Brentaro Yamane | Staff Writer
Oct. 14, 2021
Amanda Kalin, a member of the Duquesne women’s basketball team, tore her ACL after her knee buckled during a game against Dayton on Jan. 3. Despite an instant realization that her season was over, she remained surprisingly positive.
“I told myself I would focus on what I can do with the injury rather than what I can’t do,” Kalin told The Duke. “There were a lot of ups and downs with it.”
The injury ultimately resulted in surgery. It was the first time in Kalin’s career that she endured a surgical procedure, but she remained calm throughout the process.
“That stuff doesn’t freak me out. I have a pretty strong faith,” Kalin said. “Obviously you get a little nervous naturally, but I was in a good headspace to handle this injury.”
Since sustaining the injury, Kalin has been going to physical therapy on a daily basis and is steadily progressing. While an exact return date has not been announced, Head Coach Dan Burt is excited to have her back.
“We are focused on getting her back to being healthy,” Burt said. “When she comes back, then we’ll focus more on perfecting her craft and making her a better player.”
Kalin’s coaches and training staff have helped expedite the recovery process. Their consistent positive attitudes have helped her become more eager to get back on the court.
“I have created a relationship with every single one of them [athletic trainers], and they have all helped me,” Kalin said. “Steve [Labate] would help bend my leg every single day. Everybody in there is positive and willing to help. I would not be where I am at all without my strength coach and trainers.”
Chris Tarullo was the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Duquesne for five years before accepting a position as head strength and conditioning coach at the St. Albans School earlier this month. While he is no longer at Duquesne, athletes like Kalin will still feel his presence.
“He was a major part of me coming back,” Kalin said. “He genuinely cares about each and every one of us. When anyone on the team gets injured, he feels it, too, and I can tell it takes a toll on him too. He has been there with me since Day One.”
Besides the coaches and training staff, Kalin also cited her family and friends as being a strong source of assistance.
“My family and siblings text me all the time to see how I’m doing,” Kalin said. “They told me to have faith in God and that my sport doesn’t define me. My older sister cooked me breakfast while I was student-teaching last semester. When I came back to school, I had my boyfriend there to cook for me and do my laundry.”
Although Kalin has not been lifting the same weights as the rest of her teammates, she feels that she’s in a good physical state. She believes that being able to do her own lifting exercises is a good thing.
She is also in one of the best mental states that she has ever been in. Anyone that plays sports has challenges to overcome, and Kalin is no exception.
“When you play a sport in college, it feels like people tend to think that athletes are spoiled and that they have it really easy,” Kalin said. “You put so much time in, and it drains you, mentally and physically. It’s easy to get negative and be down on yourself, but I would say I worked through that.”
Kalin has been regarded as a player that provides great leadership. While she is known by the team as the leader on the basketball court, her injury and subsequent setback allowed her to become a leader on the bench by providing advice and support.
“I try to lead by example. Doing the work, being the first one done, being the hardest worker out of everyone,” Kalin said. “I see younger girls who are really stepping up and being great leaders. Everybody is eager to get back to it.”
When Kalin is finally able to get back on the court, she will be playing in the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse for the first time since its reopening. By the time it opened during last season, Kalin was already injured. It’s been over two years since she has played in a true home game filled with fans.
“It will be really exciting because I have not played in the brand-new gym. We have not had a real home game in over two years,” Kalin said. “It’s going to be a crazy feeling, but I’ve never really thought in-depth about that because I try to take things one day at a time.”
Burt echoed Kalin’s sentiment about finally having a home-court advantage after two arduous seasons.
“Having a home to play in filled with fans makes an impact on a team,” Burt said. “We haven’t had that experience in over two years. I’m excited to see the arena filled with fans, and I think it will provide good energy to our team.”
With players like Kalin still recovering from her injury and the team trying to rebound from a season littered with Covid-19 hiccups, it’ll take a good attitude and strong mental health to be able to achieve goals. Burt is keenly aware of that.
“I always advise our players to take care of themselves. If our players ever have any problems, our coaching staff will always be there for them,” Burt said. “That’s part of the culture we create. We look after one another.”
Despite having been dealt one of the most-devastating injuries an athlete can suffer, Kalin doesn’t feel sorry for herself.
“Everybody is battling their own things. Life is not meant to be easy,” Kalin said. “Nobody promised that you would have an easy life. There are going to be things that are thrown at you. And while it gets really hard at times, you’re going to feel depressed and have those feelings of anxiety.”
As Kalin is well aware, a strong surrounding cast can make all the difference.
You need to lean on the support system around you and eventually you have to power through,” Kalin said. “It is important to look after yourself. If you can’t take care of yourself, then you cannot take care of those around you.”