As an athlete, there are few things more frustrating than an injury. Especially ones that you could never predict. Just when you are hitting your stride and gaining confidence, the gods of sport decide it’s your turn for a little pain. You’re now sidelined and have to watch as your teammates and your competition steadily pull away from you. It’s a helpless feeling, and honestly, it can leave long-lasting effects if you don’t handle it properly.
But here’s the thing, if you play sports for longer than 5 years, you are almost bound to experience some form of injury. So, given its inevitability, the best mindset is to think about what you can learn from an injury rather than focus on all the ways it’s making your life worse.
Shanice Marcelle is an athlete who was unfortunately given a double dose of pain. After an abundantly successful career with the UBC Thunderbirds Volleyball program, where she won 5 national championships in a row, her luck appeared to run out. Following a long grueling season playing overseas in France, her shoulder simply couldn’t take anymore and she was forced to have surgery. It was a lengthy recovery process, but through her sheer grit and will, she managed to pull herself back together. But then, not more than a year after her shoulder rehab began, fate decided to intervene once again. In a freak accident while training with Canadian Beach national team she tore her ACL (every athlete’s nightmare injury). And just like that she was back under the knife and starting over. Again.
Shanice is currently 8 months into her ACL rehab and I wanted to catch up with her to see how it’s going. In this wide-ranging interview, we cover a lot of ground. We get into her early days as an athlete and how that has shaped the way she views sports, her newly discovered values, and how they are shaping her daily life. As well as the lessons she has learned from having back to back injuries.
I often have a hard time cutting down these interviews because I feel like there is too much good stuff to simply delete. So, I will leave it up to you to choose what you read. Skim through the headlines and questions that catch your attention and soak in what you think is relevant. If you are injured I hope what you read here today is beneficial. And if you aren’t injured right now, save this interview for when you are (because you will be).
Lastly, if you want to stay up to date with Shanice’s recovery, check her out at www.shanicemarcelle.com and stay connected on Facebook and Instagram.
ON HER EARLIEST SPORTS MEMORY
I made my first sort of provincial team. It was for the BC summer games. And I just remember that being such a fun experience, with a really cool group of girls. And we ended up finishing second. But it was still a really great experience for me just being there because I am a very shy person and it was an outgoing team. It really helped to bring me out of my shell. We all just got really close and I feel like those memories where you bond with your teammates in a certain way are a little more special than the actual volleyball accomplishments… My experiences with my teammates and the bonds that were formed, in my early years, were always so much more important than everything else and they made me stick with it. And that is what I remember more than any other accomplishment.
DT: Did you catch that? They finished 2nd but it was still one of the highlights of her early sports life. Why? Because of the strong bonds she formed with her teammates and the tribe mentality that is formed in a team environment. This is what matters. Wins will come and go, but relationships will stick with you forever.
DOING ADDITIONAL TRAINING
I did do a lot of extra stuff growing up, but it was never for the purpose of doing more reps than this person or train harder than that person. It was always for the purpose of just wanting to play. I just wanted to see all those people in the gym.
WHAT DO YOU VALUE?
For me right now what I value the most is, being vulnerable. In school, in life, and in volleyball I did not enjoy asking people for help even though I know the importance of it. I was too shy to ask for help in the classroom if I didn’t understand anything or too nervous to ask someone to help me do extra reps on the volleyball court because I didn’t want to seem like I was being too difficult. I would just never really ask for anything. Since my injury, that’s been something that I’ve been trying to hold at the forefront of my life. I am just being honest with myself and knowing that I am in a position where I need to rely on other people. It’s important for me in my growth in my personal life and as an athlete that I need to ask for help if I want to get anywhere close to where I want to be. As much as my injuries have dampened my spirits, they were also exactly what I needed. I had to learn how to ask other people for help. I am grateful for being injured even though it’s really sucked.
DT: You can make it decently far in life on your own, but at a certain point we all have to rely on others to get us to the next level. No one is self-made, and the sooner we can accept this, the more likely we are to live a fulfilled and accomplished life.
Shanice: Another key value for me is the practice of listening to what I need as a person. Whether that’s emotional support, mental support, physical support – or just a break from it all; simply taking the time to figure out what I need on that particular day. Understanding what my body can and can’t do… It’s really important for me now that I’ve been injured a bunch to know what my body needs, and it’s not the same every day.
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”
– Roy E. Disney
HOW ARE YOUR VALUES SHAPING YOUR GOALS?
I realized over these last two years when I was playing up until my injuries that I was just always going through the motions. It was always a go-go-go mentality for me. Wake up, eat, play volleyball, take a nap, eat, play more volleyball, eat, go to sleep. And I would do that again and again, day in and day out. But it made me really unhappy because I didn’t have anything else to focus on because I didn’t really know what I needed. I let volleyball be the centre of who I was and I let it determine how I would feel, how I would act.
So, my goals for me now, (keeping my values in mind) are that I don’t necessarily want to be the best anymore – which was a huge goal for me in the past. I don’t really care about that now. All I really want is to be able to have the chance to play again. And a big part of that is knowing my body and knowing what I need. Knowing my boundaries and my limits. Being able to push myself on certain days but also being able to honour myself and take a step back or take a weekend away for myself and to get away from things completely because the stress of 4 practices was maybe too much this week.
To me, those two values are going to help me honour myself and centre my life. Instead of feeling like I need to always be better than other people. I don’t want to come to volleyball with that mindset. I want it to be a place of love like it was when I was younger.
BEING COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
This was something Doug [her UBC coach] would always say to us in university and I don’t think at the time that I quite grasped what he meant and what he was trying to get at because everything was pretty easy back then. And I wasn’t necessarily being challenged or pushed to the point that I was uncomfortable. But it’s something that I’ve now learned about in the past 2 years. And for me, I just see it as a way to grow as a person. Whether that’s in volleyball or in life… I had never had a job growing up or in university and I just got my first job last year. And that was something that was so foreign and uncomfortable for me. Going to job interviews and trying to present myself as a normal person, and handing in a resume full of nothing but volleyball things. Only to have the person look at it and say, ‘Are you serious?’.
“Every day do something that makes you uncomfortable.”
— David Goggins
So, for me, the uncomfortable thing has just been working on having a well-rounded sense of self. Because I know volleyball comes easily to me and I know that when I come back to playing it’s going to be challenging, but at the same time it will feel like second nature to me. So, the uncomfortable thing is more about my growth as a person [away from volleyball]. It’s just a great way to better yourself. Because no matter how difficult something is, you’re going to come through as a better person on the other side and you are going to feel better at the end of the day.
I think it’s really important for younger athletes today who are very talented to find some other way to challenge yourself in a way that’s going to make you grow. You have to devote some time to other aspects outside of volleyball because those will contribute to your volleyball acumen.
ADVICE TO HERSELF IN HER FIRST YEAR OF PRO
When I turned pro, volleyball was THE focus and the centre point of everything I was doing. And for me, that’s too much. Because it had been that way since I was grade 8. I’ve never taken a summer off since then… I just realized that was too much for me. And in order for me to be happy in my personal life, I can’t let volleyball drive everything that I do.
I would tell myself that. You’ve made it this far. Now it’s okay to take a step back. And not necessarily a step off the gas in my training or my focus. But that it’s okay to take a step back and not let volleyball consume you. And, to be open to having different experiences; whether that’s taking language courses or visiting friends. I just never really did anything while playing pro because playing was what I did with my life. I would really just tell myself to do other things and find something else that you love. It is okay to be more than just a volleyball player.
DT: This is a common problem that many athletes face when they leave the task orientated lifestyle of a student-athlete and become a full-time athlete. They are training and competing around the same amount but without the school work, so evidently, they have an abundance of free time on their hands. The tempting thing to do is go straight home from training and binge watch on Netflix or play video games until the next event. Which don’t get me wrong, will be fun for the first couple weeks, but eventually, it will become boring and even depressing. Then several months later when you find yourself back in your home country, you will be kicking yourself because you didn’t use that free time more productively.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A SUPPORT CAST
I’m very lucky that I’ve had a family who has always supported what I’ve done. I moved out of the house at 18 to go to university and haven’t moved back since. And I’m thankful to have a family who has always been supportive of that. They also have always been willing to pick me up when I fall down and to listen to me vent when things aren’t going well. And I know that isn’t something everyone has, so I’m very grateful for that. I’m just very lucky to have people in my life who know what my goals and dreams are, and have been able to support me and help me through my injuries these past two years.
DT: This is a common trend among successful athletes. They surround themselves with people who are on a similar path and are willing to be there for you when things are tough. Read how Nick’s support cast kept him going.
“Even if you cannot change all the people around you, you can change the people you choose to be around. Life is too short to waste your time on people who don’t respect, appreciate, and value you. Spend your life with people who make you smile, laugh, and feel loved.”
― Roy T. Bennett
MINDSET TOWARDS HER INJURIES: SHOULDER VS. KNEE
When I decided to have shoulder surgery I knew that it was coming for a long time… But I wasn’t ready for everything that came afterward and all the emotions that came with it. Like the feeling of not really having a support with my team, because my team has essentially left [The national team had moved to a different city] and I was not able to use my arm for an entire month or play for a while. I was struggling with not being able to see what my purpose was as a person because all I had known up until that point was volleyball. And all these little things added up to the point where it really broke me in the first month of my recovery process. And that was just something that was really challenging to get over… I was definitely in a state of depression because it felt like it was something I had to overcome on my own.
DT: Shanice had her shoulder surgery in July of 2016 and shortly after made the decision to switch from indoor to beach volleyball. She moved to Toronto the following January to train with the national team and less than two months later, she ended up tearing her ACL…
Back to Shanice: When I found out about my knee, it wasn’t necessarily something I had expected. And when I got the final confirmation that my ACL was completely torn, that crumbled me in that moment. Because when I found out from my doctor about my shoulder surgery, I knew it was something that was bound to happen. But when I found out about my knee surgery, I was in shock. And couldn’t help but think, “not again!”. And ultimately it was something that broke me on that day, but the process after the surgery has been a lot easier to get through because I knew the emotional and mental factors that were going to come with it and I was also at a place where I was ready to focus on myself as more than just a volleyball player. I chose to spend my time on looking for a job, thinking about going to school and just little things like that, which gave me a sense of purpose beyond volleyball. And I haven’t made any permanent decisions to pursue these other things, but they just helped me to be more okay with what happened. And as tough as it has been to go through back to back injuries, I never let the second injury do what the first one did to me.
“It’s a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted.”
– Kobe Bryant
SERIOUSLY THOUGH, WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST GIVE UP?
You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.” And it is very hard to only be able to workout day in and day out. But for me, I’ve given so much of myself to this sport and I’ve had very lofty dreams and goals, most of which I’ve accomplished except for my last one [the Olympics]. But given all that I have gone through these past two years, I think that I owe it to myself as an athlete to put in the effort one last time to play again… I just hate quitting things and I hate the idea of walking away. And even though it has been a very long two years, I’m so close to being back – and as much as I want to give up, I know that I also want to see this through.
ARE THESE INJURIES FATE?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it “fate”, but simply something that I needed in my life, even though it was a horrible thing to happen, not once, but twice. It was something that I needed in order to learn the lessons that I needed to learn. I’ve had to learn patience, humility, and knowing how to honour myself. Everyone at some point is going to have something bad happen to them, but these are just lessons that you need to learn and obstacles you will have to overcome. Because no one is going to go through life with a perfect fairytale ending. There’s always going to be something to overcome, to some degree. And so, for me, this is what that has been. This is my thing. I need to learn from this.
I think a big part of this is being able to accept and acknowledge what is happening. But then having the presence of mind to realize that’s not something that is happening to YOU, it’s just happening.
“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent— no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
LEARNING FROM FAILURE
I wouldn’t necessarily say that in my career that I’ve failed a lot, especially while in university, but when I started playing pro, that was the biggest learning experience as far a failure goes. Because I went from being a starter to a bench player and for me, that was a big failure. Because I thought I was a better athlete than a lot of people and a little bit too cocky. And it was just another great lesson to learn because I realized that maybe I need to sit on the bench for two years to learn what kind of player I need to develop into.