More than a sport: alumni share the impact of sports in school and beyond

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At Townsend Harris, many students venture out of their comfort zone by participating in a wide variety of extracurriculars, with athletic teams being among the most popular. Many of these sports teams create a sense of direction for students by introducing them to new people, skills, and an environment that encourages stress management while teaching perseverance. The time and effort put into a sport can impact some students’ way of life and guide them through their high school years and beyond. The Classic reached out to a few THHS alumni for thoughts on their experiences with sports teams post-high school. 

 Recent graduates shared that their experiences participating in high school sports allowed them to develop both leadership skills and friendships. Derek Fucich (‘19) ran track and field from his freshman year until his senior year. He said he originally hoped to keep himself occupied and expand his social circle by joining a sports team, but quickly came to realize that track was more than just a sport to him, “it was a way of life.” Derek said, “Having the big commitment of track in my life helped me manage my time and realize what is most important to me.”

Similarly, alumnus Jaime Tran (‘20), who played tennis, table tennis, and handball, realized that as she began dedicating more time to sports, she became truly invested in improving herself and her team. Jamie explained that by taking part in Townsend’s sports, she developed her character to become more of a leader. “A few years later, I became co-captain of the table tennis team, and it helped me grow out of my shell because I had to assume more responsibility,” she said.

Meanwhile, Kailey Van (‘20) found her second home while playing handball. She set out looking for a team just for a fun way to pass time and learn new skills, but learned that she cared more for the sport and her teammates than she’d thought possible. Kailey said, “My time on the courts has taught me to always maintain a positive mindset because as Coach Jordan likes to say: ‘The game is not over until it’s over.’ In other words, nothing is impossible, so never give up on yourself.” 

The athletic careers of these alumni impacted their social lives as well. Jaime explained that on her teams, she found a group of friends who were willing to support her both academically and athletically. She said, “I ended up learning to play table tennis and handball alongside people who are now my closest friends.” Kailey added, “Looking back, some of my fondest high school memories are comprised of my time on the courts of Pomonok with my girls chowing down on munchkins.”

 The athletes shared how after sticking with their sports throughout their high school careers, they developed a passion for them and are still influenced by the life lessons they’ve learned. Derek said, “Each week I am improving myself mentally and physically which carries over to every part of my life.” Even after high school, Derek shared that he continues to run recreationally, and it challenges him to become a better version of himself. Furthermore, Jaime said, “Sticking to the same sports for four years straight taught me discipline and a new kind of work ethic beyond academia that I’d never really experienced before.” Kailey also explained that playing handball inevitably leads to mistakes, which helped her learn to cope with hardships. “When pressure and emotions are involved, one’s judgment can become a bit clouded. With practice, I was able to overcome my worst enemy: myself,” she said.

In THHS, sports often help to bring students together and give them an outlet to escape academic stress. They also give many Harrisites the opportunity to develop new mindsets or habits that last a lifetime. To all current THHS athletes, Kailey said, “Cherish your time in the present, it won’t be the same looking back. Enjoy life and don’t forget to smile!”