The Life Of A Childhood Sporty Girl

To My Young, Athletic Self

The hardest decision at the time was what sport I wanted to stick with throughout middle school and high school.

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Running up and down the field was a blast for me.

Shooting from half court was always a thrill.

Jumping into the foam pit was a prize.

Dancing for hours was always my favorite.

Cheering on the sidelines was a must.

During my elementary and middle school days, I played soccer, basketball, gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance. I was eager to run from each activity to the next with more energy than a jelly bean. I was always looking forward to recess at school where I would play hardcore with all the boys on the soccer field. My mom's friend actually said I was wheezing from asthma every single recess because of how hard I went.

It is so funny to think about the little brown-haired, skinny, cute girl running up and down the soccer field at Wayside Elementary School, wearing plaid shorts and a pink shirt. I was the most athletic girl and girly-girl at the same time.

Despite recess, I played soccer on many different teams over the years. When I was 6, I was putting my hair into a "messy" bun (that I had just learned to do) on the soccer field as the ball was flying past me towards the goal. As the years progressed, I loved soccer. I played on different teams, read different soccer books, and even demanded to own Mia Hamm and Cristiano Ronaldo's jerseys. I attended my first and only camp ever for soccer. I thought I was going to become a professional.

Basketball was not my favorite out of the bunch. When I first started playing basketball, my coach would call me "World Be Free" because I would shoot from anywhere on the court (even if I was beyond far from half court). I was not a fan of basketball for long.

I remember crushing on my gymnastics coach. I loved swinging on the bars, jumping on the trampoline, and, of course, jumping into the foam pit. It was the best! I remember many birthday parties being held there.

During cheerleading, I was always a flyer. I loved the half-time shows, sideline dances, and yelling the cute boys' names. I loved all those Sunday morning games for the Pop Warner teams!

And lastly, dancing. I was dancing at 2 years old and never stopped until I graduated high school. I loved the music, people, and atmosphere. At the beginning of high school, between all of these sports, I had to choose one. I chose dance. I made many life-long friends, experienced many memories, and competed on the team for 8 years.

With all these different sports growing up, I was always eager to stay active. I was always running around in the yard playing soccer with friends in the neighborhood, I was always working out with my mom growing up, and I was always excelling in the fitness competitions in gym class (Yes, my friend and I did beat the boys in pull-ups).

Looking back, I was very athletic.

Now that I am in college, I do not play any sports. I go to the gym, but the amount of activity I was doing back then has decreased tremendously.

So, to my younger, athletic self, I loved you!

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn't sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It's obvious your calling wasn't coaching and you weren't meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn't have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn't your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that's how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “It's not what you say, its how you say it."

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won't even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don't hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That's the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she's the reason I continued to play."

I don't blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn't working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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I Wouldn't Trade My DII Experience To Play DI Athletics Any Day

I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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As a high school athlete, the only goal is to play your varsity sport at the Division 1 level in college.

No one in high school talks about going to a Division 2 or 3 school, it's as if the only chance you have at playing college athletics is at the DI level. However, there are so many amazing opportunities to play a varsity sport at the DII and DIII level that are equally fun and competitive as playing for a division 1 team.

As a college athlete at the DII level, I hear so many DI athletes wishing they had played at the DII or DIII level. Because the fact of the matter is this: the division you play in really doesn't matter.

The problem is that DII and DIII sports aren't as celebrated as Division 1 athletics. You don't see the National Championships of Division 2 and 3 teams being broadcasted or followed by the entire country. It's sad because the highest levels of competition at the DII and DIII level are competing against some of the Division 1 teams widely celebrated across the country. Yet DII and DIII teams don't receive the recognition that DI athletics do.

Not everyone can be a DI athlete but that doesn't mean it's easy to be a DII or DIII athlete. The competition is just as tough as it is at the top for DII and DIII athletes. Maybe the stakes are higher for these athletes because they have to prove they are just as good as DI athletes. Division 2 and 3 athletes have just as much grit and determination as Division 1 athletes, without the glorified title of being "a division 1 athlete."

Also, playing at the DII or DIII level grants more opportunities to make your college experience your own, not your coach's.

I have heard countless horror stories in athletics over the course of my four-year journey however, the most heartbreaking come from athletes who lose their drive to compete because of the increased pressure from coaches or program. Division 1 athletics are historically tougher programs than Division 2 or 3 programs, making an athlete's college experience from one division to another significantly different.

The best part of not going to a division 1 school is knowing that even though my team doesn't have "DI" attached to it, we still have the opportunity to do something unique every time we arrive at an event. Just because we aren't "DI" athletes, we still have the drive and competitive spirit to go to an event and win. We are great players, and we have broken countless records as a team.

That's something we all have done together, and it's something we can take with us for the rest of our lives.

We each have our own mission when it comes to our college athletic careers, however together we prove to be resilient in the fight for the title. Giving it all when we practice and play is important, but the memories we have made behind the scenes as a team makes it all worth it, too.

The best part of being apart of college athletics is being able to be passionate about your sport with teammates that embody that same mindset. It's an added benefit to having teammates who become your best friends because it makes your victories even more victorious, and your defeats easier to bare.

No matter what level an athlete is playing at in college, it's important that all the hours spent at practice and on the road should be enjoyed with teammates that make the ride worthwhile. The experiences athletes have at any level are going to vary, but the teammates I have and the success we've had together is something I cherish and will take with me forever. I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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