Dancing through the pain

Student finds success after injury

Monica Smith
Miranda Brooks dances during the basketball game Saturday.

Miranda Brooks was told she would never make it as a dancer.

When the senior psychology major told her high school coach she planned to try out for the USI dance team, her coach told her she didn’t think Brooks would ever make it.

“I wanted to prove her wrong,” Brooks said. “I wanted to take it to the next step and not just be the small-town girl who danced in high school.”

Brooks spent the summer after graduation taking private lessons and dedicating every spare hour practicing in her home studio. She received her acceptance to the university dance team that July.

By her sophomore year, Brooks had finally opened up to her team about her past experiences.

“I was having an off day with technique, and I asked if I could talk to one of my coaches after practice and I told her everything,” Brooks said. “She told me ‘we are here for you, everyone is here for you and we want you here.’ It really helped our relationship.”

Later that season, Brooks began developing foot pain after a long practice. After going to her trainer, she was told she had an extra bone in her foot.

It wasn’t until she had surgery in October of her senior year that they realized she had tibial sesamoidectomy and had been walking around with a broken foot.

“I think I tried to hold back the pain and not show it, but it definitely affected (me),” Brooks said. “It was frustrating because I could see people walking to campus and it was nothing for them, but on a scale of one to 10 my pain was probably a seven just walking. And I was like ‘how am I going to get through three hours of practice?”

Brooks had surgery in October and was unable to dance for three months.

“The support I got was everything I could ask for,” Brooks said. “I was so worried that I would become depressed because I wasn’t dancing, but there was never a time of doubt or depression because I could go to my coaches or my teammates, and if I needed to let it out they were there.”

Brooks said it was challenging having to sit out unable to dance while she watched her teammates grow and improve. Brooks said she attended every practice and tried to find ways to modify workouts so she could still be involved.

Finally, Brooks was able to start dancing again in January.

Jennifer Parker 
The University dance team smiles during their team pictures Jan. 10.

“Coming back was exhilarating,” Brooks said. “For the most part, I have been able to pick up where I left off. There have been some things that are still challenging because I don’t have all of my strength back yet, but once I come back completely I think I am going to be even stronger than I was.”

Jennifer Parker said normally losing a dancer is quite the process.

The head coach has been coaching for 12 seasons and said Brooks situation was unique.

“At the beginning of the season she went to see a doctor, and we discussed it and decided for her to go ahead and have surgery early instead of putting it off and potentially having an injury later in the season,” Parker said. “So, it actually worked out since we knew she was going to have it, we really didn’t have to redo any formations.”

Parker said she has been able to watch Brooks grow in confidence during her time on the team. She said Brooks is often referred to the “mom” of the team because her bag is always filled with anything someone might need.

“When you love something so much that you want to be out there it’s hard to see your teammates doing it when you can’t,” Parker said. “It’s hard to be there for three hours when you can’t do anything. She has jumped right back in there. But she has recovered really well and the outcome has seemed positive.”

Parker said she hasn’t seen a team dynamic like this one in a while.

“We started with a strong base,” Parker said. “If one person has a bad attitude, it can hurt the whole team. We try to focus on a ‘team’ aspect and not a ‘me’ aspect. Especially with nationals coming up we have to strengthen each other because they aren’t watching one person they are watching all 16.”

Parker said the team placed fourth in nationals last year, which was the best they had ever done. She said she thinks the team can do even better this year if they work together.

Brooks was able to perform in her first basketball game since her surgery in mid-January.  

“It was a really good feeling,” Brooks said. “Before I would always have to worry that if I do this jump and I land wrong am I going to be done? And yesterday I performed a dance for the first time without having any pain and it was such a great feeling.”