Alicia Froling determined to overcome latest injury setback

When answering the call from her hometown of Townsville, at the beginning of her most recent recovery from injury, everything Alicia Froling stands for is obvious.

Softly spoken, but determined.

The Froling surname symbolizes a strong pedigree in the game of basketball. Both parents played professionally, and her three siblings are taking the court by storm. Twin sister Keely is a star with the Canberra Capitals in the WNBL and on the 3x3 circuit, her brother Harry a star on a meteoric rise with the Adelaide 36ers, and youngest brother Sam who is embarking on his NBL career with the Illawarra Hawks. The influence that hoops has on and within the family means a lot to this Froling sister.

“It’s very competitive," Froling explained in discussing the family dynamic and influence. "Since we were little we were always trying to outdo each other but you really cannot help it. We all know and understand the environment that we are in and what we need to do to be the best we can be.

"It kinda sucks getting a lecture from dad on the way home from a game, but it's valuable knowledge that not everybody would be able to get from a parent."

The now 23 year old forward began her career as a development player alongside her twin sister Keely with the Townsville Fire for the 2011/12 WNBL season, and would remain as part of her hometown team until 2014.

“At 15, being around people like Suzi [Batkovic] was a bit scary, but you learn so much from great players like that and I think it really helped myself and Keely," Froling added.

Her time as a member of the Fire's roster served as a launching pad for great things to come. Attending the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) as a member of the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence - an experience she reflects on as being a massive step in her career.

“The AIS was awesome and I credit that to getting me where I am today. I still have so many contacts down there and they play a massive role in my career and life. It was a whole different level – day in, day out training which gives you the full experience of what its like being a professional athlete.”

Her US college experience saw her play in Dallas, Texas for the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the American Athletic Conference. Her contributions and performances saw her earn All-Conference accolades during her tenure, including being named to the All-Freshman Team in her first year.

“It was one of my goals and was pretty special. Especially when you are in the same conference as UConn, being at the time they took four national championships consecutively, it was something I was very proud of."

She also has experienced time in the green and gold with national representative duties, beginning at the 2011 FIBA Oceania Under 16 championships, where the team took gold. That was then extended to two FIBA junior World Championships, including winning a bronze medal at the 2013 Under 19 World Championships.

“Wearing the green and gold have been the best experiences I have had playing basketball. I have made some amazing friends, traveled the world and have a great sense of pride and achievement during those opportunities."

For some players the transition from college to pro is a difficult learning curve, but not for Froling who was able to comment on why she found it easier than most.

“I see myself as a very adaptable player so it’s not crazy for me to make that change. I think understanding the game of basketball and understanding how you play against certain people in different styles really helps.”

Earlier this year she played in the Queensland Basketball League for the Townsville Flames (who finished third overall) where she averaged 9.2 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. She was critical of her performance however.

“Honestly, I wasn’t happy with my performance through the season because I know I can do a lot more, but that comes back to my injury taking away the ability to shoot the ball more effectively. I know I am a decent rebounder and can maintain a high level of defence, so I played towards my strengths at that time.

"It was great being able to play in front of my friends and family at home for the first time in about six years. It means a lot being able to play in your home town, to train in the place you put all those hours in as a kid.

"To just have Mum and Dad here as well [is good]. Dad is obviously a coach and he worked with me during the season, and that was stressful sometimes. But not many people can say they have a parent who is a pretty frigging good coach that they can work out with and have that experience so you cannot complain.

“It is an advantage from day one to have him there. He isn’t just a parent sitting on the side court when your eight years old – he is going to tell you that you should do this or change something to make it better.”

For the upcoming WNBL season, Froling had signed with Bendigo Spirit. This injury forced her to sit out, recovering and aiming to return bigger and better for the 2020/21 season. Having experienced injury setbacks in the past, she commented on her current injury and what her recovery looked like.

“The first injury I suffered was my wrist [while in Canberra] and cartilage damage which the surgeons went in and fixed, so it came good. I then went into my freshman year and I played really well but then suffered a knee and ankle injury while at college. I think that since both of those were lower body injuries, I knew that if I did the strength and rehab work I would be fine. But with my current injury it’s the same wrist I had surgery on, but the surgeon has referred to it as an odd injury.”

Froling was vocal and passionate about how great of an impact her last year at college had on the injury and the effect it had on her memories.

“This last year of college my coach was a bit of a head case. We had seven freshman and myself [the only senior], so expectations on me were always going to set us up for a tough year. He thought we would be so much better than we were, and halfway through the season – he lost the plot.

"As punishment for poor performance, we were tasked with running repetitive laps during training. But due to my previous injuries [knee] and advice from doctors, I was given another punishment during running where I was in a planking, almost a push up position, and would have my feet in a wheelie board and have to drag my body up the court. So it was like core training but placed all my weight on my wrists."

Froling referred to this bizarre training regime as being of great detriment to her injury, ultimately impacting her shooting ability and the position she now sees herself in. It was after seeing a surgeon in Brisbane during the QBL season where she was advised that she had damage in her wrist, and that surgery was going to be required.

On completion of the her commitments with the Flames, her injury would force to miss the upcoming WNBL season with Bendigo Spirit. She underwent surgery to repair the torn main tendons that run from her pinky to ring finger, along with the majority of sheath in her right hand.

Having gone through with she successful surgery, she remains incredibly focused and determined to bounce back even better than before - Alicia Froling 2.0 as it were.

“Mentally, it’s been a bit refreshing to be assured that the problem has been fixed and I am aware of what it will take to get back on the court. It’s the first time in a while that I am not around a team and am doing rehab at my own pace. Having my parents and the people I am comfortable with really motivates me to remain focused on my recovery, which is a really great thing.

"I have to thank Bendigo [Spirit] – they have been awesome. A week after my surgery they sent me a new contract offer and still want to have me as part of the team. But not being around a team is definitely different, but it allows me to take rehab at my own pace. I am in a cast so I cannot really do a lot basketball wise, but its keeping fit and giving my legs a rest – as they probably need that."

Froling underwent surgery on September 2nd and the prognosis is a six month recovery period before we see her hit the hard wood once again doing what she is born to do. In the meantime she is trying her hand at coaching alongside Claudia Brassard [former Townsville WNBL coach] with a Townsville squad in a role she is excited about.

“It’s really giving me a new perspective of the game and allowing me to learn a new and different part of myself.”

While still young and wit time on her side, her current injury is only a setback that Froling is looking to put behind her.

“I am confident I will be able to get back out on the court in time for NBL1 or QBL before the next WNBL season with the Spirit. If my body allows it, and I am pretty certain it will, then I will be playing somewhere for that off-season.

I am passionate and confident about what I am able to do and how I am able to play. I am excited and ready to get back out there and remind everybody what I can do.”