Fighting injury: After tearing her ACL for the second time, Anna Clephane is finding ways to get through her recovery process

Redshirt junior Anna Clephane sits on the bench after suffering an injury to her right leg during a Ball State Women's Basketball game against Kent State University Jan. 9 at Worthen Arena. Clephane was injured after falling during an atempted layup in the second half of the game. Eli Houser, DN
Redshirt junior Anna Clephane sits on the bench after suffering an injury to her right leg during a Ball State Women's Basketball game against Kent State University Jan. 9 at Worthen Arena. Clephane was injured after falling during an atempted layup in the second half of the game. Eli Houser, DN

When Anna Clephane feels overwhelmed, she’ll turn on a playlist of relaxing music or find time to draw. Maybe she’ll get a cup of coffee at The Caffeinery in downtown Muncie. 

These activities are what Clephane depends on now that she hasn’t been able to play basketball for two months. While rehabbing her second torn ACL in three years, she has turned to her other hobbies in times of self-doubt.

With two seasons left of eligibility, the redshirt junior said she has developed an identity crisis from deciding whether or not to return to Ball State Women’s Basketball. 

“It’s made me look at a scenario where, let’s say I didn’t have basketball,” Clephane said. “‘Who am I? What am I going to do?’ I expected to have a solid two more years of basketball in front of me, and now, it’s like, ‘Oh, crap.’ Then again, I do know who I am. I do like other things besides basketball, and I think I have a future whether basketball is there or not.” 

In order to overcome negative thoughts, Clephane said she’s used positive self-talk to reassure herself —  something she admitted was tough for her to start during the early stages of the recovery process.

“I know it sounds goofy, and I thought so too at first, but I’ll sit here and say, ‘You’ve done this before —  you can do anything. You’ve got this. You can conquer this,’” Clephane said. 

Even though Clephane suffered the same injury her freshman season, she said it's been tougher dealing with the ramifications this time around because she was averaging a career-high 16.2 points per game prior to when she was injured Jan. 9. 

“I was in denial,” Clephane said. “It was the worst heartbreak I’ve ever gone through. I pushed it aside and pretended it wasn’t a thing until surgery. Then, I had to change my mindset to recovery.” 

Clephane said through her initial denial phase, those close to her would want to talk to her about her injury, and she would refuse to discuss it. Clephane said head coach Brady Sallee, teammate and roommate senior Thelma Dis Agustsdottir and her mother, Jeanne Clephane, make up her “inner circle.”

“At first, I was distracting myself,” Anna said. “I would go out with my friends and say, ‘Guys, I don’t want to talk about it,’ or I would go home and my family would bring it up, and I would just be like, ‘Nope.’”

Dis Agustsdottir placed a gift basket on Anna’s bed the night of her injury. Anna said she “has been a rock” and has helped Anna through both injuries, as they have roomed together since their freshman year. She wants to be there for Anna — like Anna has been for her. 

“She’s always there,” Dis Agustsdottir said. “She always has been, and I hope I’ve been there for her. It’s just unbelievable. I’m so grateful for her and our relationship.” 

Jeanne said she knows it’s part of every program’s recruiting pitch to make parents and players feel like they are loved, but with Ball State, it’s different. Jeanne said, along with the coaches, the entire program has been there for Anna since arriving on campus. 

“I've always felt like they really do care about her,” Jeanne said. “I watched [Sallee] cry when she went down. Ally [Becki], Marie [Kiefer] and Madelyn [Bischoff], those freshmen sent her flowers at home. It feels like they are family, and I love it.”

Dis Agustsdottir moved to Muncie from Iceland and spent Christmas Day 2020 with Anna and her family because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Jeanne said she is thankful for Dis Agustsdottir’s involvement in Anna’s life. 

“The Dis Agustsdottir’s are an unbelievably awesome family,” Jeanne said. “We love spending time with them. When Thelma can't get home, she spends Easter or Christmas with us, and we just love her like a daughter. I've always felt very blessed that I know Thelma is here to take care of Anna.” 

Redshirt junior Anna Clephane poses with her mother, Jeanne Clephane, at the Women’s Basketball game against Northern Illinois on Feb. 26 at Worthen Arena. Eli Houser, DN

Sallee said he’s still not over Anna’s injury because he cares about the human being she is. He said there is something missing from the Cardinals without Anna’s presence. 

“It all stems from her relationships with each and every kid,” Sallee said. “There's so much respect for her, there's so much empathy for her, they care about her — just her presence, her smile, her laugh, her voice. It just changes everything, and when it's not there, there's a void.”

Sallee said Anna’s always had a vibrant personality and is someone he’s wanted to be around. Her injury has been hard for him, he said, because of the relationship they’ve built outside of basketball.

“I've always felt that she was loyal to our program and loyal to me,” Sallee said. “She's about the stuff that I believe in, that this program is built on. When you see that kid in your program go down, man, it's heart-wrenching. As a coach, you have to get over those emotions because you've got to be rock-steady for that kid. You’ve got to be rock-steady for your program.” 

Dis Agustsdottir said Anna’s injury has been hard for the Cardinals to cope with but believes it has brought her teammates closer together. 

“It made me want to do it for her,” Dis Agustsdottir said. “She’s such a big personality and such a big part of the team — she still is in a way. It definitely is a season where we all want to do it for her.” 

It’s been difficult for Anna to watch Ball State games and not be able to play. Jeanne said Anna would cry watching the games, scream in joy for the Cardinals, call out plays she knew were about to happen and fight for Ball State in her basement.

But, no matter where Anna cheers from, Sallee said Anna will be successful in whatever she decides to do in the future. 

“Whatever she chooses to do professionally, she's gonna be an all star doing that,” Sallee said. “I just think with all of this built inside of her now, she's gonna take over the world. I believe, 20 years from now, we're gonna be having lunch somewhere, wherever she's living, and she's gonna have the world by the tail. I don't see anything other than that happening for her.”

Before her injury, Anna said, she was in the best mental space of her Ball State career. Although her mindset remains in a solid place, she said it’s been difficult during the rehab process, which has been a repetitive combination of lifting, bending and straightening her knee, but she’s developed a steady routine. Two and a half weeks after surgery, she could bend her knee 97 degrees. 

“I think being able to carry that mindset into this has been helpful,” Anna said. “Obviously, there have been days where it’s like, ‘Holy crap, this is overwhelming,’ but I can pull myself out of that pretty quickly.” 

Anna said she’s since progressed toward being willing to discuss her feelings about the injury. She said it’s been hard for her to express vulnerability, and Jeanne said in the past, when Anna had to make a decision, she would go into retreat. 

“Anna's always been the kind of person when she has to make a big decision, she'll talk to people, she'll get information together but, ultimately, she wants to shut down, and she wants to be by herself,” Jeanne said. “She wants to make that decision, and I've learned to give her that space to make that decision.”

Anna isn’t sure what her future holds, although she doesn’t want to be done with basketball because of her love for the game. She is currently going through the same physical therapy she did her freshman year, and, even though she has two years of eligibility left, she will graduate from Ball State this spring with a double major in biology and communications. Moving forward, she’s interested in being a pharmaceutical representative and has looked into becoming a traveling sports rehabilitation specialist. 

As the decision regarding her basketball career looms, Anna said, her mindset is in an appropriate place to choose her path moving forward. 

“I think I’m in a place right now where I need to decide a lot of things,” Clephane said. “I feel like I’m in a good headspace to do it, so I need to just, you know, do it.”

Contact Kyle Smedley with comments at or on Twitter @smedley193.


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