What I have learned as a Female Athlete
As many athletes reach the end of their high school career, they can look back and say that they had fun, or even that they made some good friends. Some might go on to say that their coach pushed them to achieve great things on the court and field, and that their support made all the difference. My experience as a female athlete at Kiski Area High School has impacted my life in ways that I could never have foreseen, and I am eternally grateful to those that were a part of my experience.
In my tenth grade year, I will never forget being at the Pitt volleyball camp with my team. We had had a pretty fun week and were just finishing up our visit, when our coach, Ellen Toy, led us to the Pitt women’s volleyball locker room. We did not know what was going to happen, and when she had broken the news that our beloved coach, Jaime Vick Moran, was losing her battle with cancer, that was a scene that I will never forget. We all were there for each other, and stayed strong together for Jaime. She had passed a few days later, and through it all, we could count on one another if we needed a hug or just to talk. She is in our hearts always and every time I think of her smile I cannot help but break into one as well.
We had made it through our season always keeping Jaime in our thoughts. Our team was so close, and we never wanted the end of the season to come. However all good things come to an end, so we moved on with our school year, just like we had at the end of any other season. Then over Christmas break, we received the devastating and sudden news, that we had lost Jenna Prusia, our teammate and sister, in a sled riding accident. Once again something that I will never forget, the meeting Coach Toy had called in the high school LGI. She wanted us all to be together, because she knew that we were stronger together than apart. She knew that together we could get through anything. We made it through, now with two angels watching over us from heaven. Always keeping in mind that Jaime and Jenna were in such a glorious place really helped me day to day, and seeing the faith that both of their families had through the turmoil, inspired me. It taught me that everything will be okay, even during hard times. God has a plan for all of us.
The following spring, as we neared the end of yet another school year, I knew what was coming but I could never have prepared myself enough for it. My grandmother, a strong, smart, and loving woman had passed away. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s and lung cancer for a while, and when the cancer metastasized and spread to her brain, we knew what was going to follow. It was not sudden, but peaceful. During this hard time in my life, my teammates were there for me. Once again, we were stronger together than apart.
The season of my eleventh grade year held some memories that I will carry for a lifetime. Coach Toy called another meeting and shared with us that her cancer had relapsed, and that she would not be our head coach for the upcoming season. Coach Dan Clair and Maggie Jones stepped in and coached us just as she would have. This season was filled with so many wonderful experiences, from our camping retreat with Jaggy Mones, to the everyday giggles in the gym. We were all best friends and never wanted to leave each others sides. Although our losses outnumbered our wins, I remember Coach Dan telling us something half way through our season that brought tears to all of our eyes. He told us that even though we had not been winning he was so proud of the young ladies that we had become. He had watched us grow up from being little awkward 7th graders to mature young adults. He had taught us so much, and he said two little words that are forever ingrained in my mind. PLAY HAPPY! I live by these two words everyday, and they never fail to put a smile on my face.
Then when my senior year had finally arrived, Coach Toy had returned to the court, ready to go. This was also a very special year and once again we did not do great in the standings, but Coach Toy was so proud of us when we clenched that first win. Her smile made all of the sweat and hours in the gym worth it. Coach Toy is one of those people that you meet once in a lifetime. She is the person that makes such an impact in your life, that they hold a special place in your heart. She has shown me what it means to be a good person, as she selflessly and gracefully lives everyday to the fullest, with no regrets. She is the person that I could always look to for help and guidance. She is the person that I could count on to pick me up when I was down and tell me everything was going to be okay. I will never be able to tell her, in words, how much she means to me, but I hope to emulate her everyday for the rest of my life.
Right at her side, through thick and thin, we were blessed with yet another coach. The amazing and gifted, in the art of delivering speeches, Tim Toy. His words always hit home, and never failed to bring tears to his and our eyes. He always knew what to say and when to say it. A lot of his words will follow me through life, because they had that big of an impact for me. Tim was one person that I could count on for words of wisdom. Tim Toy has the biggest heart of anyone that I know. He is so very special and I cannot recall a time, not even once, that he failed to make me smile.
So as our senior season came to a close, Coach Toy brought some news and rope to our banquet. She had the entire team standing in a circle holding the rope and told the five seniors to cut our piece. She asked us to take our piece of the rope, and remember our team as we move forward into the real world. Then, following us, she cut her piece of rope, signifying the end of her journey with us as well. We were the last class of girls who had shared all of the trials of the past years, and she saw it fit to leave with her last set of senior volleyball players. She told us to tie this piece of rope to something special and take it through life with us. To always remember that as long as we hold onto it, we have people that will always be there for us as we navigate through our new and exciting journey of life. When I look at that piece of rope, I can see my team, coaches, and experiences that have taught me to smile, every minute of everyday. Life is too short not to smile.
So, if I could sum up what being a female athlete at Kiski Area High School has taught me, it’s that I am so strong, stronger than I ever thought possible. I have learned that God will never give me anything that I cannot handle, he is always watching out for me and tests me knowing that I will make it through. He blessed me with countless sisters and one brother who I call my teammates. He blessed me with people to look up to, guide me, and provide words of wisdom, who I call my coaches. These irreplaceable people, who I call my team, they are the ones who I will carry with me in my future as guidance, love, stability, and strength.