I am 18 years young and the first to admit that I do not know everything.
I have so much in life to learn, experience, embark upon and embrace. However, I can share what I know with certainty: Extracurricular activities — in my case playing sports — are the light for my generation.
Involvement develops character while exposing and strengthening our unique, and sometimes hidden, qualities. Above all, sports provided me a second family. I encourage anyone to find a way to a court or pick up a ball. Sports enriched my life, became my passion and shaped me into the person I am today. I am adamant that sports can offer this to anyone.
I stepped onto the soccer pitch when I was 5 years old and a basketball court soon after. I fell in love. I was a little girl who loved to win, and sports gave me a path to fulfill my dreams. It was not until my senior year that I saw sports in a bigger picture. I believe everyone has “ah-ha” moments in life — events that open your eyes and take you back a step to see what is truly happening. An “ah-ha” moment came to me at the beginning of last November.
We just won state in soccer. Everything in my life was amazing and my confidence was at an all time high. I was about to begin the final season in the sport I loved the most — basketball (call me a typical Hoosier). I stepped on the basketball court, and within the first week of practice I knew something was wrong. I did not feel like myself. My waning energy level — what I attributed to a busy October filled with college applications, the extended soccer season, and calculus homework — turned out to be a symptom of mononucleosis. After the mono diagnosis, I initially shrugged it off. I already had the virus for three weeks, including the last two weeks of the soccer season. I believed the worst had passed. I continued playing basketball, limiting my practice and playing time. I hoped to be back to normal soon, but mono had other plans.
Mono changed my life. For the first time, I struggled with something I loved. The struggle turned into defeat and anger, and the anger began to consume me. However, thanks to one woman — coach Jane Schott — I was able to persevere. She guided me to take a step back and re-evaluate myself. She challenged me — and for that I cannot be more grateful or say enough praise. Much of who I am today is because of her — as my coach, mentor and friend. When I felt so low, she helped me realize the positives and everything that sports provided me. It goes without saying that playing sports gave me a second mother.
I realized sports gave me a second family. My teammates became my sisters; girls I could tell anything and who would have my back whenever I needed them. In high school, drama swallows most girls’ confidence, but my sisters provided me a support system. They encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and embrace the challenges. I realized they loved me no matter what happened. As I struggled on the court, they were there for me in the locker room.
My participation in sports tested my faith and character many times. Through sports I developed a strong will. Sports gave me what I needed in life — love, encouragement, and perseverance — and that is why I have chosen to continue to play in college.