This I Believe

Carly - Webster, New York
Entered on March 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: sports

For the first fifteen years of my life, I rolled my eyes at any essay concerning the topic “what sports taught me about life.” Having never been truly involved in a team sport, I suppressed groans as essayists rambled on about how playing a sport had taught them innumerous life lessons. Nevertheless, here I sit, writing an essay about what a team sport taught me about life.

The tortuous eight-week summer soccer league I played in when I was seven and the prospect of standing in an outfield each sweltering July afternoon encouraged my general hatred directed towards traditional team sports. So when I was nine, my mother enrolled me in a Learn to Skate class at the local ice skating rink. Each week, I looked forward to my hour-long lesson when I would learn to glide, spin, and jump. However, after three years, I reached a plateau. After a particularly disastrous freestyle competition, I decided that skating competitively was not a viable option, so I quit.

Three years after quitting I discovered synchronized skating: the fastest growing sport in the figure skating world. Teams of eight to twenty-four skaters, decked out in matching costumes and dramatic makeup, perform a routine consisting of synchronized choreography and form graceful circles, lines, pinwheels, and intersections. Captivated by the concept of returning to the activity that had, at one time, brought me so much joy, I took a deep breath and joined a local synchronized skating team.

I believe that skating with nine other girls has taught me invaluable lessons that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life. I have learned that not only does an individual’s contribution matter, but a team nurtures the ability to cooperate, to accomplish shared challenges, and to learn about interdependence. It exposes the team members to diversity, builds resilience, and teaches team members how to give more than they initially think they can give.

The most important lesson that I have learned from skating on a synchronized skating team is also, literally, the most painful. One particularly difficult required move, the pass-through, is a backwards intersection of two lines. This dreaded element has taught me much more than how to do a backwards lunge. Entering the pass-through the first time my team tried it, I collided with the girl on my right. I was thrown backwards onto the ice, the wind was knocked out of me, and I hit my head on the unforgiving frosty floor. But this experience, and the large bruise that appeared the next day, showed me that the worst was behind me. Now I knew what would happen if I fell; if it happened again, it would not likely be any worse than it had been the first time.

I believe that the pass-through taught me that it is necessary to take risks. Falling taught me that, instead of recoiling in fear, you should take a deep breath, close your eyes, and go for it. Sometimes you may end up lying on the ice, but sometimes you’ll sail through and take home the gold medal.