A quality badminton player knows what angles to take on the court and what degree their racquet has to be pointed at in order to get the shuttlecock back over the net.
That might be where Mountain Pointe senior Mary Kenny has an advantage.
Since being diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 10, Kenny has been quite familiar with the angle of her shoulders, the curvature of her back and the degree (45) it has to reach before surgery is considered.
"When you are 10 and you are going to the doctor it is scary," she said. "I was never in pain or anything, but it got progressively worse."
By the time she was 14, her shoulders were sloped, she had developed a noticeable hump on her right side as the curvature reached 75 degrees. It led to spinal fusion surgery in March of 2007.
Scoliosis affects about 3 percent of us, mostly females, with varying degrees of the condition, according to iscoliosis.com.
Surgery for adolescents with scoliosis is only recommended when their curves are greater than 40 to 45 degrees and continuing to progress, and for most patients with curves that are greater than 50 degrees. Scoliosis surgery is designed to reduce the patient's curvature and fuse the spine to prevent any further progression of the deformity.
Severe curvatures (greater than 50 degrees) are more likely to progress in adulthood. If a curve is allowed to progress 70 to 90 degrees, it will not only result in a very disfiguring deformity, but will start to result in cardiopulmonary compromise. This happens because the curve in the spine rotates the chest and closes down the space available for the lungs and heart.
Kenny's surgery took eight hours at Phoenix Children's Hospital as she had two rods and 26 screws inserted in her body.
"The day of the surgery I was calm and ready to have it done," said Kenny, who knew a year prior that she was going to have surgery. "I was ready to get it over with, get rid of the back braces and start rehab."
Kenny has been fine since the few months it took in rehab after the surgery. The only limitation is the fact that she couldn't play contact sports.
"I had planned on going out for football that fall," she quipped.
In all, Kenny said the most difficult thing was dealing with the braces, which she had to wear 16 hours a day, as a child.
"It was middle school so it was a hard time to not fit in with everybody," she said. "I had to wear different clothes than everyone else, including a coat, so in Arizona that can get pretty hot.
"And in the end, I ended up having surgery anyway and that is what the brace was supposed to prevent so that was kind of discouraging."
Kenny still has all six braces, some signed like a cast, that range in different sizes, although she is not exactly sure why.
"I guess because it was such a big part of my life," she said. "They are in my parent's closet."
One thing is for sure, Kenny has developed into a pretty solid badminton player for the Pride.
She joined the team as a freshman, six months after the surgery, because some of her friends were on the team.
The Pride won the 5A state title that year and she was hooked.
"I couldn't believe how good the seniors were that year," Kenny said. "I really wanted to be part of something like that."
Although she was unable to crack the lineup until her senior year, Kenny is starting to come into her own on the court.
She began the season as the projected No. 3 singles player, but after a playoff she earned the No. 2 spot to begin the season.
"Mary has improved a lot," Mountain Pointe coach Pom Brown said. "She is quick and obviously strong mentally to come back from surgery. The one thing she has to develop is a stronger competitive fire. She is a very nice girl, but she could be better if she developed an edge to finish matches."
Kenny, who plans on attending Arizona or Northern Arizona to study broadcast journalism, said the team is prepared to get the state title back after finishing runners-up the last two seasons.
"Pom is an amazing coach and works with you on your feet," Kenny said. "She helps you really get the most out of your ability. We are just going to continue to work and grow as a team and hopefully get a state title out of it."
And to do so for Mountain Pointe, Kenny just might need to put the team on her back to make sure happens.
In most cases that would be a silly old cliché, but it has a different feel this time around.