MILTON, Ga. — Milton student Belle Briede lay on the soccer field having just shattered her MCL in five places. The force from the break was so great it had subsequently torn her ACL. Her eyes began to fill with tears, tears not caused pain she said, but the fear that her prominent soccer career had just ended.
Briede had been named an All-American three consecutive years, was selected for the U.S. women’s National U15 team and had verbally committed to Stanford University, one of the premier soccer programs in the country. But as she was being helped off the field, she wondered if those accolades would be her last.
After the extensiveness of her injury became apparent, Briede understood an arduous and long journey to recovery lay before her. But she vowed to do whatever it took to get back to the sport she loves.
“My injury was a turning point for me in the way it made me realize how much I love the sport and how much I value it,” Briede said. “The hardest part for me was to understand that I wasn’t going to be playing for such a long period of time. I’m so accustomed to going to practice every day, and having that suddenly stop was frightening.”
Briede’s road to recovery began with physical training, but she pushed herself well beyond her three therapy sessions a week. Briede would watch motivational speakers online, work her muscles every chance she had and pushed herself through the pain.
“It was so strange to not be able to have movements you had always been able to do, even just the simple movement of walking,” she said.
She was striving to get back to the sport, one that had been a part of her everyday life, but the gravity of her injury would not permit a quick recovery.
“The first time I tried to pass a ball I was unable to because of the pain,” she said. “A lot of self-doubt and depression came on because I was trying to push myself when my body wasn’t ready. My recovery was taking so much time and I didn’t want it to. You always want to quickly get back to anything you love so dearly.”
Slowly but surely, and not due to a lack of effort, Briede began to regain her strength. Nine months after her injury, she was back on the field and more determined than ever.
Briede used her injury as motivation to continue to strive for improvement.
“My mentality after I got back on the field was, if I can overcome my injury, I can overcome anything. I used that to push me in the future to get better physically and emotionally.”
With her revitalized vigor, Briede continued her standout performances, and a year to the day after her injury she was invited to join the U18 Women’s National Team.
Briede competed in an international tournament in Ireland, scoring two goals for Team USA.
“Wearing the crest of Team USA is such an honor,” she said. “I am so grateful to be able to represent my country, play with the most talented players in the United States and against the best talent in the world. It is truly special to me.”
Briede was recently invited to attend the U20 team’s camp, a step she hopes will bring her close to her goal of making the Women’s National Team.
While she pursues that goal she will also be pursuing a national championship with Stanford. Briede verbally committed to the university her sophomore year and signed a National Letter of Intent in January. Stanford won a national championship in 1998 and has made appearances in the NCAA tournament 23 out of 33 years.
It wasn’t just the soccer program that will bring Briede to Stanford. After having spent a great amount of time on the West Coast attending national team soccer camps, she said Stanford had a feeling of home.
Briede said her commitment to Stanford was a dream come true.
“I never expected to go the West Coast, but with camps it became my second home,” she said. “The soccer program has a lot of success and to be a part of that program is an honor. I’m a little nervous to be so far from home but on my visit it felt like home and that everyone was going to get along.”
“It seemed very family-oriented and that’s important for me being so far away from home,” she said.
Before she arrives at Stanford, Briede will finish out her time at Milton. Given the time commitment that is required to train and compete with the national teams, she does not play on Milton’s varsity team. In fact, she must miss weeks of class at a time while away at camps.
She says she must stay diligent to complete her studies while away at camps, but with the assistance of her teachers as well as online courses, she is able to continue her studies from various locations in the United States and abroad. Briede believes the strain of taking high school courses while traveling and training will prepare her for the academic rigors of Stanford.
Through her injury and her return to prominence as one of the top women soccer players in the country, Briede said she has not taken her opportunities for granted.
“It’s incredible to see how everything has worked out,” she said. “Not many people know what I do and the sacrifices I make. I want people to know I’m doing something that so many others don’t have the opportunity to do and I’m pushing myself every day to succeed.”