NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Claire Eberle, a 2019 graduate of University of Scranton, earned the Ron Willensky award for overcoming an extreme hardship, which in her case was returning to play lacrosse her senior year after suffering a pulmonary embolism during August of 2018.
Eberle has always been a star lacrosse player, proving she is no stranger to hard work. She gained a four year varsity letter for New Providence high school where her team won the girls lacrosse conference championship her sophomore and junior year. She individually received the Most Improved Player honor and Honorable Mention honor as a sophomore, second-team all-league as a junior, and first-team all-league as a senior and was ultimately recruited to play for the University of Scranton. While in college, Eberle appeared on the IWLCA Zag Sports Academic Honor Roll and the Landmark Conference Academic Honor Roll and was named to the 2019 Landmark Conference Spring All-Sportsmanship Team.
Eberle was on vacation with her family when she found out she was suffering from pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. Eberle was placed on blood thinners and frequently traveled from school to doctors appointments to ensure a full recovery all while doing whatever it took to get back on the field for her senior season.
Eberle faced the biggest challenges of her career during her recovery. “Having to re-train myself at an extremely slow pace and standing on the sidelines while watching my teammates play was the hardest part,” Eberle says. She explains, “I was told to not even break a sweat, because that would be overdoing it. As a collegiate athlete, I’m used to sprinting 100 yards in 15 seconds and constantly lifting heavy weights.”
Focusing on lifting heavier weights and cutting down her mile time was no longer Eberle’s number one goal. Instead, mastering a once involuntary movement like walking became her focus.
Eberle was fortunate enough to have a strong work ethic, but it takes a pinch more than that to recover like she did. Mental visualizations were key, “I would picture myself back on the lacrosse field, playing healthy, fast, and strong.” Eberle would recommend mental techniques to any healing athlete as well as always giving themselves credit when due, “celebrate the small accomplishments and keep setting new goals.” Eberle explains, “ A couple of my first small accomplishments were walking to the end of my driveway and back, being able to get out of bed without pain, and going a full day using stairs and no elevator, each day you are stronger than you were the day before.” These are stellar methods of remaining positive, but there is one more ingredient to be found in the recipe for recovery.
The road to recovery is unavoidably hard but having people rooting for you along the way always makes it just a little bit easier. Eberle says, “A couple of my teammates would go down to the field with me to practice stick skills and cheer me on as I started jogging for the first time. The support and confidence they had in me to come back from this injury meant a lot to me and showed how much of a family we are.” The support she received from her teammates moved a step further from the strength they gave her while re-training; the team along with their coach nominated Eberle for the Ron Willensky award. “Hearing how much my teammates cared for and looked up to me, and wanted to put me up for this award was and is something I will always cherish,” Eberle says. No man is an island and surely no athlete is without the support of their teammates.
The Ron Willensky award is presented to a senior athlete, “who has overcome extreme hardship in his or her athletic career and personal life to excel in both athletics and in personal life. “I didn’t think that me coming back from an injury was something that would be rewarded, I simply did it to do what I love with the people that I love,” Eberle states. “I had one season left of my lacrosse career ever, I didn’t want that taken away and did all that I could to help my team in whichever way I could; and thankfully, that role was able to be on the field.” Eberle’s humbleness again shows how mature of an athlete she is. However, no one can argue how deserving and proud she should be of her recognition.
Eberle’s motto during her recovery was to be “all in.” “All in” her recovery, for her teammates and with her heart. Now is the time for the community to be “all in” for Eberle. To salute her for her journey which inspires anyone bouncing back from an injury.