When my sister and I were younger, our parents encouraged my sister and I to participate in many sports so that we were able to make the decision of what we wanted to focus on. Obviously, you don’t stick with all of them. Either you pick your favorites or your parents pick for you. I was fortunate enough to be able to pick what I wanted to do myself. However, athletics taught me important life lessons that I carry with me every day. I will never forget these life lessons that my sports have taught me. They have made me a better person and shaped me into the person I am today. I am still learning new lessons every day from sports and my team. Sports, in my opinion, consistently make you a better person.

Here are the life lessons that they have taught me:

1. Sportsmanship

I learned this one very early on. It may not be easy, but it is important. It makes you a better person. But what is sportsmanship? When I did gymnastics, during awards, I shook the other gymnast’s hands. I did not only shake the hands of those I had beaten but also the hands of those who had beaten me. Although we are all competitors, this lesson has been instilled from childhood that everyone is trying to succeed and that there is always someone better. Good things will come to those who congratulate others on their effort and victories.

2. Hard Work

I have always been known as the hard worker no matter what. My parents have a good work ethic, so I guess it was natural for me to take after them. I really live by the saying “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Even if you aren’t the most talented person, hard work means more. You must work hard in life in order to achieve your goals and fulfill your dreams. It sounds corny, but hard work does pay off.

3. Optimism

Optimism is not always easy. It is very easy to get down on yourself, get mad at your coaches, or say “I can’t.” However, sports teach you that you can’t just throw your hands up in the air and give up. This type of negative attitude is detrimental, and I have learned the same in real life situations. Negativity only hurts you. Positivity is what will help you. I am a “look at the glass half full” kind of girl thanks to my sports.

4. Confidence

I have learned that in sports you have to believe in yourself. Whether it was me doing a beam routine in gymnastics (I hated beam) or doing a 5k on the rowing machine, confidence is necessary. When I was doing gymnastics and had to do beam routines, I had to be confident. If you weren’t, the judges would know it, and you would probably fall. After all, the beam is four feet high and only four inches wide. In real life outside of sports, you can’t walk into a job interview without confidence. You need to be ready to answer questions and prove to the interviewer that you deserve the job, which could have hundreds of other applicants. Confidence will set you apart from the others.

5. Fight For It

When the going gets tough, the tough get going -- that is what my old gymnastics coach used to tell me. In gymnastics, I needed to fight for every tenth of a point. People win meets by a fifth of a tenth or something ridiculously close. Fight to stay on the balance beam, even if you have a huge wobble. The wobble usually won’t be as big of a deduction as the fall. Fight for that A in your Spanish class. Fight for that dream job. Fight for everything, because everything in life matters, and you are supposed to fight. You were put on this Earth to fight and to make the best of your life.

6. Teamwork

In gymnastics, you had a team you practiced with, conditioned with, and showed up at meets with. However, you didn’t win with this team and this team didn’t cheer for you. If they did cheer for you, it was meaningless. They were out for themselves. They wanted to win for themselves. Gymnastics being a team sport is a facade, pretending to be something it’s not (unless you are on a collegiate team). When I transitioned to the sport of rowing, I learned what a team truly is. You aren’t on your own in the sport of rowing. You are pulling for you and eight other girls (or you and four other girls). That is a team sport. I want to be a broadcast journalist when I grow up, on television anchoring the news or reporting on a sports event. To do that, I will need a team. I will need producers, cameramen, and a crew. I will no longer have my rowing crew, but I will have a crew. I will have a team. You won’t get anywhere on your own in life. In every career, you need a team. You need other people to reach your goals and you need other people to win in life.

7. Dedication and Commitment

Sports have taught me dedication. Once you start something, you need to finish it. Even if you want to quit or give up on something, you need to finish what you started. In gymnastics, if my teammates wanted to quit the sport, they would wait until the end of the season to do so. It is disrespectful to give up on yourself and on your teammates mid-season. This applies to real life as well. If you are in the middle of a project, you won't quit. You need to finish the project to get the grade.

8. Time Management

Sports have taught me how to manage my time wisely. When I did gymnastics, I would practice for at least five hours a day. I would practice 30 to 40 hours a week and needed to do homework in addition to that. I would get my homework done before practice, and at one point, I even went on a modified schedule to be able to have more time for schoolwork. I grew up with the mentality that academics came first. I could participate in my sports as long as my grades were up to par.

I feel very privileged that I was able to be so involved in sports growing up. I can’t imagine what I would do without them in my life. They have shaped me into the person I am today, and without them, I may not have ever learned these valuable life lessons that I carry with me.