When Indiana University’s volleyball team took the court Wednesday against fifth-ranked Nebraska, Ally Badowski was there.
Instead of taking swings from her outside hitter position, however, the Brunswick graduate was relegated to sitting on the bench, offering words of encourage to her teammates and — the hardest part — waiting.
Badowski, who has been sidelined since the preseason with a partially torn rotator cuff, knows her time will come again. But for now its coach/cheerleader Badowski helping the Hoosiers the only way she knows how.
“Whatever I can do to help, that’s important,” she said. “I’m so grateful to be here, and you just have to give back. Obviously I can’t play right now, so I can’t give that, but I know I can talk and I can do this and that, do whatever I can right now, so whenever I come back I’m not behind.”
Like any athlete, Badowski is used to playing through pain. But the discomfort the 6-footer had in her right shoulder when Indiana brought its two-week preseason camp to a close at the beginning of August was too much to fight through.
“It kind of started bothering me in the spring and I just thought it was going to go away,” she said. “When that didn’t happen, I thought I needed to say something because I didn’t want anything worse to happen and it was really bothering me. I didn’t feel like I could compete at my best.”
An MRI revealed it was less than a 50 percent tear, leaving the window open for a possible return to Big Ten play this season, but Badowski knew the weeks to follow were going to be far from easy.
“When you’re in the game, you don’t realize that it can be taken away from you at any moment,” the 21-year-old said. “It just makes me more grateful when I’m healthy not to take the game for granted.
“It really sucks not playing because you want to get out there and you want to help your team, but you have to sit back and get healthy. That is what’s important.”
The former Gazette MVP has had a heavy dose of therapy, a cortisone shot and been trying to stay in shape as much as possible to prepare for her return.
Badowski, who missed her sophomore season at Brunswick with a fractured foot, has started passing and recently took her first swings in more than two months to see exactly what her shoulder could handle.
“When I found out I didn’t need surgery, I was relieved,” said Badowski, who appeared in 17 matches last fall for Indiana. “I’ve been playing volleyball since I was 9, and obviously going through something like surgery is traumatizing. It would be unfortunate if I had to go through that, because you play all those years and all that work you put in to be strong, that goes away.”
In the interim, Badowski has been watching the game to give her teammates advice, studying film and just being that supportive voice when her teammates need it the most. It’s a role the former All-Ohioan isn’t used to, but it making the most of.
“I’ve been just cheerleader Badowski and helping out with whatever they need” she said. “We have so many resources of people that there’s not much I can do, but I’m trying to stay involved.”
Badowski has been traveling with the team and is back to working on the court to see what she can physically handle. While there is no specific timetable for her return, the most important goal is getting back to where she feels she can contribute in one of the toughest volleyball conferences around.
“I’m hoping it’s soon, because I’ve been out so long,” she said. “If not, we’ll go from there, but my biggest thing is getting healthy and getting back as soon as possible.
“It’s all up in the air. It just depends on how I feel. If I feel like I can compete at the highest level that I need to compete in the Big Ten, we’ll just go from there.”