Need for speed

Athletes are used to doing things a certain way. Think of a power pitcher in baseball. He is used to throwing plus 90s all the time - that’s what he has done his entire life. Then an injury occurs and now he has to get use to pitching different.

It could be a challenge at time. Going from throwing the hard stuff to now mixing speeds and hitting the corners. It’s a process. A process that could take time.

A speed burner in high school, Edinboro’s Danielle Chatten has had to relearn her game in college. After a serious knee injury sidelined her after just 11 game sin 2016, the Niagara-Wheatfield High School graduate had to figure out what was going to work for her again.

“Freshman year, I played a game against Mercyhurst and she slide tackled me from the side and torn my ACL and MCL,” stated Chatten. “It took almost a year for me to play normal again. Last year was my most frustrating season because I wasn’t the player I was before the injury. I was very timid around the ball. I was a lot slower. I couldn’t run onto threw balls. I was too scared to go full speed thinking I was going to get hurt again.”

It has been a process, and one that has take time. While her speed is finally coming back, Chatten made sure she learned a few new tricks while to keep defenders second guessing. She has learned to play with her feet more - something that she never had to do before.

In high school, Chatten could easily use her speed to get around the defenders. She was the most talented player on the pitch on most nights, and used that talent to dominate game when she had to.

In college it has been a different story. Early on in her career she would use that speed. After the injury she had to learn a few new tricks. She was the power pitcher now learning how to paint the corners instead of throwing 97 all the time.

You could almost say after the injury she became a complete player. She learned to think more on the pitch instead of just using her athletic ability. She has become that player that frustrates the opposing team.

She has become someone that is hard to mark. Opposing coaches now have to be weary of Chatten’s all around game.

“High School was kind of a one man show. I used to like to take people on one-on-one,” stated Chatten recently by phone. “In college, I had to learn to play one-two touches. Also, getting injured during my freshman year has been a big problem so far in college.”

The biggest part from an injury like the one suffered buy Chatten isn’t the physical aspect of making it back - but the mental. Getting back in there and going full speed is not as easy as one might think.

In the back of her mind, she always wondered if this was going to happen again. Was the knee going to give out for no reason?

Playing at the Division II level is hard enough. Playing at the Division II level when you have doubt is even harder. So is feeling the effects of an injury. On the surface Chatten was going out and giving her team everything she had that first year she came back.

What people didn’t see was the pain and agony after every single game. That first year back was hell for Chatten. It tested her fortitude on a nightly basis.

“It was kind of frustrating because I had to play differently (because of the injury). I felt like I wasn’t the same player anymore,” stated Chatten. “After every game and every practice I could barely walk. I would play a game and then I would have to sit out the next practice or two because I could barely walk. It was just a constant battle with trying to keep myself healthy enough to play.”

After a year of going through hell, Chatten finally feels like herself. The year of self doubt is replaced with getting out there and helping her team win. She knows in the back of her mind that her knee can go at any moment.

But, what athlete doesn’t think that. After all, injuries are part of the game. It’s very rare that an athlete will go through their entire career without some sort of bumps and bruises.

“This summer is when the knee finally didn’t bother me as much,” stated Chatten. “I finally got my speed and I had to work overtime to finally get back to the player I was my freshman year.”

The new and improved Chatten is still the same player she was in high school and freshman year in college - she just added a few wrinkles. Having to sit out gave Chatten a chance to view the game differently.

She was able to see the field differently than she has before. That time away from the field allowed her to work on new things as well that she could added into her game. It was like Chatten 2.0.

You had the speed and someone who liked to run onto the through ball all the time to now someone who could do different things out on the pitch and gives the opposing teams different looks.

“Freshman year and club I was always a through ball player and taking defenders on one-on-one,” stated Chatten. “After the injury I couldn’t do that anymore because I wasn’t faster than anybody else. It was a new challenge with ball to feet and turn and take people on. It was like get the ball and get rid of it quick, which I wasn’t used to. It brought something else to my game. Now I am a little bit of both. I have the one-two touch aspect and now I can take people on. So, it opens up more things now.”

It would have been easy for Danielle Chatten to give up and just try to be the player before the injury. But, the young lady embraces the change and has become a better player because of it.