I live to compete. As long as I can remember, I have been a part of a sports team. Whether that was baseball, softball, cross-country, track, swim team, tennis, soccer, or basketball…. Yes, I just listed all the sports I have played. I can’t forget about the sports I played during gym class or recess time; such as volleyball, hockey, or even badminton. During my elementary school days at Presentation of Mary Academy (PMA), I would be considered a ‘gym class hero’. Those who do not know what a ‘gym class hero’ is… it is a boy or girl that works “wicked hard” during gym class, always trying to win no matter the challenge. I was that student… that took any competitive activity seriously. Why was I this way? Well, because I loved to compete.
At PMA, before each gym class our teacher had us run a timed-mile. On her bulletin board she posted the top times of each grade. I ALWAYS found this to be my biggest competition. I lived for being on that bulletin board. I wanted to have the best time; I needed to have the best time! I was the girl at recess who was the first student on the kickball field so I could be a captain, therefore I could pick my team and…win. At PMA we would have field-day once a year. Field-day is when all the students would spend the entire day outside playing different games and activities. I would literally try to win every challenge. I remember one field-day, there was a hula-hoop challenge. Again, I had to win that, it didn’t matter that my group was moving on to the next station, I hula-hooped until I had the best time. Now, I could honestly go on and on about my competitive childhood days, but I would be typing forever.
How did I get so competitive? Well, one reason was because I always compared myself to others, constantly trying to be better than the person next to me, or ahead of me. I felt like the kids at school who challenged were the boys… so I found myself always competing against boys. Jake, Brian, and of course Tyler were my greatest friends…(still are), but also my biggest enemies. These boys would ALWAYS beat me, they were just so damn athletic.
I really should thank these boys, for not only never letting me win, but for always challenging me and competing with me in literally any sport… first cross country, then soccer, then basketball, and can’t forget about recess. Jake taught me how to be physical, since he would literally two hand push me or body check me no matter what sport we were playing. Tyler taught me how to use my small size to my advantage. Since he was super tall, competing against him forced me to learn how to score the basketball without getting blocked. Brian, taught me how to use my brain when competing, since he always outsmarted me in every recess game. These boys developed the beginning of my love for competing, and I have never lost that passion.
Growing up, I felt like it was never ‘cool’ for girls to be the competitive ones in gym class or during recess time. It was mostly the boys who were the ones always arguing or fighting during recess or gym-class competitions. For some reason, I never seemed to care about being one of the few, if not, the only girl taking recess games or gym class seriously. All I cared about was trying to beat my opponents. It never mattered to me if my competition was a girl or boy, older or young, faster or stronger. I wanted to compete, just so happens most of the time it was against Jake, Brian, or Tyler.
I believe competing is extremely important, because it can truly shape a person’s character. Competing developed my work ethic. It taught me that winning won’t come easy, therefore I must work extremely hard. Competing against Jake, Brian, and Tyler showed me that there is always someone out there that will be bigger, stronger, faster, or even more talented than me. Competing also taught me to never quit. In any of my competitions, there was never a time where giving up was an option. In fact, one time during a family vacation, Jake and I played one-on-one basketball, in the middle of the day… in Aruba. Even though it was over 100 degrees, we were wicked dehydrated, and our skin was burning in the sun… neither one of us would quit. My thought process was if I quit, then I would lose…. and I can tell you right now, that I HATE losing more than I like winning; so for me, quitting means losing. This competitive drive, this mindset, has helped me work through the many hard trainings, difficult school assignments, and championship games. Again, I thank these boys and my childhood days for teaching me that competing is cool, and it will always be part of my life.
Before knowing anything about the program Sport Changes Life, I would say sport has made a huge impact on my life.
But as a victory scholar, while sharing my story to others and using sport to connect and teach lessons with the young people of Ireland, I realize how sport absolutely changed my life. Sport gave me a chance to compete, and as you now know, competing is what I live for. I believe every young person should have an opportunity to compete. I was fortunate enough to have my younger sister and neighbors to play with after school and during the summer days; as well as being involved with my school and community leagues. Schools, towns, or even neighborhood communities should provide courts or fields for kids to have a safe place to play. On top of that, they should also organize competitions or group trainings were young kids can get involved and learn how to compete, does not matter the sport. At Maynooth, Jim Walsh, organizes an academy for young kids starting at the age of 6, where they have a chance to not only develop basketball skills but to compete with other kids in the area. This ten-week program, called Maynooth Basketball Academy is a perfect example of giving the youth an opportunity to learn the lessons I learned through competing.
I am thankful for the Sport Changes Life program and the Portlaoise Panthers for giving me this opportunity to continue to not just play basketball… but continue to compete. While my basketball career may come to an end, I know I will never stop competing…. because competing is cool.