The power of per­se­ver­ance

The Progress-Index Weekend - - LOCAL - [CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO]

Dur­ing her time as a Richard Bland Col­lege stu­dent and vol­ley­ball player, Mal­lory Cun­ning­ham, Richard Bland Col­lege of Wil­liam & Mary Class of ‘20, has learned a thing or two about per­se­ver­ance.

Be­com­ing a stu­den­tath­lete at Richard Bland Col­lege of Wil­liam & Mary was some­thing of a fam­ily tra­di­tion for Cun­ning­ham, who has as­pi­ra­tions of be­com­ing a lawyer.

“My father, Eric, was cap­tain of the 1985-86 Richard Bland Col­lege bas­ket­ball team and is a mem­ber of the Col­lege’s bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame,” she said. A self-de­scribed “ath­lete since I was 3 years old,” Cun­ning­ham de­cided to fol­low in her father’s foot­steps by at­tend­ing RBC and play­ing on the in­au­gu­ral Women’s Vol­ley­ball team.

At her very first prac­tice, Cun­ning­ham ex­pe­ri­enced a ma­jor set­back.

“I ap­proached the net on a kill shot, some­thing I have done hun­dreds of times be­fore with­out in­ci­dent,” she said. “I jumped high, but landed awk­wardly on my left knee. It buck­led badly, and ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain ex­ploded as my knee be­gan to swell.”

Fol­low­ing med­i­cal tests, Mal­lory re­ceived word that both her MCL and ACL were torn. Hav­ing played sports all her life, in­juries were noth­ing new to Mal­lory, but this in­jury would re­quire 12 months of ex­ten­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“Surgery was forth­com­ing, along with the end of a sea­son that never re­ally started,” said Mal­lory. “De­spite be­ing com­forted by my fam­ily, I could not keep my­self from cry­ing. Each day of ther­apy seemed to drag on,” she re­called. “I felt emo­tion­ally ex­hausted at the end of ev­ery ses­sion, and the end seemed like it was nowhere in sight.”

Cun­ning­ham cred­its the peo­ple around her in­clud­ing her fam­ily and friends, as well as fac­ulty and staff at Richard Bland - for keep­ing her on-track and fo­cused on her re­turn to the court.

“Their en­cour­age­ment kept me mo­ti­vated to tackle each day of phys­i­cal ther­apy and re­hab, and fo­cused on my aca­demics as an hon­ors stu­dent,” she said.

Cun­ning­ham made her re­turn to the court this sea­son, where she helped the team win the NJCAA Di­vi­sion I Re­gion X Championship.

Go­ing through the in­jury and sub­se­quent re­hab was daunt­ing, but Cun­ning­ham learned a valu­able les­son from the ad­ver­sity.

“De­spite ev­ery­thing, go­ing through such a trau­matic in­jury ended up hav­ing a pos­i­tive ef­fect on me,” she said. “I learned how chal­leng­ing it is to develop pa­tience.”

Cun­ning­ham plans on ap­ply­ing these lessons out­side of the vol­ley­ball court, as she looks to con­tinue her ed­u­ca­tion.

“My ul­ti­mate goal is to at­tend the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia and be­come a lawyer,” she said. “The jour­ney will re­quire ded­i­ca­tion and en­durance, but be­cause of my ex­pe­ri­ences, I am pre­pared for any ob­sta­cle that stands in my way.”

This ar­ti­cle was pro­vided by the Richard Bland Col­lege of Wil­liam & Mary Com­mu­ni­ca­tions De­part­ment.

Mal­lory Cun­ning­ham is a mem­ber of the Richard Bland Col­lege of Wil­liam & Mary Class of 2020. This States­man Scholar has as­pi­ra­tions of be­com­ing a lawyer.

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