Gabby Garcia learned a valuable lesson the hard way.
“Hopefully I won’t have to sit out like that again,” the Elizabethtown senior said. “What I learned about myself is with injuries like that, I was very impatient. I kept trying to get back on the field. I kept trying to play while I was injured. I learned that if it’s an injury like that, you have to sit and let yourself heal.
“You need to take the steps to begin healing, don’t try to play at a sub-par level when you can be healing your body.”
The two-time Area Player of the Year missed 13 games due to injury as the Lady Panthers went 12-10-1 and fell in the 5th Region Tournament quarterfinals.
Despite missing all that time, Garcia had committed to her college future and made it official by signing her letter of intent with Tennessee Tech, where she will be a member of the women’s soccer program.
“It was really important to me to go to the campus,” she said. “When I went to Tech, from the way the coaches treated me, to the campus, I really loved the girls and the atmosphere — I just knew that was the place I wanted to go.”
Garcia missed the first two games of the season, played in the next six, missed a game, played against Central Hardin Sept. 4 and then sat out until the 17th District Tournament semifinals against North Hardin.
“The first thing I learned about myself was ... I knew that I loved soccer, but sitting and watching my team was torture,” she said. “It was the worst thing. Sometimes you think as a college player, ‘Do I really want to do this and put in all this time and effort?’ For me it was an affirmation that this is what I need to be doing.
“It really was awful not being able to play. But it was also beneficial to watch the game and see different aspects of it.”
Garcia had three goals and an assist as the Lady Panthers defeated the rival Lady Bruins in the district final.
She finished her career with 70 goals and 31 assists, scoring 37 goals as a junior.
“When I was going through the recruiting process, I talked with coaches and asked them, ‘Do you think I’m this quality of a player?’ And I had some really good coaches and mentors tell me that I could definitely do it if I worked hard,” Garcia said about playing at the Division I level. “Ever since then it was my dream. I worked hard.
“I went to a couple ID camps, one at Tech, one at I think Morehead and some other schools. I had a couple coaches tell me they liked the way I played at the camp and they wanted to see me at more showcases. At that point, they came to watch me at the showcases. A little bit later I started to get some offers.”
She said patience, although hard, is a virtue when going through the recruiting process.
“Sometimes it’s really easy, I guess, to think that when you get your first offer, ‘I don’t want to keep them waiting.’ Or, ‘Yeah, this is my school.’ You have to be really patient with it,” Garcia said. “Once you get that confidence in yourself you won’t be thinking, ‘Oh, I need to take this opportunity,’ because you have confidence in yourself that more will come.
“When it’s such a big dream, it is not easy. When you get those first couple offers you really want to be, ‘I want to commit now.’ It was hard. It worked out well. This wasn’t one of my very first offers. So if I would have taken one before this one, I probably never would have ended up here.”
Tennessee Tech coach Steve Springthorpe just completed his sixth season at the school.
“We identified Gabby a few years back and have had the chance to get to know her for a while now,” Springthorpe said on the school’s website. “She’s a great player from the state of Kentucky, who has had an awesome high-school career. What we like about Gabby is that she is an attack-oriented player that can play anywhere from an attacking midfielder to a target forward or out wide. She gives us that kind of flexibility on the offensive end of things.
“Gabby is fast, aggressive, wants to score, has the ability to finish and can certainly play well with others. I think it’s another exciting attacking player that we’ve added to what is ultimately an already good group of attacking players that are currently on our team. We have moved from more of a defensive-minded group to one that is looking to score more goals, so the addition of a player like Gabby adds to our depth, but she will also have the chance to start from the onset and challenge some of the other players on our team.”