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Congratulations to Team Elevate 2019 Parisa Vahid for being the winner of the 2018 Mary Ruchalski Memorial Scholarship. Below is Parisa’s winning essay which she then read to the crowd at our 2018 Gala on Wednesday August 8th.
“I can still practically feel it- the way my hands shook at my first tryout nearly seven years ago- that feeling that you don’t know who you are as a person or an athlete, how good you are going to be. A month ago with tears rolling down my cheeks my hands shook as we were crowned champions, but for the exact opposite reasons as they did years ago. Because somewhere on the field I had been defined as an athlete and as a person.
I can wholeheartedly say that Elevate did that- defined me. It wasn’t just one teammate, one coach, one game, but it was over fifty teammates, five coaches, and hundreds of games that molded me as an athlete and as a person.
In moments, where I don’t want to run the extra yard I feel Dave screaming in my head to push myself beyond the limits that I have created. When I am struggling in the classroom, I hear Vic reminding me that I am not defined by how well I do but the effort I put forth. Sometimes when I am upset about the way we played a game, I hear Bridget in my head reminding me that teams are built from moments of strength and weakness and we must always stick together. No matter how many times I have missed the goal – or made a mistake-, I know that my teammates were going to be there to back up the cage. On nights where I felt like I couldn’t play anymore, my teammates and best friends were there to remind me I play because I love to. The truth is that I love to play because of them. Furthermore, on the field there were games where I walked away crying and games where I felt on top of the world, and that reminded me that there will be struggles and there will be triumph, but in the end we must always walk away proud of what we have done.
Perhaps the person who has defined Elevate for me the most is my dad. Count less car rides and weird discussions taught me everything I ever wanted to know. Coming off the field to his comments, always reminded me that no matter how well or how badly I played I had someone who loved me regardless. I always can hear him on the field, cheering us on. That always reminds me that I am playing for something much bigger than myself.
Vic said it before every game of my high school season, “you are playing for something bigger than you”, and that was Mary. Mary’s story often reminded of how beautiful Elevate is. Although I didn’t know Mary personally, I felt connected to her because at the end of the day we both had the same name on the front of our jerseys and that mattered more than what was written on the back. Many of my teammates and I talked about why her death hurt us so badly when we were so far removed from the situation, and we always stumbled upon the same answer: that no matter what Elevate is family and losing family always hurts.
Family is another one of the things that has come to define me as an athlete. On our team, we were only as good as the person who was having their worst game. However, the key was always being able to walk away a family no matter how angry or upset we were.
So, Elevate has taught me more than how to dodge at the fastest speed possible, and how to use lacrosse to feel free. Elevate has taught me what family is, what being an athlete is, what being a leader is. Elevate has taught me what it means to love with everything I have, and give with everything in me. Elevate has taught me what its like to live to my full potential.
Still, sometimes before games I still feel the pounding in my chest- unsure how to catch a ball and cut through the eight. So scared that I will make the wrong choice on the field, in the classroom, in life. However, those butterflies and shakes don’t scare me so much anymore, they remind me that Vic Kotowski, Dave Kotowski, Bridget Vilbig, my teammates, Mary, Team Elevate has gotten me this far and they have taught me to make each moment count, to be my best self on and off the field. I can’t put one moment, one person, one game as my Team Elevate experience because how can I possibly explain six years that defined me?