Joining a Club Sports Team & How It Influenced My College Experience

When I entered UMass Amherst as a freshman, I can say that I was definitely overwhelmed by the size of the school. Despite there being a variety of different groups available to join and activities being offered, none of them came off as all that inviting to my freshman self. After careful consideration, I made the choice to try out for the UMass Synchronized Skating team. I can say that, to date, it is the best decision I’ve made at this school.

I grew up as a competitive figure skater. I spent a lot of my life training and being surrounded by other figure skaters, so a large part of my childhood memories revolve around the rink. For that reason, an ice rink feels like home to me. I thought my decision to continue my life at UMass after graduating high school would mean leaving my individual competitive career behind. This made me heartbroken. Skating was and still is my favorite thing in the entire world and something that I’m the most passionate about.

When I got to UMass, I definitely had a bit of an identity crisis because I was no longer “the figure skater.” Some schools have competitive collegiate programs but UMass is not one of those. As I made my college decision, I didn’t want to rule out a school based on their below average skating programs because I didn’t want to sacrifice a quality education. I forfeited my individual skating career, but this, in turn, allowed me to become involved in the competitive collegiate synchronized skating team at UMass.

Synchronized Skating is different than individual skating because it involves at least twelve skaters on the ice at the same time who are working cohesively to create different shapes and positions. There was a synchronized skating team at my rink but I was always more focused on individual skating so I wasn’t involved. However, I was always intrigued by the camaraderie the girls shared with their teammates in juxtaposition to the sometimes cold and shallow relationships individual skaters form with their competitors.     

After two weeks of being at school, I had yet to find my place. I decided to attend the tryouts for the synchro team, hoping that we would just be evaluated on individual skills which I felt confident in. Tryouts went well and I ended up joining the team. The girls on the team became some of my best friends at school. Being surrounded by like-minded people who have the same late night practices and early morning competitions is so important to me. They’re able to empathize and understand my struggles since they’re going through the exact same thing at the exact same time. We travel the country together from Florida to Illinois and Oregon for competitions and we create memories that we’ll never forget. Joining this club sports team gave me a family that always has my back at school and understands me like no one else does. And for that reason, I highly recommend that anybody who is considering joining a sports team does so.

Images courtesy of the author