Student-athletes often find that the field of competition is an extension of the classroom.
Of the lessons learned, the ability to get back up after being knocked down may be the greatest.
Trevor Spangenberg, a goalie on Missouri State's soccer team, has been there.
The 2009 Boone Grove graduate was playing a Premier Development Team game in Littleton, Colo., with the Springfield (Mo.) Demize on June 22, 2012, when he came out to challenge a 50-50 ball with a charging forward. It's a moment he'd encountered 100 times before, though this time was different.
"He went high and caught my leg," Spangenberg said.
The collison broke his right leg. An orthopedist was on hand, so Spangenberg received prompt treatment. He underwent surgery at a nearby trauma center the next morning.
Compartment syndrome occurred during the operation. The wound wouldn't close due to swelling and a metal brace was attached to his leg. Spanganberg had three surgeries in eight days. The brace was removed and a titanium rod inserted in his tibia.
From there, he and his mom Melinda, who had flown to Colorado, took an 18-hour train ride to Chicago. A fourth surgery at Porter Hospital in Portage, attempted to close the wound, and a fifth at Northwestern, grafted skin to cover it. Spangenberg couldn't move his leg for five days.
A doctor told him he would be unable to run for a year and if he played soccer again, it would not be at the level he once performed. Spangenberg appreciated the honesty, but would not accept it.
"It helped motivate me even more, to prove them wrong," he said. "There wasn't ever really a question of me making it back."
Since Spangenberg had redshirted as a freshman and the injury didn't occur in a collage match, he lost his junior season. He quickly focused all of his attention on getting back between the pipes for 2013. During the process, he found the web site, Take No Days Off, which not only impacted his recovery, but his life.
"I could let it ruin me or bounce back better than before," Spangenberg said. "I had a pretty good work rate before, but the fact that I lost soccer, it put things in perspective. I appreciated it more. I realized it wasn't entitled to me any more. It can be taken away at any time. I made sure I gave 100 percent every day. I applied the (Take No Days Off) principle to soccer and it grew into school and everything else. It made everything more complete. It made my life a lot better."
He returned to Missouri State in August 2012, 25 pounds lighter and on crutches. Spangenberg spent the next eight months religiously rehabbing at the school training facility. He was medically cleared on March 13, 2013. He circled the date of the first spring game with a goal of playing, which he did.
"That was my first big step," Spangenberg said.
The next was returning to the PDT team he was on when he got injured.
"I wanted to come back in August ready to go, not have any doubts," Spangenberg said. "I had to take the risk."
It proved well worth it. Spangenberg is in the midst of a remarkable season in which he has fashioned seven straight shutouts and twice won the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week award. He stands one short of the school career record of 11 and his career goals against average of 0.37 ranks second in MVC history.
"I can't take all the credit," Spangenberg said. "It's everyone in front of me. They set the standard from day one."
Most important to him, the Bears (10-3-2) have clinched the top seed in the MVC tournament. If they win, they qualify for the NCAA's big dance. Mom and dad (Don) haven't missed a match, even with the eight-and-a-half hour drives.
"I have an unbelievable support system," Spangenberg said. "They've been behind me the whole time, the hard days ..."
While he will graduate in December, Spangenberg hopes this won't be the end of soccer. He wants to play professionally, even if it means going overseas.
"To play and see the world at the same time, it would be an unbelievable experience," he said.