This week the Winter Olympics begin. If you need me, I’ll be watching the coverage, cheering for the athletes and tearing up every time the National Anthem is played. Watching the athletes stirs up emotions for me since I once stood in their shoes. Yes, I was a member of Team USA from 2002-2007. I was a Synchronized Figure Skater and had the privilege of representing Team USA internationally for four years. While my sport is not in the Olympics quite yet, having the opportunity is something that has stuck with me and the lessons my experience taught me stay with me to this day. Today I thought I would share these lessons with you. (alongside some throwback pictures!)
Life Lessons Learned From Team USA
I competed at the National level starting in sixth grade. Skating was my life, but it was also only one part of my life. From a young age I learned to manage my time effectively and these skills have been invaluable in my career. In college, I worked to maintain my grades, internships, a board position on my skating club’s organization and a social life. This taught me that you can have everything you want to work towards, as long as you plan time for what is important.
Figure Skating is a sport that is known for it’s grace and presentation. On and off the ice, I was expected to act with poise and represent my organization well. Skating instilled a sense of confidence that allowed me to make it through difficult times with ease. I was used to stepping out on the ice and performing no matter what was going on off the ice and this has carried me through a lot. I am able to speak in front of large crowds with ease and can typically pull myself together despite how I’m feeling.
A Widened World View
Starting in 2002 I was given the opportunity to travel the world. Over the years I traveled to Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany and Croatia to represent the United States in competition. This exposed me to a wider world view than I would have had otherwise. It allowed me to visit countries with rich histories, experience other culture’s and try the local cuisine. We also got to experience the other countries’ cultures competing against teams from around the world. It was eye-opening to me and not something I realized at the time.
Goal Setting is A Journey
Our competition season started in December and ended in March and we trained year round for competition. Having a series of competitions allowed us to set and work towards goals, and also taught us that goal setting was a journey. I followed this approach when working towards my first marathon– first running a 5K, then a 10k and finally a half marathon before the big race. The long approach is an important tool to learn and I’m grateful that skating taught me this lesson. I’ve applied it in countless seasons of life and I hope to pass it along to B one day.
Failure is Inevitable
Last but not least, skating taught me that failure is inevitable and what matters is how you respond to it. In figure skating you learn to get up from a fall in your first lessons. Both literally and figuratively, the sport allowed me to get up from failures and forced me to push through. There were times when my team was the clear front-runner at Nationals and it was easy to get on the podium and there were times when we fell short, or scraped by to earn our spot. I came to accept that failures would happen and focused more on analyzing what happened to grow from them versus getting stuck on them. That’s the only way you can move one!
These life lessons are ones I hope to pass on to B one day. When I get asked if we’ll put him into sports, my answer is absolutely! The lessons I learned from performing on such a high level have stuck with me. However, I think that these lessons can be applied to any sport or situation. So as a parent my hope is that he finds something that he’s passionate about and when he does I hope to draw on my experiences to help him with his journey.