Ex-Lady Indian prepares for senior year of college softball
by Emily Grooms
Growing up, playing sports was as much a part of Rebecca Creswell's everyday life as it has been now as a senior member of Truett McConnell's softball program.
But at age 12, they were nearly taken away forever when taking what seemed to be routine soccer physical.
That's when doctors told her that she had a severe case of scoliosis and quite possibly may never play organized sports again.
The Newnan native and former East Coweta High softball standout had a 53-percent curve in the bottom half of her spine and a 47-percent curve on the top. The prognosis was dire, with the need to operate immediately due to the potential for her organs to be starved for blood.
In a 10-hour procedure doctors fused two rods to her spine to increase her height two inches.
'The day I found out that I had scoliosis was one of the lowest days of my life,' Creswell said. 'It was completely unexpected. I had all the check-ups at school, my back never hurt, and there were never any warning signs. One day I went in for a normal soccer physical and my life was changed forever.'
While recovery involved a seven month process, it was equally tough for relearning a grueling position like catcher Her straightened back forced her to become mechanically perfect.
'I have to hit and field correctly because that's the only way my back will work,' she said.
'When you play catcher, you have to have the ability to roll your shoulders and block balls in the dirt. I had to learn to physically overcome this obstacle and retrain my body; but with great coaches and a lot of practice, I was able to overcome it.'
At East Coweta, Creswell played first, catcher and even pitched at times, while contributing in trips to the 2008 Class AAAAA state finals as a junior and a return trip to the GHSA Elite 8 as a senior.
For a mental aspect, the ordeal had a positive effect on Creswell in more ways than one.
'It made me tougher,' she said. 'I've learned so much having to go through this challenge, and I'm thankful for every day that the Lord allows me to step foot on the field. I have learned to play every game like it's your last, because for me, it almost was.'
Creswell has played on the Truett-McConnell College softball team for four years, and in 2013 her teammates successfully nominated her for the National Intercollegiate Athletic Association's Character Award.
Last season, she appeared in 25 of the Bears' 41 games, including 11 starts.
'Creswell is the type of person who puts the needs of others before herself,' said head softball coach Jenni Shepard. 'She always goes above and beyond what is expected as a teammate, on and off the field. She's a woman of faith who plays and lives life with a lot of heart. I've enjoyed watching her mature and grow into the person she is today.'
Creswell said one thing she will always take with her is the lessons she learned in overcoming adversity.
'In life, and in softball, you are going to be presented with challenges,' she said. 'It's how you respond and act in those moments that define what kind of person you choose to be.
Having scoliosis surgery allowed me to see God's bigger plan for my life, and I would never go back and change that.'
The seven months of recovery, in which Creswell was tutored from home through most of her seventh grade year, certainly tested her faith.
'I was angry, hurt, and confused. How could God give me these talents, gifts, and abilities and then just let me waste them away?' Creswell said.
While recovering, Creswell satisfied her social interaction by attending church.
'Before that, I played softball every weekend, sometimes playing two tournaments in a single weekend. Needless to say, I believed in God, but didn't go to church or have any other fellowship other than hanging out with my softball teammates.'
It was during that time that Creswell realized that her priorities had to change from what they had been.
'My eyes were finally opened to how I had literally been worshiping softball and, right then, I knew something had to change,' she said.
As her physical strength grew, so did her strength in her faith.
'I can honestly say that the reason I went from barely being able to walk, to back out on the field, running bases and catching pitches, is all from the will of God. When I tell most doctors that I still play softball, they look at me like I'm crazy, but I just tell them that God has allowed me to play, and until he takes it away, I'm going to give him the victory and all the glory in everything I do.'