Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

Tearing my ACL and the knee injuries that followed have been testing my belief in myself.

The road to recovery starts with a single step. My challenge is that my single step is a painful one. Tearing my ACL and the knee injuries that followed have been testing my belief in myself. It is not the worst sports injury an athlete can face, but it is definitely in the top five. It is a painful one that takes 6-9 months of constant bumps on the road before one starts to feel normal. So for every single hour since getting hurt on March 30, I move through the hills and valleys of recovery, wanting to be just a little better than I was the hour before.

During this process, I have had to learn to trust my body again and fight the neurologic changes the injury has created. I am learning to push through the brain's urgings to stop me in my tracks because of the months of pain I suffered, and I believe that the new pain I face is a part of my healing journey. I am limping between doing too much-worsening things and not doing enough. As an athlete, the idea of doing less to get stronger goes against my brain's wiring. It is a constant battle. And it is exhausting.


Mind Over Matter: Psychological Impact of ACL Tears, written by Makenzie Grilliot, PA-S, and Eudiah Ochieng, MPH, MPA, PA-C, reports, "several studies have examined the neurological changes of the brain that occur after ACL injuries." They share, "Anterior cruciate ligament injury can also have an impact on overall mood and mental health. Some athletes have struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following injuries. Isolation from others and lack of self-worth may also lead to lower life satisfaction scores, anger, depression, and mood disturbances. It was theorized that a decrease in endogenous opiates may contribute to sudden depressive symptoms. Endogenous opiates typically produce happiness, comfort, and safety, and are released during exercise. As an athlete's training reduces after injury, endogenous opiates can decrease simultaneously. Another theory is that athletes' identity is linked to their sport and, without being able to participate, they feel a lack of self-worth. Finally, the athlete may feel the need to ignore their mental suffering for the sake of preserving an image of mental strength."

I can relate to everything the writers mention. I am just short of 120 days post-surgery for my cartilage tears and dislocated kneecap, and I still struggle daily. The ACL tear hasn’t been repaired; we (my surgeon, physiotherapist and me) hope that a solid rehab plan based on strengthening, mobility, and flexibility will prevent another surgery and another year-long recovery.

I think about walking for 90% of my waking hours. I limp, and I am struggling to fix it. I stare at carefree strangers walking briskly to meetings, family gatherings and social events and wonder:

“Will I walk normally again?”

I see athletes running by, and I feel jealousy. My heart is heavy as I long to be able to walk without pain again. Running is still so far off.

As humans, we often take our ability to walk and move around for granted. Or is it only when that ability is taken away that we can truly understand its value? Personally, I didn't realize how frustrating it could be to have to learn to walk again as an adult until I experienced the need for myself.

Currently, my walking resembles that of a zombie with a limp - lacking in rhythm and elegance. It isn't easy to see the athlete and coach I once was when I look in the mirror.

I feel lost!

I contemplate weight distribution, heel-to-toe motions, hip positioning, toe-off and leg straightening. I make an effort to be more at ease, watch instructional videos on walking on YouTube, and emulate passersby as they stroll merrily past me. However, I haven't yet achieved mastery of what once was a totally unconscious symphony of muscle, tendon and bone.

I frequently need to remind myself that I am still a work in progress. I am still on the long, windy road to recovery.

How is it that as infants, we master this skill of walking so effortlessly and quickly, yet at 45, I struggle to achieve a “typical” gate?

I am genuinely grateful for my athletic therapist, Jason Piekarz, from the Centre of Sports and Recreation Medicine. His unwavering support and encouragement has helped me through the most challenging moments of my healing journey. Although there are times when I break down in tears on the treatment table, searching for answers that even he cannot provide, Jason remains a steady source of comfort. He is not just a therapist but a true friend and ally in my quest for recovery.

I've been back coaching and leading MJKO for almost three months now, and it's been mentally exhilarating. When I'm on the coaching floor, that's when I feel most like my authentic self. Over the past ninety days, I've been looking for new members to join our team in Coaching and Operations. I'm thrilled to say that we've hired two amazing people, Shamon and Coach Andrew.

Program Coordinator

Shamon Waldron has been a resident of Parkdale since she immigrated to Canada in 1993. The community holds a special place in her heart; she has many fond childhood memories of the community. Recently, her daughter celebrated her fifth year as an MJKO athlete, and Shamon is delighted to be a part of the MJKO family. Her daughter has thrived and enjoyed her time at MJKO. Shamon has been a tremendous help to us, and we are fortunate to have her as our Program Coordinator. She has extensive experience and the necessary skills we were seeking.

Assistant Coach

Our new Assistant Coach, Anuruddha Bandara (aka Andrew), is a passionate and kind man who enjoys sharing his knowledge with the MJKO community.

Coach Andrew (as he is known to kids) is an accomplished coach and past 4-time Sri Lankan National Champion. He has his Level 1 Coach certification from Sri Lanka. He holds an International Boxing Association (IBA) One Star and a Boxing Ontario Level 1 sport-specific boxing coach certification from the National Coaching Certification Program. Coach Andrew also has a Level 4 Physical Fitness Trainer from the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission in Sri Lanka.

He has a proven track record of tailoring training programs to fit each athlete's unique needs and goals. He has extensive knowledge of boxing techniques, training methodologies, and sports psychology, allowing him to create an environment that supports athletes' growth and success. Coach Andrew aims to inspire and guide athletes to achieve new heights in their boxing careers. He is a passionate and dedicated Boxing Coach committed to helping athletes develop and reach their full potential as either recreational or competitive boxers.

He has participated in the Commonwealth Championship, Junior World Championship and the Junior Asian Championship 2005. As Coach Andrew settles in, we look forward to restarting our junior classes after school in mid-October.

Thinking about the success of MJKO since my injury in March, I realize what a team effort it has taken to keep the ball rolling. We had a successful open house in June. In July, we started our summer evening classes, which have been a massive success, along with the third cohort of our self- identified "Girl's Only" program "Let's Sweat – Girls Empowered for Greatness!" funded in part by the Canadian Red Cross and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

It has been so successful I wanted to share some of our findings. We have already had 65 self-identified girls come through the three 8-week programs.

A major take away from our first cohort was that 100% of parents stated that since starting MJKO boxing, their child has been better able to cope with mental health and well-being challenges. Over 50% of girls from the first cohort completed the first session and then joined the second cohort.

The second group of students related that 81% of athletes experienced better mental health and overall well-being due to participating in our program. (This was based on a survey which showed that approximately 81% of athletes felt more socially connected after completing an eight-week boxing course.)

Our third cohort of "Let's Sweat - Girls Empowered for Greatness" ran over the summer months. We tracked our girls' mental health throughout the program using a simple mood sticker system to determine how our participants felt at the beginning and end of each class. We are happy to report that 30% of our participants felt sad at the beginning of class, but 99% left feeling happy.

It has been confirmed that boxing is an effective means of enhancing one's physical and mental well-being. This serves as evidence of the excellent work being carried out by our female coaches, Bilqis Fazel, Susan Pfundt, Yukty Sakya, Michelle Fletcher, and myself, in providing a secure and optimistic sporting environment. Given the high rate at which teenage girls leave sports, it is gratifying to know that our young female participants eagerly anticipate their weekly boxing classes.

Our last cohort will run at MJKO (186 Cowan Ave., Toronto) from October 7 to November 25, 2023. This is a free program, so if you know someone interested, please share, as we are filling up quickly.

We have a few spots left!

The MJKO Team volunteered at the Annual Community Police Liaison Committee – 14 Division Open House last Saturday. The fun we had was captured perfectly in the pictures taken by MJKO volunteer Vasiliy Ryabykh.

Toronto Police 14 Division Annual Open House

It's National Coaches Week!

From September 16-24, 2023, Canada will observe National Coaches Week to recognize coaches' significant positive influence on athletes and communities. We are delighted to announce that our Co-Founder, Ibrahim Kamal, received a VIP BlueJays experience and $500 last Saturday, courtesy of the Coaches Association of Ontario. Coach Ibrahim was among 14 coaches from various sports in Ontario recognized as outstanding coaches. We are proud of his achievement and grateful for his contribution to our community.

Congratulations to Ibrahim and the other 13 coaches listed below.

Hans Schroeder, Jozo Weider Race Club, Blue Mountain
Rebecca Turrill, Tillsonburg Ringette Association, Tillsonburg
John Ahlstedt, Robert Land Academy, Wellandport
Robert Studer, Archery 2 You Archery Centre, Oshawa
Amy Wilson, University of Waterloo, Indigenous Team Ontario, Milton
Ibrahim Kamal, MJKO Boxing, Toronto
Mark Peltier, Badminton Warriors of Mnidoo Mnising, Manitoulin Island
Oswald Jones, Rising Star Cricket, Brampton
Mary Munroe, South East Trillium Hunter Jumper Association, Gananoque
Chris Finner, St. Michael Catholic High School, Kemptville
Stacy Ganogiannis-Reid, East York Collegiate Institute, Toronto
Spencer Robinson, Toronto Inner-City Rugby Foundation (TIRF), Toronto – Susan Kitchen Trailblazer Award
Myma Okuda-Rayfuse, Leander Boat Club & McMaster University, Hamilton – Hydro One Safe Play Award
Grandmaster Young Su Choung, Young Choung Taekwondo Academy, Vaughan & Toronto – Andy Higgins Lifetime Achievement Award

We encourage you to join the #thankscoach movement and take a moment this week to send a note expressing gratitude to a coach who has positively impacted your life. Use the hashtag #ThanksCoach and tag MJKO_Boxing and Coaches Ontario.

Ontario Excellence Award Winner, Ibrahim Kamal.

In August, Damon "Fast Feet" Fabrizi competed in the 3000 meters, 1500 meters, and 800 meters at York University. His impressive performances made the MJKO family proud. He earned second place in the 3000 meters with a time of 10 minutes and 46 seconds, and in the 1500 meters, he completed the race in 5 minutes and 12 seconds. He also won the 800-meter race, although his official time has yet to be announced. We admire Damon's dedication to always striving to be his best and feel very proud of him.

"Fast Fabrizi" Wins Again!

To conclude, my four months of personal growth has taught me that we tend to forget or suppress challenging experiences as time passes. Although I had gone through the recovery process previously with my spinal surgery in 2009, I had overlooked the difficulties found on the road to recovery. Fortunately, I had a fantastic support team throughout both surgeries, including Jason from the Centre for Sports and Recreation Medicine, my surgeon, Dr. K Wayne Marshall, his nurse Hanna and office manager Elizabeth, my local pharmacist, and my family.

Kuthula and Lionheart have been helping me out part-time at the MJKO Champion Centre gym, taking on all the heavy lifting. Volunteer Vasiliy demonstrates all the exercises and techniques I cannot do with my ACL brace. Elena is always a positive presence and ready to assist in any way, even with mopping the floors.

Finally, Ibrahim has been my unwavering support for the past four months. He has brought laughter to my days and ensured I was well-fed and had everything I needed for a speedy recovery. He has been my strongest ally and biggest fan, and I love him to the moon and back.

Have you heard the saying,

"You must go slow to go fast"?

I now understand its meaning. As someone who tends to rush things, I realized that taking the time to heal is crucial for progress. It can be tough to hold back when you’re eager to start, but listening to your body will lead to more pain-free days and moments of happiness.

Therefore, my new motto is "Go slow to go fast."

This mantra can be applied to various aspects of our lives. Please feel free to use it, as it has helped me and may also be helpful to others. We will share our October schedule in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned.

Lots of love,
Coach Miranda


Together we are getting kids moving, dreaming the big dream and understanding the value of volunteerism.  To learn more about volunteer opportunities with Mentoring Juniors Kids Organization (MJKO) or to donate please visit http://www.mjko.ca