Annie Gavin was on the cusp of making her dream of playing college soccer a reality when several Division I coaches began recruiting her two years ago.

Annie Gavin was on the cusp of making her dream of playing college soccer a reality when several Division I coaches began recruiting her two years ago.

Those hopes were dashed during the winter of 2012 when the Hilliard resident suffered an injury that left her right foot partially paralyzed.

She was devastated when her doctor told her she would never play soccer again.

But after Gavin defied the odds and played for the Watterson High School girls basketball team as a senior before graduating in May as one of the school's valedictorians, she said she is happy, not bitter, with where fate has taken her.

"When my doctor told me my dream of playing college soccer was over it was one of the worst feelings in the world, because I had worked so hard to get to that point," Gavin said. "I went through a lot of hard times, but now I realize that soccer just wasn't meant for me. My motto in life has become: 'Everything happens for a reason.'

"Everything I've been through has made me 10 times a stronger person and it's led me to pursue some new dreams, so I wouldn't change a thing about my life."

Instead of training with a soccer team like she had the past several years, Gavin tried her hand at coaching this summer with Watterson's freshman girls basketball team and St. Brendan's sixth-grade girls basketball squad.

"I love coaching so much and I never would have had time to do this if I were still playing soccer," Gavin said. "I plan on coaching my whole life. I see the passion I used to have in the girls I coach. When people started to find out that I couldn't play anymore, someone said to me, 'Your talent is God's gift to you. What you choose to do with it is your gift to Him.' I believe my gift is coaching and giving back for everything people have done for me."

Gavin will begin taking classes this fall at Ohio State with the goal of pursuing a career in medicine so "someday I'll be able to help someone who is dealing with the same type of injuries I've had."

Gavin began playing soccer at age 5 and started playing basketball as a fourth-grader.

She has suffered a slew of sports-related injuries over the past six years, beginning with breaking her left ankle in seventh grade while playing basketball.

As an eighth-grader, Gavin chipped a bone in her right foot during a soccer game, broke her right hand during a basketball game and suffered frost bite in her right hand while skiing.

She broke her right ankle while sledding during her freshman year, and she dislocated her shoulder multiple times while playing soccer and basketball as a sophomore.

As a junior, Gavin missed multiple soccer games because of stress fractures in her feet and then suffered a season-ending concussion that was so severe she was out of school for a month.

"I had headaches and was throwing up after my concussion," Gavin said. "I stayed in a dark room for three weeks and I slept about two weeks straight. I missed three months of sports and I failed four concussion tests before they let me return to play basketball."

After missing the basketball team's first two games, Gavin reclaimed her role as a starting forward and helped lead the Eagles to an 18-5 record and their fifth consecutive CCL championship.

But four days before ninth-seeded Watterson lost to top-seeded Reynoldsburg 66-33 in a Division I district semifinal March 1, 2012, Gavin suffered what turned out to be a life-altering injury while competing for the Ohio Premier Eagles club soccer team during a showcase tournament in Kentucky.

While kicking the ball, Gavin's extended right foot hit an opponent in the shin. The force of the collision broke Gavin's foot and led to permanent nerve damage in her big toe.

"It was a freak accident where I was just clearing the ball and my foot hit the girl's shin at an awkward angle," Gavin said. "I felt some pain and when I looked down my big toe was snapped in half, pointing straight up and to the right. When I saw it, I started freaking out and screaming bloody murder because it was disgusting.

"We went to the emergency room and four people had to hold me down while they spent two hours trying to fix it."

After being on crutches for three months and then walking with her foot in a protective boot for two more months, Gavin was told she could continue to wait to see if her injury would heal on its own or undergo surgery to fuse the broken bones.

Even though it meant her big toe and part of her foot would be paralyzed, Gavin opted to have the surgery on July 23, 2012, in hopes she could return in time to play basketball as a senior.

She was scheduled to begin practicing with the basketball team in October, but days before she was scheduled to return, her big toe became infected. In November, a surgeon permanently removed her toenail to stop the infection from spreading.

"That last surgery was really frustrating because that delayed the start of my senior basketball season," Gavin said. "I literally didn't walk on my own without crutches or a boot for nearly 11 months.

"Once I got my stitches out in mid-November, I had to go to physical therapy to learn how to walk the right way again, instead of walking on the outside of my foot. Then I had to learn how to run again."

Gavin began playing basketball again Jan. 4, and she helped the Eagles win seven of their last eight games en route to winning their sixth consecutive CCL title and finishing 13-11.

"She made a sacrifice to be a part of our team that few people would make, and she had the toughness to persevere through almost any situation," girls basketball coach Tom Woodford said. "Once she returned to our team, she made a big impact. Her mental toughness was contagious and she led her teammates on and off the court."

Woodford has been impressed with Gavin's coaching abilities and said she will be a success in any career she pursues.

"She will definitely lead people somewhere in her life because she has a strong personality and she isn't afraid to take a chance," Woodford said. "Just watching Annie persevere through everything she's been through has been an inspiration to everyone who is involved in her life."