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One of my greatest joys in the world is the feeling of ice crunching under my skates. I love playing ice hockey. It has been a major part of my life since I was seven years old. I started out figure skating, then one day I noticed the kids my age on the neighboring rink skating around in padded uniforms, chasing a rubber circle. It looked like fun. So, just before I was supposed to learn how to jump, I traded my figure skates in for a bag of equipment and a stick. I was a little intimidated at first because I was the only Asian kid on the ice, but once I realized how much I enjoyed ice hockey, nothing fazed me. I kept my focus firm as I worked hard to catch up with my team. Soon, I was playing on the best traveling team in Fort Wayne, and we advanced to two international tournaments in Canada. I was selected as one of the top 50 prospects in the Midwest during the USA Hockey Development Camp. For a long time, I could not imagine a future in which hockey was not the center of my life. As I matured, though, my priorities changed.
Midway through my high school career, having driven 100,000 miles and spent over 10,000 hours playing in ice hockey practices and games, I felt like I was spread too thin. I had to decide between trying to become the next Paul Kariya or focusing on my academic future. It was a difficult decision to make and a painful transition as I left the competitive travel team and moved to the high school hockey league in town, which hadn’t won a single game the prior season. During the first half of my rookie year, we struggled to even come close to winning because we had no coherence as a team. After being part of a powerful group that achieved so highly at such an elite level, this new situation was discouraging and frustrating. However, I decided that instead of complaining about it, I could make it better, so I took on the challenge of bringing my teammates together in order to close the gap.
I had always been a committed team player, but now, I felt that I had to lead the team members to believe in themselves and to show them that we could compete. I emphasized to the team that we had the ability, but we just had to work together and communicate more effectively. Slowly but surely, we began to improve, not yet winning but starting to scare the competition. We started to feel a sense of camaraderie. After working on some “creative passes” in practice, I was able to set up my line mates with passes that made us one of the top-scoring lines in the league. Finally, near the end of the season, we won five games in a row. As a result, I earned the respect of my new teammates and coaches. I received The Playmaker of the Year award, and it was the most meaningful moment of my life thusfar. I felt like I had used my skills to make a difference.
By the record, that was the worst season of my hockey “career”, but feeling of triumph and friendship at the end of the season were a greater reward than any scores or accolades. This year, as a captain, I’ve pushed the team to stay focused in practice and to keep their composure on the ice. So far, we have an unprecedented 2-0 record. Although I no longer envision myself being recruited to the NHL, my high school hockey experience has helped me develop leadership skills and understand that whatever the level of competition, it is spirit and cooperation that contribute most to both success and enjoyment in any endeavor. These invaluable lessons will continue to guide me as I pursue a career helping others through my work as a physician, contributing to the community around me.
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