Published: Jun 26, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jun 19, 2012 06:31 PM
Have you ever taken flight? You can fly when you experience a challenge and overcome it.
My mental and physical flight came when I joined the Carrboro High School wrestling team. I faced a lot of challenges before I could take flight. The biggest obstacle in sports is not making the team.
When I was 7 I saw a flier for a soccer team for kids ages 6 to 12. I quickly took the flier to my parents who couldn’t afford to put me on the soccer team. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Montbello, Colorado. My mother and father and brother and I all slept on the same mattress, a blue queen-size mattress. We didn’t have any luxuries in our home. This was my first experience facing rejection. I felt sad because I never got the chance to actually try out, and the fact that money was holding me back made me frustrated.
We moved to Jacksonville, N.C., when I was in the seventh grade. I tried out for the men’s soccer team. I was unprepared and a nervous wreck. During tryouts the coaches made us do drills I had never seen in my life, which made me feel exposed and alone. Everybody else knew what to do except for me. I didn’t make the team. I walked home feeling like the earth rejected me to another planet. When I got home I told my parents I didn’t make the team and cried myself to sleep.
Throughout eight and ninth grades I didn’t play any sports because of the fear I wouldn’t make the team. Before my strength and conditioning class in 10th grade I noticed a flier recruiting wrestlers for the team. If you had told me that I would join the wresting team in seventh grade, I wouldn’t have believed you. I didn’t give wrestling much thought, but I eyed the flier every day. Something inside me wanted to try out, but my past kept me from it, until one day my friend Alex lit the spark inside me.
He knew I wanted to join the team, so every day he would encourage me to try out. This was the first time a friend ever passionately encouraged me to play a sport. I asked my other friends if I should join the wrestling team. They told me it was too hard and that I shouldn’t do it. They told me that in wrestling I had to wear tight clothes, starve myself, and lose weight every day. I didn’t listen to my friends because they were holding me back from what I wanted to do.
Then I asked myself, “Why did I need to ask my friends about the decisions I make?” I experienced an epiphany. I now take my friends’ opinion into consideration, but I make my own decisions. My attitude completely changed. I am now self-sufficient and willing to take risks, and my new independent attitude has given me wings to soar. I decided to email the wrestling coach and find out when tryouts started. The coach, Dewitt Driscoll, said, “You don’t need any experience. Just show up on Wednesday in front of the school.”
Pre-season training is one of the toughest things I have ever done in my life. For one week straight we ran five miles every day. I wanted to quit when I had to starve my self and lose six pounds in one day, or when I had to give someone a piggyback ride up and down the stairs. Before a wrestling match everybody on the team has a weight class and you have to be on weight throughout the season. But if I quit the team then I wouldn’t have been on a sports team and would have let my friends get the best of me. I also told my self that if I couldn’t handle the wrestling team than I shouldn’t play sports any more.
Twenty birds took flight during the winter and only 10 made it through, and I was one of those 10. Others can influence you in your decisions and hold you back, but only you have the power to move forward.
People are always going to tell you what you can’t do. By not taking any risk, you risk not living. I risked facing disappointment and being made fun by my friends. Most people told me I couldn’t make the team. I even thought that myself. My experience of rejection in Jacksonville and my friends telling me not to join the wrestling team were holding me back. I overcame a mental and physical challenge by joining the wrestling team. I overcame my challenge by dedicating myself to taking flight. So what’s keeping you back from your flight?
Darwin Akim Garcia is a rising senior at Carrboro High school. He is a member of the Blue Ribbon Youth Leadership Institute and wants to be a radiologist when he grows up.