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Pain and Enlightenment
by Raj Sagar

The scar on the arm is a reminder. It is a symbol of focus, determination and a second chance. It marks the beginning of a mission and is the definition of persistence. And it is much more than skin deep.

Five years ago, in the summer of 2003, senior attackman Ben Rubeor did something he rarely does on the lacrosse fieldhe made a bad decision. Near his home in Towson, Md., Rubeor drove down a street in a residential neighborhood going too fast. When a sudden curve in the road emerged, he swerved and lost control of his vehicle. He had to turn the steering wheel sharply to avoid a large tree. The vehicle flipped over twice with Rubeor holding on for dear life. When the pile of metal came to a rest Rubeor had a shattered arm and the bone had ripped through his skin.

With his stellar junior season at Loyola Blakefield behind him and a recent commitment to play lacrosse at UVa, Rubeor stared tragedy in the face.

“I remember the days immediately following the accident,” he said. “I was devastated at even the thought that I may never be able to play lacrosse again. As I lay there in the hospital bed, I began to realize just how much the sport meant to me. I knew I had a long journey ahead of me, but if I stayed positive, I could give myself the chance to play again.”

Without even thinking about Rubeor playing lacrosse again, Virginia head coach Dom Starsia made it a point to ensure him that he still had a scholarship as well as a spot on the team.

“There was never any doubt,” said Starsia. “We didn’t have to think hard to decide we were going to stand by him. That is the way we conduct things around here, and at the same time, he was someone who was going to make a contribution to the community, whether or not he would have been able play lacrosse here. Due to his character and personality, his coming to the university was an important addition to the student body, so it wasn’t a question.”

Following Rubeor’s accident came an eight-month recovery. He began rehabilitation to heal his left arm and try to regain the strength that once helped him rip countless shots into the back of the net. However, things weren’t as smooth as he had hoped they would be.

Six weeks into his rehabilitation, Rubeor had a bacterial infection in his arm. There was talk his arm would have to be amputated.

“When I heard that, I had to take it in, and flush it out real fast,” said Rubeor. “Just in the six weeks since the accident, I had learned a lot about mentally dealing with things. Just dealing with things in the present became a big pushing point for me. I knew that how I thought about and perceived things would have a lot to do with how well I healed.”

Antibiotic beads were used to treat his infected arm. Doctors removed a piece of his hip bone and attached it to where the forearm had been badly damaged.
Although he was virtually ruled out for his senior season, Rubeor’s relentless determination had him back on the field just months after what was said to be a life-altering injury. Rubeor defied everyone by scoring 48 goals with 27 assists as a senior.

He didn’t miss a beat in college. His career at Virginia, highlighted by a national championship in 2006, first-team all-America selection in 2007, and two-time team captain, has been exceptional. He received the Gray-Carrington Award, one of UVa’s highest student honors, for personal integrity, achievement, leadership and humility. From the incredible pain of the accident, Rubeor tapped into an inner strength he didn’t know he had.

“While I was in bed, during my rehab process, I read a lot of spiritual books,” Rubeor said. “I read a lot of books on Buddhism and Zen meditation. It focused on concentration, focus and a positive state of mind. The injury let me clear my canvas and change my perspective on life.”

Now, at the peak of his lacrosse career, Rubeor maintains that outlook in his everyday life as well as on the playing field.

“As part of my pre-game ritual, after I stretch, I take a little time to be by myself and sort of clear my head. My personal meditation helps me focus. It involves a lot of visualization type stuff, as well as reflection on how fortunate I am to be in the position I am.”

After a torturous journey filled with doubt and questions, Rubeor looked deep into his heart and found the answer.

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