COLUMBIA — Nobody can tell Sydney Washington to stop playing her favorite sports. Not even a doctor.
Last year, Washington, a freshman at Hickman High School and a starter on the varsity softball team, found out she had injured the meniscus in her left knee. Washington did not like what the doctor was saying.
“I kept wondering if I was going to be able to play or if I would get another chance,” Washington said.
Washington had the right to be worried. Playing sports all the time was all she knew. Not only was Washington active in softball, but she also had been involved in gymnastics since she was 6.
The injury was caused by a gradual wearing of the tissue in her knee. According to Washington’s doctor, her knee looked like that of a 40- to 50-year-old’s.
“The doctor told me that I needed to stop softball and gymnastics and start swimming because it is less stressful on the joints,” Washington said.
Washington took in what the doctor had to say but in the end decided to go another route.
“I just couldn’t give them up,” Washington said. “I just love the sports and my teams too much.”
Today, Washington suffers from arthritis in her knee and wears a bulky brace anytime she does athletic activities. Still, Washington has kept playing. She is now the starting center fielder for the Kewpies, and she competes at the highest level available at Show-Me Gymnastics.
Washington’s mother, Susan Washington, attributes her daughter's strong drive to the rigorous conditioning and training she has gone through in gymnastics throughout the years.
“I don’t think people realize the time and commitment gymnastics is,” Susan Washington said. “She’s been doing it all since she was little, and it has given her that attitude.”
“Sports have made me very determined,” Sydney Washington said. “I hate being the last one. If I fall off the beam in gymnastics, I always want to get right back on, or if I get an out when I’m batting in softball, I want to be right back up there so I can get a hit.”
Not only has Sydney Washington gained mental toughness from gymnastics, she has also become a much stronger athlete as well.
“(From training in gymnastics) I have gained a lot of muscle,” Sydney Washington said. “It helps a lot when I'm batting because my legs can give me a good push off to generate power. Running toward the vault, doing the floor routine and running bases all benefit each other as well.”
Being involved in two sports on top of the school year has made for a hectic schedule for Sydney Washington. After an eight-hour school day, she goes to softball practice every weekday from 3 to 5:30 p.m. and gymnastics from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“I have no idea how I do it sometimes,” Sydney Washington said. “My teams depend on me, so I have to be there for them. For my schoolwork I just have to stay up late and use my study halls really well.”
Participating in both softball and gymnastics has also shown Washington that team environments can be similar and different at the same time.
“With gymnastics I am with a bunch of different age groups,” Washington said. “There are little kids, so we can act silly and goofy. We do that in softball too, but it’s a more serious environment.”
Hickman hosts the Kewpie Klassic this weekend at Antimi Fields in Cosmopolitan Park. Games begin at 4 p.m. Friday and at 10 a.m. Saturday.