Whenever people ask me about how I got into sports, I always laugh. Because honestly, there was a time when I didn't like sports, more so because I didn't know anything about them, and I definitely didn't know just how far they would take me. When I was seven, my dad asked me if I wanted to play soccer. I was indifferent, my dad encouraged me to "Give it a shot," and ultimately, I agreed to it because my favourite cousin, Cydnee, played soccer.
My first year as a soccer player was pretty terrible. I scored all of one goal that season whereas my best friend on the team was a natural. Although I wasn't great, I kept showing up. The following year, I got better and became one of the top scorers on my team. Around that same time, everyone realised I had a special skill: speed. After the regular season, I tried out for the all-star team, which I didn't make because I wasn't good enough, according to the coach. I remember feeling devastated and telling my dad I would prove that coach wrong by becoming the best soccer player I could be. That was one of the first lessons sports taught me: you won't always win or get what you want, but that doesn't mean you should give up on your dreams.
My love for track and field also started when I was seven, and it changed my life forever. My dad and coaches saw something in me before I knew it existed. My talent was nurtured over the years, and those years of training taught me how to set goals, I wanted to run track professionally and become an Olympian, molded my self-confidence, taught me to love my body, and taught me about sacrifice.
I also used sports, specifically track, as an outlet. Whatever I was feeling, I knew I could let it all out on there. I grew up on the track, and I'm forever grateful for the sport and all of my coaches. As much as I loved the intensity of the competition, the rush I felt whenever I scored and my team won, and sprinting across a finish line in first place and breaking records, I realise now just how small those moments were compared to what I gained from playing sports.
From a young age, sports taught me how to be a team player and work with people who were both similar and different from me. I also learned how to be a leader throughout good and bad performances. I learned how to be supportive, listen, and encourage my teammates. Sports also taught me how to be tough mentally and physically. I learned all about time management among going to school, simultaneously participating on both school and club teams, and maintaining a social life. And as much as I hated to lose, sports taught me how to learn from my losses and lose with grace.
Because of one simple question, "Do you want to play soccer?," sports opened up a world of opportunities for me. Not only have I met some of my best friends through sports, I ran track at a Division 1 university on a full-ride scholarship, I've worked with top athletic brands because of my athletic background, and most importantly, I'm an all-around stronger and better person because of sports. The lessons I learned playing sports made me an incredible athlete, and I still apply them in my everyday life.
I say all of this to let you know that sports are about far more than who has the best skills on the team. Winning championships and athlete profiles in the papers are fun, but once you hang up your cleats and put away your gear, you're left with so much more.