Bella Yardley has always loved soccer, but never more than now, in the wake of some unfortunate life-altering adversity.
In October of 2013, while playing for her Michigan Hawks club team, Yardley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
Along with sidelining Yardley for close to six months and demanding grueling twice-a-week physical-therapy sessions, the injury sharpened the Livonia Franklin senior’s perspective.
“Going through everything I went through, I learned not to take anything for granted anymore,” said Yardley. “I think I appreciate the sport more now and I play every game like it’s my last one.”
Although Yardley’s Franklin team dropped a 6-1 decision to Livonia Stevenson on Tuesday night, the senior looked strong while manning the left side of the Patriots’ defense during her first high school game since her sophomore season.
If not for the high-tech black knee brace that secured the mid-section of her right leg, an observer never would have known she’d suffered a devastating injury that necessitated countless hours of painstaking rehabilitation.
“The rehab part was probably as difficult mentally as physically because I’ve never really had to sit on a bench for an entire game and watch,” said Yardley, who attended every Franklin practice and game during her junior season, despite not being able to physically participate. “I’d help the coach write up the line-ups for the refs, stuff like that.”
The physical end of her comeback was no walk in the park either.
“It was hard, especially when I had to start bending it for the first time and getting the rotation back,” she shared. “The first week after my surgery was probably the toughest because I could barely walk on it. I wanted to get back to school as fast as I could, so I was in a wheelchair the first few days.”
Amazingly, Yardley continued to compete for the Franklin swimming team for over a month after the injury.
“It was hard, but the doctors cleared me to do it, and I didn’t want to miss the end of the [swimming] season,” she said.
Dividends from all of Yardley’s rehabilitation sessions were finally realized last summer when she made a triumphant return to the Hawks’ line-up.
“That was exciting,” she reflected. “I thought it would be hard, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected.
“I couldn’t have done it without my parents, my teammates and my physical therapist. They were always there when I need them, and now I’m back to 100 percent of where I was before the injury.”