Playing through it: Hodges adapts to injury
Senior returns to roster after serving as assistant coach
No degree of success can be achieved without the will to sacrifice whatever it takes. Few are able to say they can leave behind a legacy. Those that do are rarely the ones to mention it.
Grand Valley State’s Bryan Hodges will leave his name in the record books long after his time at GVSU. His career isn’t over just yet, however.
One of the top players on GVSU’s men’s tennis team, Hodges is 68-29 in singles play during his tenure with the Lakers – a record that didn’t come without years of hard work and perseverance. From the time Hodges was 10, tennis has been a main focus. His performance in high school earned him a scholarship to GVSU, and it was something he wouldn’t forget.
“I felt as though GVSU had put a lot of faith in my ability and I was going to make sure that I didn’t let the Athletic department down,” Hodges said.
As Hodges’ record shows, that vow of commitment holds.
However, the biggest hurdle Hodges had to overcome in his collegiate career began in the first semester of his freshman year. A pinched nerve in his right shoulder caused the muscle to deteriorate.
To make matters worse, the affected arm was his dominant, and his strength as a player went downhill. Despite surgery last year, Hodges rarely escapes the pain in his shoulder during a match. But sometimes playing prowess comes in the form of tactics, a lesson Hodges learned quickly in order to stay at the top.
Hodges said he switched from a power style to being a more tactical-based player. The use of sharp angles and ball placement in lieu of power gave him an edge, and his determination only added to his strength on the court.
GVSU coach John Black has seen him develop since the injury.
“When he first started he was very consistent, tough in matches and learned to put the ball away,” Black said. “He has upped his game and how he attacks. He’s the type of player who will win four out of five matches no matter what.
“He’s the guy we want on the court.”
Increasing pain in his arm didn’t deter Hodges from playing, and he competed with his injury until last year when he decided to redshirt. Hodges said he wanted to be there for his team and knew he could fight through the pain. When it became too much, he took time off the court and switched roles.
Hodges served as an assistant coach for the team in the meantime, helping in any way he could and gaining valuable experience along the way.
“It was hard sitting on the sidelines for a season, but I knew that my role had changed for the year and that I could help my team by coaching,” Hodges said. “I was able to learn different tactics to use on the court and also learned how to motivate others to help them reach their goals.”
That leadership perspective has transitioned into his presence on the court in his final season, which begins with his fellow seniors against Davenport on Friday.
While Hodges hasn’t fully recovered the strength in his shoulder from freshman year, he has seen improvement in his match results. His recent move into the No. 3 spot for all-time singles wins at GVSU showcases his determination.
“Setting a record like that under my unfortunate circumstances showed me that anything is possible if you have the drive and commitment to do it,” Hodges said. “I was hurt and I went out there every match and played it like I was 100 percent healthy.”
Being in the record books wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for Hodges’ commitment to being the best. Hardships serve only as a setback to those who aspire to greatness -- and overcoming them is half the battle, he said.
“I know for a fact that if I didn’t believe I could still play with the injury, I would have had to quit a long time ago,” Hodges said.