ST. CLAIR – In sports, there are common bonds that unite us.
The joy of victory and the bitter taste of defeat has been experienced by nearly everyone who has competed. But there is another side of our favorite games that no one hopes to experience. The pain — physical and mental — of dealing with and overcoming significant injuries.
There doesn’t seem to be many instances that rival what the Ingles family of St. Clair has endured to stay on the field. Mike and Lori Ingles have been married for 29 years, and in the time since, they raised four daughters that each played athletics at St. Clair High School.
“None of my daughters were raised girly,” Lori said. “Mike being into sports and me being raised with brothers, I wasn’t really girly. I didn’t have that opportunity. So I wasn’t really shocked that they were all athletes.
“Sports are so good for kids. It keeps them so focused.”
All four of the Ingles girls appeared to gravitate toward sports early in their lives. Judy, a 2009 St. Clair graduate played volleyball and basketball before focusing primarily on soccer. Addie, a 2011 graduate, Rebecca, a 2012 graduate and Courtney, a 2014 graduate, all played volleyball, basketball, soccer and ran track and field.
“My parents got us involved when we were really little,” said Judy, who is in the process of obtaining her PHD in physiology from Wayne State University. “They never pressured us to be the best. My dad’s motto was: Have fun and play hard.
“He was our coach when we were young, and that’s kind of what we always did. First we had fun, and winning was never really first.”
Mike being their coach and their biggest fan often put him in the middle of the action at games as he cheered his daughters on. But it also gave him a first-hand look at their pain.
On several occasions he carried his daughters off the field with major injuries. Judy fractured a vertebrae in her back and also broke her leg in two places. Addie suffered three anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Rebecca tore her ACL, and Courtney tore her ACL twice and also her meniscus.
“(Rebecca) tore her ACL her senior year of high school playing basketball,” Mike recalled. “But we were going to go to Florida for Easter break. Instead of having the surgery, she chose to be able to walk around in Florida with a brace on. She had been getting off the crutches for a couple of weeks when Addie hurt herself playing basketball intramural in college.
“Addie had surgery three weeks after Becca, and the day we brought Addie home from surgery we went to see Courtney play a soccer game, and during the soccer game Courtney tore her ACl. All three were within four weeks. I didn’t know what to think. All I was really thinking was” I hope they will be healthy when they are older. I didn’t want all of the surgeries to restrict what they do or what they will do with their kids.”
Watching their family members suffer injuries didn’t deter the Ingles family from continuing their athletic careers. Port Huron Orthopedic Association athletic trainer John Brady said that’s a good thing.
“We pay for what we do in our youth a lot of times,” Brady said. “Is that a reason to stop doing activity? No. It’s being prepared for the activities you are doing and being smart about it and listen to your body. If you are having an ache or pain, it needs to be addressed instead of blown off. Parents have to be aware of how kids are acting and performing.”
Brady said injuries such as the case of the Ingles family can’t be attributed to a single factor, but instead multiple factors all working together. That could include under-training, over-training, joint structure and more.
Fortunately for the Ingles sisters, their parents had a keen understanding and awareness of their children. While the injuries were hard on everyone in the family, there was a driving force that allowed everyone to quickly get on the road to recovery. Instead of taking it an easy on her daughters, Lori, a nurse by trade, sprung into action.
“Being a nurse, it’s not a whole lot that shocks me,” Lori said. “I had a harder time trying to keep Mike from getting bent out of shape. It’s a harder time for a father watching his girls being hurt. Me being a nurse, I had a different outlook. I have a harder shell.
“I think Mike and I both didn’t give them a lot of room to feel sorry for themselves. Again, from what I have seen in my job and so forth, I can’t let them feel sorry for themselves. This is life. Pull up your boots and move forward.”
That protective covering served the family well, and that inner toughness appears to have been instilled in the girls.
“My mom didn’t let any of us get down on ourselves,” Addie recalled. “When you wanted to do the whole ‘Why me?’ thing she would say: Well, there are kids with cancer, Addie. She allowed us to have a proper perspective about everything, and it really taught us something important.”
“(Being injured) gives you a different perspective on things,” Rebecca added. “What my mom kept telling me through the entire process when I said ‘Why me?’ was ‘Why not you?’ It gave me a different perspective on what was really important.
“I know the process is hard, and one of the hardest things to go through was not being on the bench playing. It made me a better teammate in a way. I was so focused on helping the other girls at that point in time.”
Despite their past injuries, all four remain active and on a great educational path. Judy, 23, is still studying at Wayne State after graduating from Grand Valley State University. The rest of the girls are still doing undergrad at Grand Valley State University. Addie, 22, and Courtney, 18, each want to become physical therapists, and Rebecca 20, is studying to become a speech pathologist.
“Even with all of the injuries, it was totally worth playing sports,” Courtney said. “Sports was always such a big part in our lives. We always played together. I think it made it a lot more enjoyable.”
“I would go back even now,” Addie said. “I played basketball Wednesday, and my dad was like ‘Addie’. It’s hard for us not to go 100 percent and be competitive and try our hardest.
“Going through what we did makes me appreciate playing. I love sports, and I wouldn’t take anything back.”
Contact Joseph Hayes at (810) 989-6268 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jhayes1136.