If at first you don’t succeed …

Sofia Farhadi, Raider Times correspondent

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(RAIDER TIMES EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story by Sofia Farhadi finished first in the 12th-grade division in the 12th annual Will McDonough Writing Contest, sponsored by the Sports Museum at TD Garden. Also winning this year was the essay submitted by Watertown High School 11th-grader Nicole Frisoli. Sofia and Nicole will be honored at TD Garden on Friday, April 8, prior to the Bucks-Celtics game. There have been six winning essays from WHS students in the past six years, following WHS seniors Joey Kelland (2014), Cameron Anderson (2013), Margaret Antonellis (2012), and Katie Carlson (2011). This year, three WHS seniors received Honorable Mention recognition: Sarah Lampasona, Nick Martino, and Nathan Ryan. Congratulations to all of the winners!)

If at first you don’t succeed …

By Sofia Farhadi

I’ve never been much of an athlete. In fact, in games, I probably spent more time on the sidelines than on the field. This inability has never stopped me from trying a new sport. In fact, I have participated in nearly 10 sports over the course of my life.

I’ve been asked “Why don’t you just give up?” Well, the truth of the matter is there really is no feeling like being a part of a team. If I had not participated in my town’s recreational basketball league at the elementary level, I would not have known a single soul when I transferred to the local public school. Did I get a lot of playing time? No. Did I score any baskets? Absolutely not. But just being there, having people cheer you on, and believe in you is really empowering. I met plenty of people on the sidelines and my school transfer was the easiest imaginable. 

Sophomore year is the year many people start to find their path and their group of friends. I finally found mine when I joined the tennis team.”

When I realized I did not excel in a sport and there was undeniably no potential, I would try another sport. And another. I noticed a trending pattern which I did not feel at odds with. I was never afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new. This could perhaps lead back to the saying my mother told me before every new experience, “Half the battle, is showing up.” I certainly won that half of the battle.

As years passed, athletes found their calling and teams became less welcoming and more concrete. I, however, was yet to find my own. This did not prevent me from showing up, but I felt a sense of exclusion when I showed up to my freshman field hockey tryouts consisting of girls who had been shooting on each other since third grade. I made the team (I had good coordination and somehow excelled at sports with sticks). I always showed up to practices and games and gave it all I got. However I always felt that I didn’t belong. As much as I enjoyed the sport and the uniforms, I decided Watertown field hockey wasn’t for me. I decided to continue on with this cycle and try lacrosse in the spring. Little did I know I would have the same feeling.

Sophomore year is the year many people start to find their path and their group of friends. I finally found mine when I joined the tennis team. Unlike the record of the field hockey team, the tennis team’s record was not something to brag about. From the first day of tryouts, I was instantly welcomed by the team. My teammates believed in me and everybody wanted to help one another. The coach was empowering instead of intimidating. Practices were focused on skill building, not suicides. This was the first time in my life where I looked forward to practices rather than dreading them. This was more of a family than a team.

Pasta dinners were not divided. We all ate and hung out together. We were a family. The captains were the older sisters and the freshmen were the little sisters. We all protected and genuinely cared for one another. We all said hello to each others in the halls and helped each other with homework. I felt like I could act like myself without being judged.

As a non-competitive person who only played a sport for the pure enjoyment of it, this was my place.

To me banquets where seniors are sent off were never really sad for me because I never really knew them. There was a great divide between the grade levels on other sports teams. As a sophomore at the tennis banquet, I got very sad because it was as if an older sibling was being sent off to college. These are people whom I shared laughs with every day after school for hours. As a junior, I felt this loss even more because I would be sending off seniors whom I now knew for two years. I was afraid this bond would end when the season was over.

However, it did not. I am still in touch with all last year’s seniors and I will be doing an overnight in college with one of them this weekend.

This year as senior captain of Watertown High School’s girls’ varsity tennis team, I hope to carry on the kindness and compassion that previous seniors showed me. I hope to set a positive example for the younger grades and incorporate them and make them feel welcome because I’ve been in their shoes. The tennis team showed me what true sportsmanship looks like, a message I will carry on with me for life.

–April 7, 2016–

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If at first you don’t succeed …