then blasted the muscles with functional movement patterns and she returned to see her surgeon in December and was given the green light to return to play. Alison continued to work hard but being the competitor that she is, she was not happy just returning to play [she wanted] to be a force again in the ACAA.”
Munroe has her continuing with a strict training schedule to ensure she is fully rehabilitated.
“With the goal in mind [of getting her back to top performance], she is back training again and the regime has stepped up and is even more difficult that it was in the beginning. She is working really hard to get back in All-Star form.”
“What is nice about working with Alison is not only her determination to get better but that she wants to contribute to the team,” says Munroe. “If she is not doing well herself than she is not contributing so she is really critical of her play and she often forgets that only 8 months ago she went through a major surgery and has not played since that time.”
“I am not surprised at her being able to play already and I will not be surprised to see her leading her team into the playoffs during the second half of the season.”
Back In the game
Stymiest credits Munroe largely for her qucik come back from surgery and her return to the court.
“Kevin Munroe is a big reason why I am back playing right now. He had the same injury so he could really relate to my injury and the training needed to get back.”
Now that she has had the surgery and all the training, her leg is feeling stronger with each passing day and she is mentally where she needs to be after a year of doubts.
Stymiest progressed to the point of being able to play back row in late November with the goal of moving to her usual right side position in January. Her return to the court immediately bolstered the Seawolves, helping lead the team to a crucial double victory in their final two matches of the term against the Dalhousie Agricultural Rams.
Stymiest has 36 defensive digs in the two games and that effort was enough to give the coaching staff reason for optimism and confidence that Alison could make a full come back for second term.
Her comeback was almost perfectly timed, as two losses would likely have eliminated the Seawolves from the playoffs but instead the team is now in solid playoff contention.
“Playing libero was amazing,” said Stymiest. “It wasn’t new for me because I had played libero at the beginning of the season last year because of my knee and I just wanted to contribute to the team in some way.”
“I now feel like the player I was in first and second year before the injury. A lot people say you won’t be the same player but I am feeling like I can still get even better as a player”.
“Alison is in her fourth year with us and is a great leader,” says Kevin Manuel, head coach of the Seawolves women’s volleyball team. “She has the respect of everyone on our team for her intense rehabilitation and her ability to return to the sport after such a major operation. Alison’s dedication to her teammates will have her ready to go at 100 per cent for the second half of the season.”
Jeff Todd, assistant coach of the women’s volleyball team, adds comment about Stymiest, having also played an important role in her comeback.
Todd says that “Alison had a goal that she would be back swinging by the first match second semester. This goal was not achievable in the eyes of some people but this did not deter Ali, it just motivated her more.”
“Ali, has been working hard in the gym and is determined that she will be a force once again in the ACAA. With the progress she has had recently, this will absolutely be the case!”
Alison is a shining example of hope to all those who have suffered a recent knee injury and face the prospect of surgery and a long period of recovery.
She proved through hard work, perseverance and commitment that you can still be a great player and make it all the way back to the top. Her dedication, commitment and All-Conference level skill is great for UNBSJ and great for the conference.