Ansah Odoom joined the Trinity Western women’s volleyball team in 2017 and graduates this spring having helped the Spartans to four Canada West championships, a U SPORTS championship and U SPORTS silver medal. Individually, Odoom capped her career by being named a Canada West All-Star in her final season as a Spartan.
My name is Ansah Odoom…and this is my story.
My excitement and nervousness were at its peak. I did not know what I was getting into. What was training going to be like? Would the team like me? I’ve been the new girl on a team, and it was tough. The adjustment from club and high school volleyball to university volleyball at Trinity Western saw me suddenly playing with women who were up to four years older than me. It was unnerving.
Early on, I felt that I wasn’t improving. I was easily the worst player in the gym. I started to question why they picked me to play on their team. I know adjustment takes time, but in the moment it was tough. After a few weeks I finally felt like I was in a good rhythm. Then on one November day in my first year at TWU in the fall of 2017,it all came crashing down. One jump in warm up and there goes my ACL. I don’t remember much from that night. I remember walking off being a bit confused about what happened and then suddenly I couldn’t put any weight on my leg. After the game I found out that my ACL was torn. In that moment I felt that my career would never be the same. I already had a slow start and now this, I felt that I was just never going to catch up.
Seeing everyone day after day getting better while I had to sit on the side lines was a mental battle. I felt my light dim and then things started to feel dark. My happiness slowly turned to sadness, with no motivation to want to do anything. I felt like I didn’t want to go to practice, I didn’t want to go to class, I didn’t feel like I wanted to do anything. I lost myself. My identity was tied to volleyball, and I felt that I was nothing without it. What else was I good for? I didn’t really have realistic passions outside of volleyball, so I had nothing to fall back on. Everything began to suffer – my relationships, my friendships, my academics, my emotions and my motivation. I was no longer that happy-go-lucky kid who went with the flow. I was a girl in a dark place who couldn’t figured out how she could feel useful on earth.
Months rolled by and surgery day came. There was a whirlwind of emotions. I was stressed about surgery potentially not going well. What if I can’t play volleyball again? And, of course, the typical fears of getting surgery in general. However, I got so many texts of encouragement and prayer from such an amazing community. My prayer was that I felt peace going into that surgery day. I woke up that morning and felt relief. Which felt like a huge God moment for me. There was just so much anxiety and stress running through my mind and my body, and I had felt weighed down. But I felt amazing going into surgery. No nervousness, no stress, no nothing. God lifted that all off me. The surgery went great. My ACL and meniscus were repaired, and I was on my way to recovery.
They always say that the recovery process is hard both mentally and physically I underestimated what they meant. It was so much harder than I anticipated. Every time I thought that I could progress in an exercise or a step in the process, I would get knocked down a peg. Frustration was imminent. It came out in so many ways on so many people. The days were still dark. Every time I think I got closer to the small light at the end of the tunnel, I got pulled back. But going into training camp I thought that I would be able to start playing again. I felt strong and stable and was ready to get back slowly. But nope, our medical staff didn’t think so, which was hard to hear. The thought of quitting kept creeping into my head. I couldn’t handle the up-and-down roller coaster of emotions that was this recovery.
But my friends were telling me if I didn’t have volleyball what would I do. So, I had to start figuring out what I like and what I was passionate about. That’s when I was able to find my passion for business and fell in love with coaching. Even though I found something that I enjoyed doing other than volleyball, I still felt so tied to my identity. Following months of agonizing recovery, our coach Ryan Hofer pulled me aside after a team meeting and told me that I was fully cleared to play. When he said it, I didn’t know how to react. However, in the moment, I wasn’t excited to be cleared. I had felt all my excitement for the sport wither away throughout my recovery. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to make myself feel the love of volleyball again. All I could think about was volleyball was a chance to play with my friends, while helping me get an education and to share my experience with children. I just hoped that I would find that love for volleyball again. And it did come back, the following year.
I finally got to play my first U SPORTS games since my injury on Oct. 18, 2019 – two years after arriving at TWU. Despite finding myself on the starting line-up I still felt waves of darkness. Not knowing if I was good enough to be there, still chasing the light at the end of the tunnel. I struggled tying my identity to my stats, feeling like I let my team down. Trying to navigate playing well consistently was getting to me. But I really had to lean into the team, playing for them, doing my best for them no matter what. That mindset changed the game for me. My team and my coaches were the most important. And if I play for them, I play freely. But that year, 2019-20, saw the COVID-19 pandemic bring our year to a late-season halt and it really threw a wrench in everything. Nationals were cancelled and everything that we worked so hard – we were the conference champions and the top seed entering nationals – was over in an instant.
The pandemic brought so many challenges, mentally and physical for so many people. Coming back into school that fourth year was challenging – not being able to see friends separate from my team and having strict training rules when we were together as a team and not being able to compete against other teams. It was hard. But I let my mindset change. I looked at that COVID year as an opportunity to improve my craft and continue to make up for lost ground. Despite some minor injuries I battled that year I saw them as an opportunity for growth and not as a setback, which was the best way to handle the COVID year (2020-21) and all the various circumstances.
I took that positive growth mindset right into my fifth year. I wanted to continue to grow and be a better teammate. I wanted to play for my team and always support them, thinking of them always above myself. Pouring into my teammates and supporting them any way I could was important in my growth as a leader – not only on this team but for the rest of my career in volleyball and life. That year, 2021-22, we had never been more connected as a team and we won both the Canada West and U SPORTS championship titles. The build up from so much disappointment made the championship mean so much. We won it not only for that current team and coaches but also for the girls who graduated and lost the chance to play in their last nationals.
This year was my sixth and final year and I have really faced some challenges. Only a couple weeks before league started, I hurt my ACL knee again. I felt a pop and immediately assumed the worst. I thought that my career was over. I couldn’t imagine going through that recovery process again. Mentally I couldn’t do it again. I felt that I barely made it out the first time. And to think about doing it all over, I couldn’t imagine it. I took some time to rest before the regular season games began. An MRI confirmed it was only some meniscus damage and I felt that I could play through the pain. And I did. I did not want to let this injury dictate my season. My last season with my teammates. My last season as a Spartan. And my last season as a Spartan was a rewarding one. Being able to win our fourth straight Canada West Championship alongside the best and most supportive teammates was so incredibly rewarding. Even though nationals did not go our way and we came away with silver, we accomplished a lot as a team, and we stuck together until the end.
This last year required growth until the very last day. I look over my six years as a Spartan and I have accomplished and grown so much. From the girl who succumbed to her ACL injury and lost her light. Trying to find ways to find that light again. To here in my sixth year. Overcoming all the obstacles. Becoming someone who cares for and plays for her teammate, as opposed to herself. I am more mentally strong and could not be prouder of how far I have come because of this program. I hope to leave a long-lasting legacy of determination, perseverance, and selfless leadership.
This article is shared as part of our Fair Dealing Policy. For the original article, please visit: https://gospartans.ca/news/2023/4/27/womens-volleyball-my-story-ansah-odoom.aspx
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