When trying to describe Emma Glenn, words like determination and perseverance merely scratch the surface. Emma has sustained four major injuries that have kept her off the soccer field for extended periods of time since the seventh grade. While most might have given up or moved on to something less physically taxing, she has continued to push herself to get back to her favorite sport. Through it all, she has maintained a positive attitude, never giving up and serving as an inspiration to all who know her.
Emma started playing soccer at the Y when she was just four years old. Her older sister, Kate (‘20), was one of Emma’s first teammates and shares that Emma took to the game early on. While Kate only played for one year, Emma was hooked. Over the next few years, she tried other sports, including being a high level competitive gymnast, but eventually committed to soccer year round at the age of eight. “I was drawn to the competitiveness, teamwork, and self-drive that soccer provided,” Emma says. She also loved that her teams became like family that supported and pushed one another to be better.
Emma’s first major injury was in the 7th grade during a JV game vs Southside Christian. She recounts, “My left knee popped out and when put back in, it popped all my cartilage under my kneecap on the weight bearing position.” That injury required surgery to regenerate the lost cartilage. Emma was forced to be non-weight bearing for 12 weeks, and it was six months before she was back on the field.
Emma’s second major injury was her sophomore year. She had been trying to ignore a pain in her hip for months before deciding to see a doctor. Her diagnosis was a torn right hip labrum, followed by surgery and a five-month recovery. Then, during recovery she started to have pain in her left hip. Once again, she tried to fight through it, but eventually the pain was too much. She had her third major surgery in December of her junior year.
After another five month recovery, Emma was finally on the field, playing her first game back with her club team. At some point during the game, her knee cap was dislocated and she tore her entire MPFL (Medial Patellofemoral Ligament). This resulted in yet another surgery in September 2020 and, following another long recovery, Emma was finally cleared to play on January 14, 2021.
Recovery from any injury is exhausting - physically, mentally and emotionally - but Emma says her two most recent have been the most challenging. She says the second of her two hip injuries “mentally drained me because I had no idea why it was happening again.” However, she describes her most recent knee injury as “by far been the most devastating.” After having worked so hard and for so long to come back, she says it was “one of the worst feelings in the world” to go from the triumph of her first game to being right back where she started.
While many might have given up at that point, Emma responded the way she always has, committing to getting back quicker and better than ever. Kate says, “She gets up at 5 a.m. and has for years” to train before school starts. But Emma admits, she doesn’t do it all alone. When things get hard, she turns to the “people that love and care” for her. She has found incredible support in her family (in addition to Kate, Emma also has 3 younger sisters at CCES – Riley ‘26, Mollie ’30 and Mae who is at CCEP), coaches, teammates, and friends, but her main person was always her mother, Amie. “My mom was always there for me, on the good and bad days,” she says. On the bad days, Emma is spurred on by her fierce love for the game and through her ability to find something - one little thing - to celebrate every single day. She shares, “once you go through a recovery, you realize the smallest things do make a difference and in the end, all the celebrations led to a huge one: returning to the field.” From a very young age, Emma demonstrated the same initiative and determination that she would lean on later when battling all her injuries. Emma would make charts for her goals and Amie reflects, “it was fun to watch her reach for and track a goal at such a young age.” Her mom might have been the first to witness it, but was certainly not the last as Emma has overcome setback after setback in the last five years.
Not surprisingly, Emma has become a source of inspiration to everyone around her. Anna Laird Crosswell ‘21, who has known Emma since the first grade and been her teammate since the seventh, says, “Seeing [Emma’s] determination has motivated me to work harder in order to appreciate and respect the work that she puts in to recover and get back on the field.” She adds, “Emma is one of the strongest people I know, and I cannot wait to play with her for our last season.”
Fellow senior Sara Grace Sierra has known Emma since Primer and also became her teammate in the seventh grade. Sara Grace describes Emma as “one of the most giving people” one can meet. Beyond being a fierce competitor, Sierra describes Emma as encouraging, a great leader, someone who helps and motivates others. Throughout Emma’s recovery periods, Sierra has done her best to support her friend but has often found that she is the one receiving support. She comments, “The way that she carries herself throughout it is amazing. It has definitely made me more appreciative of being able to play and not take it for granted.”
Kate, who is only 18 months older than Emma, says that despite their differences in personality, they have “always been best friends.” The sisters enjoy going on sushi dates and getting ice cream together, but when things get serious, they are the first to lend a shoulder to lean on. Kate has helped care for Emma post-surgery and driven her to countless PT appointments over the years. Then, when Kate tore her MPFL during her junior year lacrosse season, Emma was quick to do the same. “She helped me with everything,” Kate says, including carrying things at school, checking in via texts, and keeping her company. It took Kate a year to be back to 100% and she says, “It made me gain such a greater appreciation for her” and everything she has gone through. “I am so proud to be her sister. She teaches me every day how to be more selfless.”
Varsity Girls Soccer Head Coach Ashley Seeley describes Emma as both determined and driven, hardworking and kind, the type of player coaches dream of coaching. She reflects, “[Emma] motivates me to be a better coach because no matter what I’m faced with, it’s nothing compared to what she has battled through and continues to push through.” MJ Suber, Head Athletic Trainer at CCES, calls Emma “by far the most determined athlete I have ever worked with.” Amie calls MJ a “gift to the family,” but, MJ sees Emma as a gift as well, saying, “It might be my job to motivate her, but she motivates me so much more.”
Despite everything she has gone through, Emma says she wouldn’t change anything even if she could. She reflects, “I would not be who I am today if I had not had to face these injuries.” She believes they taught her about “overcoming adversity through perseverance” and the fact that “sometimes bad things happen with no explanation and dwelling on them won’t get you very far.”
Medically cleared to retake the field less than two weeks ago, Emma is back for her senior season. Of course, her teammates and coaches are more than thrilled to have her back in full participation, leading by example as she always has done. Coach Seeley sums it up nicely when she says, “Emma is our hero and motivation.” She is certainly ours and we cannot wait to cheer on Emma and the Cavs during this upcoming season!