Good morning everyone, I’m Julia Simone and in less than a week, I will be graduating from grade 12. For those of you who don’t know me, I am not a confident public speaker. I’ve always hated talking in front of large groups of people, and English speeches were always dreaded year after year. But, when I was asked to speak today, I was surprisingly very excited. Those of you who do know me will agree that when it comes to talking about something I’m passionate about, it’s very hard to get me to stop. I have been at Del since grade 5, and have participated on at 2-3 sports teams per year since then. I’ve played a wide variety of sports at Del, including basketball, badminton, track and field, soccer, volleyball, and ultimate Frisbee. And I’ve had amazing experiences on all of these teams, each for their own unique reasons. Talking to you today, I knew that I would need to outline the benefits that come from sports and athletics. From learning a new sport and developing skills, to gaining a great source of physical activity and stress relief, there are many visible and obvious benefits to participating on sports teams. But sports can also provide the opportunity for kids to make new friends, and learn skills that can be useful both on and off of the court. And a skill that was very important in my experiences is the notion of confidence.
The role confidence plays in someone’s experiences on a team is very similar to how someone should conduct themselves in everyday life. When it comes to sports, you need to have enough of an assurance in yourself to try your hardest and learn from your mistakes, but not so much confidence in yourself that you can’t trust your teammates and feel that you have to act alone in order to be successful. I personally have always struggled with confidence, both in sports and in everyday life.
On teams, I often second guess myself, or worry that I’m letting my teammates down. Almost every single one of my coaches, whether on a team inside or outside of Del, for a sport that I was new at or had been playing for years, has told me that I just needed to get out of my own head and have more confidence in myself. Once I would start making a couple of mistakes, I would put so much unnecessary pressure on myself that resulted in a lack of performance, which developed a vicious cycle. But through my experiences with Del athletics, and by playing on so many different sports teams, I’ve been able to improve, slow down, and avoid panic. And once I started seeing improvement there, I noticed similar results occurring in my academic and social life as well. And one of the reasons I think that happened was because of the different roles I had on various sports teams.
For example, I’ve been playing basketball since I was five years old. And basketball is one of those sports that takes a lot of time to grasp the specific skills and techniques that are impossible to learn in a two-month school season. Because of this, I had a little bit of a head start on some of my teammates during our school basketball season, and I found myself as somewhat of a leader on the team. And I did my best to try to encourage my teammates, because I could see how upset they would get with themselves when they made mistakes, like I do, and I tried to get them out of their own heads. And by doing this, I was actually helping myself without realising it, because every time I told someone that their form was good despite a missed shot, or that they were thinking of a good play despite the fact that a pass was intercepted, or that they were playing smart defense even though they were charged with a foul, I realized that some of those comments applied to me as well.
Ultimate Frisbee, however, was a completely different story. When I tried out in grade 10, I had never played ultimate except for a couple of times in gym class, and was one of only a few new players, meaning one of the only people who didn’t have past experience on the team. Strategies, rules, positions, and plays were all thrown at me at once, and I tried my best to keep up. On this team, I was the one in need of encouragement. And my confidence was definitely at an all-time low. I made mistakes often, wasn’t used to the style of defense, and often found myself in the wrong position. I was terrified. I was so scared to be the cause of a turnover, or the other team getting a point. I felt like any time I made a mistake the grade 11s and 12s who had been on the team before would never think to pass me the disk again. And of course, this was all in my head. My coaches were more than supportive and helpful, and the senior players gave great tips to help me improve my game. But that didn’t stop my heart from beating a mile a minute when Mr. Kulenkamp called my name for the next shift. But I kept up, and I practiced, and with the help of skilled coaches and helpful teammates I was able to recognize that the mindset I had on the basketball team and had hoped to encourage my teammates to have would help me improve, play to my greatest potential, have fun, and most importantly, recognize that it’s always a great day to play ultimate.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still a very anxious person. I put unnecessary pressure on myself and my performance, I think too much about my mistakes, and I still really hate public speaking. But the way to become strong and resilient, is not learning how to get rid of or avoid a problem, its learning how to look at it, and use past experiences and present knowledge to try your best to find a solution. You shouldn’t fear failure, but fear being in the exact same place that you were when you started, because failure isn’t falling down, its refusing to get back up again. And I believe that that is one of the amazing things that athletics can teach students, and especially students at a school like Del. Whether it’s being able to look for the open person when double teamed, or taking a deep breath and executing a game-deciding serve, or coping with everyday stress, I believe that I am much better prepared in these types of situations because of my experiences on sports teams. Sports have taught me confidence, which isn’t being fearless, but taking risks and trying new things in spite of your fears. And so I hope that you all end up participating in Del athletics at some point in your time here, because I can honestly say that they have connected me to the best people, hold some of my favourite memories at this school, and taught me some life lessons along the way. Thank you so much to my amazing coaches and teammates for an amazing 8 years! Thank you all for listening and congratulations to all of the teams and athletes that have been recognized this morning.
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