Embracing The Challenges

By Jeremy McDonald

jeremymcdonald73@gmail.com

SALEM, Ore.–  Salem Academy’s Bailey Pedersen was tested once more following breaking her elbow in the May of 2019 thirty minutes into the second day of summer basketball while still at Cascade High School.

“We were going up and down running plays and I was running cross court to fill in a spot and another player was running and we both collided with our defenders and when I fell, I just hit my elbow in the right spot,” said Pedersen.  “But I had previously hurt it during my volleyball season, while diving I had broken my elbow padding surrounding the elbow and so when I hit it in basketball there was nothing to protect it and so it broke.”

For the next two months, Pedersen’s arm was in a cast.  The elbow joint was locked in a 90-degree angle the whole time, and when the cast came off, the muscles and ligaments that surround the joint were stuck for a while as she worked the left elbow back into fighting shape.

It was hard for the then-sophomore not to be out there playing as Volleyball started.  Pedersen is a super competitive person, hustling down a ball in Volleyball.  Diving, sprinting, anything to save the ball.

In basketball, she tries to be a shutdown defender while looking for a good pass as the point guard of the offense.  Not minding creating her own shot if need be.  When the Crusaders did their free throw fundraiser, Pedersen wanted to hit 90 of 100 free throws and got frustrated at herself when she only got 88 of the 100.  Coming awfully close to her goal.

Pedersen as an eighth-grader at Cascade Middle School playing basketball (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

“I’m a hustler and scrappy,” Pedersen said.  “I’m very competitive in both sports, and I push myself to be the best by playing with/against the best.”

With her on the sidelines healing up, Pedersen got a chance to see things from a coach’s perspective.  Getting those mental reps in through Summer Ball and into Volleyball season.  Seeing things, she wouldn’t normally see while out in a game.  Things that she could bring back into her game when she was able to.

During Volleyball, Head Coach Cristina Williams and assistant coach Erwin Soto kept her involved.

“Coach Cristina and Coach Erwin really worked to keep me involved in everything knowing that I couldn’t play at 110 percent, and it was hard for me to sit on the bench and watch my team when I wanted to be on the floor playing so badly,” Pedersen said.  “It was a long mental game with myself as much physical, but without the support from my family, friends, and coaches it would have been even harder. It was around six months of physical therapy, and it took mostly all of volleyball season but eventually I got to where the best it can be and I’ve adapted to it

“I was determined to work hard and push myself to be better, so I started basketball workouts with Price Johnson at the hoop working on being aggressive and I started playing with the boys to help me become quicker, and aggressive and to build up my confidence. But also, by doing workouts with Tyler Walker working on my moves and driving skills, and to improve I’m dribbling and point guard skills. I worked out with Coach Erwin to work on my setting, passing, hitting, and serves. With having my elbow broken I knew once I came out of the cast my main goal would be to push myself to be the best I can be, to be the best for the team. Breaking my elbow has made me a better player and person.”

Pedersen playing with Cascade High School in La Grande this past season in the 4A State First Round (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

Just as the elbow challenged her mentally, Type-1 diabetes has also challenged her from a physical sense.

Having been diagnosed 16 years in January, with an Omni-pod for insulin and a Dexcom to track her blood sugar, it has made Pedersen very aware of her surroundings to maintain a good level for herself.  Late games, practices, etc. while communicating with her coaches who are keeping track of her to make sure she’s on-top of any spikes or drops in the numbers.

Cues come around in the way of a headache and irritability when she’s started to get high, describing the headache as bad and can’t get comfortable.  If it’s low, she describes herself as getting very goofy and borderline crazy, like a child on the loose with her reactions being slower.

“I just have to be conscious of what I eat and when I eat. In practices I monitor it myself but in games I give them to a coach and ask them every now and then what I am and I’ll make adjustments as needed at halftime or a timeout,” Pedersen said.  “Both games and practices I always have Gatorade on me and by me on the bench in case I have a low and need some sugar real quick. Diabetes has taught me a lot about how to maintain a healthy diet and has helped me keep my body healthy as well.”

She used to be very self-conscious about having diabetes because she felt like she was different.  Yet, as she got older and got comfortable with having diabetes, she started to embrace having it.

Pedersen fielding the volleyball as Annabelle Brawley (left) and Hannah Warde (Right) watch at the NPJ Quad League this past Fall (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

“I want to be someone a kid who has it can look up to and realize they are different and that they can do whatever they put their mind to,” Pedersen said.  “Having diabetes and playing sports has pushed me to be an example to kids and a leader, and by breaking my elbow it strengthened my mental game and pushed my physical game even farther. I cannot wait until i can start playing with my friends again.”

Pedersen mentioned too when she made the move to Salem Academy from Cascade High School, many people were interested in her having diabetes.  Talking about her having it and seeing the process in work.

Over this past Fall, Pedersen played in NPJ’s ‘Quad’ league along with Crusader teammates Hannah Warde, Aubrey Smith and Annabelle Brawley.  Adjusting to her new volleyball teammates entering hopefully their six-week season together in February.

“I loved playing quads with Hannah, Aubrey, and Annabelle. It was just so fun to be playing with people who have your back on the court and will try their hardest but have fun doing it too,” Pedersen said.  “I feel like I’m adjusting very well there, during volleyball it was just fluid when i was playing with them, it felt like I’ve played with them forever.  In the little basketball we did, I just can’t wait to actually play games with them. Moving to Salem Academy was probably my best decision I’ve made, and I’m so happy I did.”

Photos By Jeremy McDonald

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