Steals record puts different spin on injury

An ankle injury in high school basketball is bad enough for any athlete, but this wasn’t just any ankle.

It belonged to Hauser junior Leslie Sims, who was expected to snap the Indiana high school career stolen base record early in the upcoming softball season.

Never mind that Sims was one of the key players on a Hauser girls basketball team that has gone 2-9 since her left ankle injury Dec. 29, her value as one of the state’s top softball players and The Republic’s reigning Athlete of the Year for Softball is based on her speed.

Sims opened her Jets’ softball career with a single-season, state-record 72 steals her freshman season and followed that with 59 steals last season. Her 131 total ranks her fourth on Indiana’s career steals list compiled by the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association. She is on pace to shatter the career record, if she stays healthy.

“It was a high ankle sprain, and three of the five tendons in her ankle were torn,” said her father and softball coach, Craig Sims. “She is going to start physical therapy this week, and she is wearing a soft brace.”

Leslie Sims will have another doctor’s check-up Feb. 5 to see if she will be cleared to begin softball in March.

Her father said he won’t ease her back into action. “The No. 1 thing is that she has to be healthy to play regardless,” Craig Sims said. “That’s the main thing: She has to be prepared. If she isn’t 100 percent, she isn’t going to play. Sliding into bases and stealing is hard on your body.”

Although she wanted to return for the basketball sectional playoffs, that appears doubtful.

“It stinks watching (my basketball team),” Leslie Sims said. “It’s been hard on me. But I couldn’t do anything the first two weeks after the injury, and now I can at least walk on it. I’m doing better.

“I guess the things you love hurt you the most.”

Craig Sims knows that his daughter loves to play basketball, but she already has accepted a scholarship to play softball at Indiana State.

“It scares me,” Craig Sims said of his daughter continuing to play basketball in high school. “I’m not going to lie. Basketball is a physical sport for women. I can go down the list of injuries that (girls at Hauser) have got, and they are from basketball.”

At the same time, Hauser is a Class A school that needs its best athletes to play multiple sports. Sims, who coaches junior varsity girls basketball at Hauser along with his duties as head varsity softball coach, said he wouldn’t be able to run his softball program if the other sports coaches didn’t encourage their athletes to play multiple sports.

“We have to share athletes, or none of us will have enough,” he said.

Craig Sims could be forgiven if he is a little worried about injuries at the present time. Besides Leslie’s ankle injury, his daughter Tessa, who is a freshman at Hauser, broke her fibula playing basketball in December. Tessa is expected to be a major part of Hauser’s pitching rotation in the spring.

“Tessa is doing snap drills now,” Craig Sims said. “As long as there are no more issues, she should be pitching in two weeks.”

Both Tessa and Leslie have had back injuries in the past as well, but they were looking forward to playing on the same high school softball team together this spring.

“We were so excited,” Leslie Sims said. “Now we are both crippled. Sure I’m worried. I want to beat my record (single season steals). I plan to continue stealing bases.”

Now she said her dad challenges her and her sister, both wearing boots, to race to the car.

“Leslie loves to compete,” Craig Sims said. “Through the whole process of tearing her ligaments, she never once cried. When the doctor said she couldn’t play for six weeks, she started balling.”

Leslie Sims said she just wants to get back to work on either a basketball court or softball field.

“I hope (her ankle injury) doesn’t affect anything,” she said. “I hope this is just a bump in the road. I really do think it is up to me how all this turns out.”

At a glance

Career steals record

Indiana high school softball

*compiled by Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association

1. Gabrielle Richey, Loogootee, 2010-2013, 176

2. Kasey Gibson, Churubusco, 2009-2013, 165

3. Melanie Mannix, Blackford, 1992-1995, 136

4. Leslie Sims, Hauser, 2013-active, 131