How would you feel if one day you lost something that you loved more than anything? This summer Muscatine Muskie Junior Center Erin Oppel thought she might not be able to play basketball again, she suffered a knee injury that kept her from walking. Oppel is a junior at Muscatine High School and has been playing basketball for 8 years. She has played for the Muskies for 3 years, and played for Team Iowa for 5 years. Team Iowa is an AAU team, based in Cedar Rapids that travels around the Midwest and plays in tournaments all summer. For Oppel this season was a learning experience for her teammates and herself.
Oppel was named to the second team All Mississippi Athletic Conference last week. Receiving this award means a lot for Oppel considering the knee injury she had to overcome. Oppel got injured in St. Louis playing in a semifinal for a national tournament. She fell down and when she tried to get back up and keep playing she couldn’t walk. She had to be carried off the court and left the facility in a wheelchair. Oppel had to go through months of physical therapy before she could step back onto the court.
Not being able to play basketball was a very difficult obstacle for Oppel but she focused on being positive and worked as hard as she could to get better. To Oppel, the hardest thing about having a long-term injury was still having to go to practices and watch your teammates play.
She also struggled with getting back into shape because before she got hurt she was consistently working out 34 hours every day. She had to start with the basics, she had to regain strength before she could walk and run before she could begin a normal workout routine again. While Oppel was sidelined her focus shifted to becoming a better teammate and leader. Oppel said, “I went to every game and practice that I could and cheered on my teammates.” She also was able to learn by watching her team through their ups and downs.
“I had to focus on where I wanted to be instead of how far behind I was,” said Oppel.
It was a patient and tedious process but with all the support Oppel received she was able to be back on the court this season. Oppel’s parents helped her maintain a positive attitude and supported her the whole time she was going through rehab. Coach Susan Orvis was also really helpful for her as a coach and as someone who she would go to for advice and help. Her AAU coaches and teammates were also always there for her with moral support.
Oppel will be a top returning player in the MAC conference next year, and will team up with returning starters Abby Rusch, and Mati Hepker who will also be Seniors to lead Muscatine.