Throughout high school, it was extremely important to my parents that I had a sense of belonging and that I was included in as much as possible. To do this, I decided to continue my participation in track at the varsity level and joined the cross-country team for the fall. Truthfully, both were a challenge and in some ways, track was harder, as everyone had their own events(s).
One of the hardest things about track for me was that I found that forming relationships with the coaches was much more difficult. In track, coaches don’t run with you so you don’t have the time to have a heart to heart conversation like you can with your cross-country coach. Each day was so hard. Though my track coach, Penny Sharrow, like my cross-country coach Jim Adams, did an incredible job making me feel valued.
Through each day at practice and each race I was running alone and there were days I just wanted to give up. However, my coach saw each day how hard I worked to overcome obstacles and felt I was a powerful example for others to see and thus an important member of the team. This gave me the strength to continue on. There were times I have to admit I thought what am I doing here? Fortunately, my coach never left me out of the field and always measured my success based on my strong efforts, not on my time. I knew after each race we were sending a message to those with NVLD that they can do sports.
Socially, the friends I made in cross-country transferred over to track. What was surprising to me was how the fastest runners ended up being the closest friends I made and now years later, are still in my life today. Furthermore, the hardest part for me continued to be watching other resource students feel hurt and jealous that I was receiving more praise from my teachers and peers. The reality was that with my parents support and encouragement I was given the chance to break a barrier and I chose to take it. I knew how special this was for my personal and social growth. At the awards ceremony after each season, I received Coaches and Sportmanships award throughout my career. Running three seasons truly gave me a sense of belonging while bringing out my best qualities and allowing me to overcome all the negative self-talk of having NVLD.
Overall, as hard as being an athlete with NVLD can be I hope you don’t give up. Participation leads to higher confidence levels, improved social, and communication skills which are especially important for someone with NVLD. Your participation will also allow you to form relationships that go well above and beyond your time in high school.
For me personally, it gave me an incredible support system. I know you could experience this feeling too if you don’t give in to the obstacles!
I always love my coaches and will be grateful for them believing in me!