A LETTER TO ASPIRING ATHLETES —
At 12 years old, I discovered exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
It came to me when I watched Kerri Walsh and Misty May win gold for Team USA at the 2004 Athens Olympics. I realized that was where I wanted to be — representing my country at the highest level possible. I knew becoming an Olympian wouldn’t be easy, so I spent the next few years trying out sport after sport to see where I could excel most.
My athletic career began with dance classes, but if you’ve ever seen me on the dance floor, you can understand why my parents decided this was not an activity for me! Next up was softball, volleyball, and basketball.
Basketball was my first love and I dreamt of playing in the NBA. It taught me the importance of fundamentals and spending hours at the gym before and after practice. While I stopped playing softball after a while, I initially stuck with volleyball just to stay in shape for basketball season.
My volleyball career didn’t start smoothly… My first initial year consisted of endless hits to the face and constant struggles. But after awhile, I started to get the hang of it. Before long, I grew to truly love the game. Basketball wound up as my secondary sport and my path was set — I was going to be an Olympic volleyball player.
Since then, volleyball has been a personal outlet. If you want to know who I am, watch me play. It is the truest expression of myself. It’s where everything just makes sense. Volleyball has given me a sense of self and has allowed me to pursue my dreams. From being a long, lanky 10-year-old kid to a 24-year-old woman, I’ve grown up in the sport. With it, I’ve been able to see more places than most people see in a lifetime, I have best friends in countries all over the world, and I have an incredible sense of gratitude for my home and the people I love.
Many people say sports can teach you life lessons, and while it always sounds cliché, it’s the absolute truth. These lessons range from developing relationships and working with your team to understanding and valuing a commitment you’ve made to playing a sport. Strength comes from a combination of lessons learned and the ability to see adversity as an opportunity.
I can’t say every time things get hard I’m jumping for joy, but when I think about the challenges along the way, they’ve always opened some type of door. People are often so afraid to be vulnerable and to make mistakes, but the faster you make mistakes, the faster you learn how to be better — that’s the idea in the USA gym, anyway.
It’s a crazy concept, considering you are vying for a one-in-twelve spot out of all the girls in the country. The environment in the gym is extremely competitive, and girls are fighting and grinding every single day to get just a little bit better. Being surrounded by so many strong female athletes makes it easy to want to give it your all.
We are constantly faced with pressure, heartbreak, and disappointment through roster decisions, daily performances, or earning less than gold. But what the team has taught me is you can choose to respond with self-pity or you can choose to find a way to get where you want to go regardless of the cards you have been dealt. I am still learning and working through the process of becoming a better, more powerful person and player. The idea of being a learner can serve you well for the rest of your life.
You can achieve everything you want in this world if you have the ability to be resilient and to pursue your goals with love. And in the end, regardless of what the result is, you’ll be grateful for the process and the doors that have been opened along the way. Every day is an opportunity to improve. It’s a gift to know you can choose how you respond to other people and events in your daily life. The power that comes from this outlook is greater than any win, or medal, or championship.
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