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Spring 2018 Athletic Banquet Keynote Speech by Grace Smith ’18

Grace Smith ’18. Photo by Glenn Minshall
Hello and welcome to the last athletic banquet of the 2017–18 school year, and for seniors, welcome to your last ever NMH athletic banquet. I am extremely excited to be able to speak today, and I hope that my words will resonate with all of you.

As athletes, we love to compete. Whether you are a tri-varsity athlete going on to play intercollegiate athletics or you’re trying out a sport for the first time, it is human nature to be competitive. But not everything can go the way that we want it to; that would be too easy. Through injuries, losses, or even being cut from a certain team, adversity challenges us. The way that we respond to a challenge speaks to our character while giving us the opportunity to grow and learn.

Those of you who know me probably know that I have spent a lot of time in the training room with Wendy and Jesse this past year. My luck has been pretty rough when it comes to injuries. When I finally healed from one, something new always would find a way to taunt me. Crutches, slings, and braces are just a few of the things that I have had to deal with this past year alone. It has been difficult for me to miss out on so much, and I always felt like I was letting my team down, even though it was always out of my control.

This spring, I have been fortunate to stay away from any long-term injuries (and I should probably knock on wood for that one). However, this past winter season, I experienced one of the most painful injuries that I have ever had. During our hockey game against Hotchkiss, in overtime, I had to make a desperate, out-of-position dive to keep the puck from going in the net. In making the save, I dove in the opposite direction from where my hips were pointing, snapping my ankle in the wrong direction. I played the rest of overtime on my knees as I could not put pressure on my leg and the puck was still in our zone. After several saves without the use of my ankle, we ended the game in a tie. This sacrifice took me out for most of the winter season, and the only thing that allowed me to come back was months of daily physical therapy, a couple of layers of heavy-duty tape, and some pretty incredible trainers. My ankle will never truly be the same again, and I will likely have to rely on a brace for a while.

When the winter season came to an end and the spring season was approaching, I seriously contemplated whether or not I should play lacrosse this year. It would have been easy for me to rest my ankle and take my senior spring off to give my body a break. I was already committed to college for a different sport, and I was not sure that I wanted to take the risk of yet another injury, and I definitely did not want my ankle to start acting up again. I questioned my contributions to the team, and whether or not it really made a difference if I played.

Looking back, I cannot believe that those thoughts even crossed my mind. The bonds that were formed over this past season among my teammates, coaches, managers, and even Tevin, Coach Nicole’s dog, prove to be lifelong and unbreakable. I will never forget the memories that we made, like when we biked and hiked to the creamie, when our bus broke down on our way to Andover, and when we made it through workouts and conditioning together. I’ll never forget about that huge 8-7 win over Exeter on our senior day game when the incredible student section began to sing “Jerusalem” as the seconds ticked down in the final half of the game.

These are the moments that any athlete lives for, the moments that inspire me never to take the easy way out. If I had not played lacrosse this year, my spring would have been much less eventful, and I most certainly would have regretted that decision.

Our team did an activity where each of us wrote something about everyone else. Seeing my teammates tell me that they looked up to me or that they felt like they could always rely on me made me extremely thankful to have been a part of the team. It is easy to underestimate yourself and lose track of your self-worth, but it is important for us as teammates to remind each other that every person makes a difference toward the team’s overall success.

Nevertheless, as athletes, we are vulnerable to a wide variety of setbacks. It took being injured to recognize how important a support system really is. I have seen how powerful it is to have other people helping you through your toughest times. I found that even the smallest contributions have the power to change someone’s entire day. Small gestures such as a simple check-in or even a hug made a big difference in recovery. Around me, I knew that there were people who actually cared about my health and wanted to see me get back to 100 percent, and that positivity fueled me to get better.

So, give gratitude to those around you. Recognize everyone who has contributed to your life to help you get to where you are, right now, in this moment. Be there for your teammates, and never let a setback steer you away from your goals.

Thank you.


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