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Burnet’s MaeSyn Gay learns plenty while recovering from injury

CAPTION: Burnet High School senior MaeSyn Gay (left) is coaching the incoming freshmen during volleyball summer league play at Marble Falls. Coaching is one of Gay’s newest additions and something she discovered she enjoys while recovering from a knee injury. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Burnet High School senior MaeSyn Gay is still on gymnasium sidelines, proving once more the gym is her home away from home after spending the spring semester of the 2022-23 school year rehabbing an injured knee.

“It’s really good,” she said with her trademark smile. “I’m finally feeling back to normal and counting down the days.”

The target date is Aug. 1 — one day after the start of two-a-days — to get a full release from doctors so she can return to playing in her final year in Kelly green where she is expected to play volleyball, basketball and run track.

“I feel ready,” she said in between matches on the final night of the Marble Falls June volleyball league. “Now I want to come back stronger.”

Prior to her injury, Gay was the featured Lady Dawg on the volleyball and basketball teams or running track where everyone in the gym — opponents included — knew who was going to get the ball when Burnet needed a score. Since she has been sidelined, she was forced to find other ways to contribute to the outstanding sports year the Lady Dawgs enjoyed where they won district titles in volleyball, cross country, soccer, track and field and softball.

She suffered the leg injury soon after the Christmas holiday, days after leading the Lady Dawgs to victory in the District 24-4A opener.

To say 2023 has been challenging for Gay is an understatement, especially since so much was going so right. The Burnet basketball team beat Marble Falls, the overwhelming favorite to win the district championship, 43-29 Jan. 6. Then the Lady Dawgs traveled to Lampasas seeking district win No. 2 four days later. But Gay’s leg injury occurred seconds into the contest. The Lady Badgers won 44-22. The Lady Dawgs ended up losing two of their next three games, including to the Lady Mustangs 55-48 at The Doghouse in the rematch.

Meanwhile, Gay had surgery and was starting rehab, all in about two weeks after the injury. For an athlete who makes jumping to the gym ceiling look easy and may have associated her much of her identity with her athletic ability, Gay said it was difficult to straighten her leg to keep it from getting stiff.

“One hundred percent,” she said. “Sports are my life. I play them 24-7. Now what? Now what am I supposed to do? I’m very hard on myself. I felt defeated the first couple of days after my surgery when I was at home. I was really sad. This is hard. But then coming back — rehabbing is my favorite thing. Now I feel mentally stronger. This is where I’m growing.”

She was forced to find other qualities about herself she may not have known were there or didn’t appreciate much. One is doing the simple tasks in athletics. The Lady Dawg does 90 minutes of rehab daily that includes “lots of jumping.”

“I run a lot, I run all the time,” she said.

Since she couldn’t be on the court, Gay said she had to figure out how to be helpful to her teammates. She watched as the basketball team rebounded to finish tied for second in district and led the applause when she saw them excel, especially classmate Zaria Solis, who was named the district’s Most Valuable Player. Gay was encouraging, telling her teammates what she was seeing on the sideline, and working on being the ideal teammate.

“God works in many mysterious ways,” she said. “I worked on being happy in uncomfortable positions. I listened to others and not do everything by myself.”

And she has been coaching. During the Marble Falls volleyball league, Gay was coaching the incoming freshmen and helping them learn head coach Crystal Shipley’s playbook. Gay offered her expertise and insight, and those younger Lady Dawgs helped the senior, too.

They helped her realize how much she has enjoyed the sport from the coach’s perch.

“I coach slash teach slash mentor,” she said. “I believe everyone can be a scorer and be a competitor. Now I see it as I want to help people love the game as much as I do. I’ve grown to appreciate every practice, every workout, every team dinner. They’re all important.”

As she reflected on the spring semester that began with what most athletes consider to be one of the most challenging events to overcome, Gay sees herself as more than an athlete.

“I think it was a blessing in disguise,” she said. “Everyone had to grow in many ways to win.”

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