Making the most from adversity
For Southern Steel defender Malysha Kelly, everything was different. A new country, a new team, the weather. The only thing that was the same was the game, and then came a season-ending knee injury. No Commonwealth Games, no ANZ Premiership, and a long way from home. But, as the Jamaican international explains, from adversity has come opportunity.
As an athlete you put your body on the line every day for the sport you love.
You make decisions around it, decisions for it and decisions because of it.
You might think it would be terrifying to move away from the country you lived in for 25 years and shift to Invercargill.
But this is netball we are talking about. No doubt, this was by far the biggest and scariest decision I had made in my life, but it has been the best in a long time.
This is my third year playing netball professionally. Professional netball, for a small-town Jamaican country girl, means moving thousands of miles away from family and friends to play the sport you love.
For me, it's about living your dream, playing the sport you love, meeting new friends, learning a new culture, making an impact on the world by inspiring others, sharing your experiences with others.
You would think it gets easier the longer you do it, but I have news for you, it doesn't.
Coming to Southland has been quite an experience for me.
In Jamaica, the average weather sits around 25 to 30 degrees Celsius. Imagine me arriving in Invercargill and the weather is around 15 degrees. Not bad, I say. Gets a little chilly when the sun goes down, but I can handle that. Nothing a little sweater can't fix.
I was told that it was summer, and this was great weather. In Jamaica, January would be one of the months it would get a little chilly, then summer would be extremely hot later in the year.
So, I am thinking, if I can survive this, I can survive winter. And I was right.
There's been a lot of education around layering, investing in a good electric blanket, some good heaters, parking the car in the garage instead of in the driveway, Uggs, shutting the curtains when the sun goes down, sitting at a window when the sun is out, drinking lots of tea, showering in hot water if the bones are feeling cold... the list goes on.
I have adapted so much, it is like I have been here for a long time now.
I think I have now come to appreciate this weather. I still go nuts though, to see the degree drop to single digits - when it is wet, windy and icy.
But, most importantly, I do not let the weather predict the type of day I will have.
It has really been a roller coaster ride for me living here in Invercargill.
After arriving in January, everything seemed perfect - training was going great, I was getting to know my teammates, and Southland was amazing.
Having a big year ahead was exciting. Then, during pre-season, I ruptured my ACL. For me that meant not playing netball for nine months.
I would not only miss out on playing the 2018 season for Steel, but would also miss out on representing my country at the Commonwealth Games, and in the Taini Jamison Quad Series.
When it first happened, my mind was distracted as I had lots of important decisions to make around what I would do next.
I knew what needed to be done, but making that decision was very hard. I knew if I wanted to continue my career as a professional netball player, I would have to get surgery done to reconstruct my ACL.
The really hard decision was whether to stay here in New Zealand and get it done, or go back to Jamaica.
I am glad I decided to have it done here in Invercargill and to stay for a portion of my rehabilitation. It has been 11 weeks post-operation and I am pleased with how far I have come.
I think I have been lucky and blessed to have people around me who show support, are patient and who helped me get on my feet, as I had fallen real hard with this injury.
This is by far the worst injury I have had in my life. Staying in Invercargill meant that my support system has now become my Steel family.
I must say I am grateful and appreciative. They have been really kind and helpful with me coping with my situation. I do miss my mom especially, also my friends and family back home.
But staying here is one of the best decisions I have made. If I had to choose again, I would choose to stay.
After studying in 2015 I decided I wanted to become a professional netball player. My first season I moved to England, where I played for Manchester Thunder.
My second season, I moved to Australia, where I played for Adelaide Thunderbirds.
In Jamaica we only have a few people that move away and pursue a netball career. Most of us are friends and no matter where in the world we reside, we stay connected. We follow each other’s leagues and progression.
One such friend is Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, who played with the Steel for five years.
Following her games over the years, I developed an appreciation for their style and their culture and I wanted to be a part of that.
Jay leaving opened an opportunity for me to be a part of the 2018 team. I spoke with her and then got in contact with the team. The next thing I knew I was moving to Invercargill.
It was only pre-season and we were playing a mini netball game amongst ourselves.
I went for an intercept, no collision was made, but in trying not to land on the player I landed badly and ruptured my ACL right away.
At first, I knew something was wrong, but I didn't think it would be a serious injury.
Even after the scan confirmed the injury, I was in denial and it took some time for reality to sink in and the disappointment to really hit. I had to make some serious decisions. I started to have mood swings - sometimes I would be ok, and the next minute I would start to feel frustrated.
Sometimes I would feel happy, then the situation would get me down. And because of this I did not want to talk about it. This was very difficult as almost everyone I came across wanted to talk about my injury, and I was a bit uncomfortable with that.
I learned how to talk about it and be ok with that. I dealt with my disappointment in different stages. I started my rehab before surgery and this helped me to work towards something and be focused.
At first it was a distraction from thinking too much - getting out of the house and just having something to do.
As things progressed and I saw the results of putting in the work, rehab became something I looked forward to each week. Going to team trainings helped me to overcome my disappointment.
At first it was a difficult task, as I was not mobile and watching from the sideline is not as fun as playing. However, as time went on, I was able to do small tasks as the mobility started to increase.
I am learning lots just by being at training sessions and seeing training from a different perspective. This is something new but exciting. It is kind of like I am not on court playing with the Steel, but each week I feel like I am, which is cool.
Above all, I get to do a lot more traveling around the Southland. This has to do with fulfilling my non-contracted playing agreement. I get to do other tasks which I am sure I would not have done if I was not injured this season.
This includes spending time visiting schools and working with different netball teams, which I find pretty cool. These are just a few of the things that help me deal with the disappointment of my injury.
I do miss home. I think, whether I became injured or not, missing home would be inevitable.
My family has always been my support system, and not physically having them there, I miss that.
I thank God for technology, as this helps me stay connected and have regular conversations with them. It is not the same as being with them, but I do appreciate that I get the chance to do that.
Before and after my injury I met a lot of people who have made my life easier and helped me adjust to life in Invercargill.
Coming here was very scary for me. It was a new city, new people and a new team. But I was very surprised at how comfortable my teammates made me feel.
It normally takes me a little to warm up to people, but I was surprised that it didn’t take me long when I came here.
In my first week of moving here I stayed with Wendy Frew and that had an impact on how I see Invercargill.
I got to experience Invercargill during summer with her and her family and that was amazing.
After that the rest of the Steel girls started moving home and I got the chance to meet everyone else. I then moved in with the famous Hu (Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit), who I’d heard lots about before I’d even met her. We had a lot more in common than I anticipated. We don’t like cooking - Abby and Wendy helped a lot with that.
We both like to sleep a lot, watch the same TV series, love coffee, love to shop for household items.
I can’t say we have the same taste in music though. Settling for me was not difficult at all.
The injury made life difficult. Being completely immobile had an impact on me. It was like I became a different person. I moved in with Sue, who did an amazing job in taking great care of me.
I remember when the injury happened, our manager Dayna and physio Corina were there in an instant. They have been there ever since and I am appreciative of that. Corina has been educating me a lot about my injury, ensuring I had all the information to make the right decisions.
This is massive for me as I would not have known the best thing to do, or which direction to go. She has been there for all my rehab stages and that really stuck with me. Cory, our conditioning coach, also had a massive impact on me.
He helped me with my physical rehab, but more importantly motivated me when I felt like giving up.
I have changed both as an athlete and a person this year. I think I am more grateful of the things I can do, and that I get the opportunity to do the sport I love.
I have never had a major injury in my entire career. This injury takes away playing netball for nine months, the part I enjoy most, but I am now doing other things, which I might not have had the opportunity to do. I have always put netball at the forefront of my life and now I am forced to put it on pause and appreciate some of the little things I had taken for granted.
I am very excited about what the future holds for me.
Firstly, I am looking forward to getting back to the stage I was, or better. Rehab is going amazing and I reckon I will be able to play by next season.
The World Championships are next year, and I am looking forward to that.
I'm really looking forward to seeing my family too, as it has been a while since I have seen them, especially my mom.