702 days … and counting.
That's how long it's been since Emily Brittain laced up her boots and played in an Albion College women's soccer game.
After a nagging injury forced Brittain to have surgery and miss her entire junior season, she learned patience while gaining a whole new perspective -- both on and off the pitch.
As a sophomore, Brittain scored three goals and dished out three assists in an injury-plagued 13 games. Knowing she'd have a more prominent role as a junior, she worked tirelessly in the offseason to prepare for 2019.
"I was ready to go off," said Brittain. "I felt the most prepared ever for a college season."
Even with the extra preparation, her left hip was bothering her all preseason -- a feeling she dates back to high school.
"I just ignored it for years. I never missed much time due to injury, so I wasn't going to say anything with the season right around the corner."
After her father took her for an MRI, much to Brittain's disdain, it showed she tore cartilage in her left hip socket and would need surgery to repair it.
"It was so out of the blue. I went from being a few weeks away from our first game to needing season-ending surgery before it even began," said Brittain.
A tough pill to swallow for Brittain, she had a support system that knew this surgery was in her best interest. One of her biggest supporters was Albion head coach, Eric Scott.
"It was tough to watch her last year in preseason. She was unable to do what she's good at -- taking players on, being active, running at back lines -- and I think that's what led her to get the surgery done," recalled Scott. "It was a brave decision to lose a year of soccer, but it needed to happen for better long-term results."
As her teammates readied for the 2019 campaign, Brittain navigated her way through the recovery process. Unable to be weight-bearing for a few weeks due the lining of the hip socket being stitched, the then-junior needed to find new ways to be a contributor to the team.
"I'm a very competitive person and how I lead is by going hard in practice," said Brittain. "I had to reevaluate how I could gain the respect from my teammates, especially now that I was an upperclassman."
Scott knew her presence on the field would be missed as well.
"She offers a lot to our training that goes beyond her soccer skills," said Scott. "She's good at popping around and talking to different players, never hesitates to come in the office to chat -- it's the totality of the little things that make her special."
Brittain found a solution, becoming a vocal leader her teammates could look up to.
"I would literally drag my chair to the end line and be as involved as possible," recalled Brittain. "I learned to be very vocal during practices and games and help wherever I could."
After missing the regular season, Brittain would then miss the non-traditional spring season while studying in Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, she interned with The Urban League of Philadelphia, a nonprofit where she worked with their prison re-entry program.
Eager to be back on the field, she joined a soccer league in Philadelphia. Days before their first match, the league was canceled as a result of COVID-19.
With the MIAA's decision to postpone fall competition to the spring, Brittain is forced to wait even longer for her return to the pitch. Brittain, like other fall athletes, remains optimistic about the spring season.
"We're practicing right now, and it feels so good to play again. Just being back on the field outweighs the situation that we're not having a traditional fall season, but I have high hopes for the spring," said Brittain.
It'll be more than two full years since her last game by the time Brittain returns. To prepare, she has a very simple attitude she's taken from this experience.
"I'm taking it practice by practice and try to value every time I am on the field," said Brittain.
And sometimes, that's all you can do.