To all the sports I’ve done before: Track

How I learned to accept not being the best at every sport I’ve done

Sophia Chen

When I leapt over the eighth and final hurdle of the 300 meter hurdles race at track division finals, I heard a loud metallic clunk and the collective concerned “oh”s from everyone near the finish line as I felt my body hurtle towards the ground. After muttering an obligatory reassurance to the ogling spectators that I was in fact fine, I scrambled to my feet and finished the last five meters of the race. Even though I emerged relatively unscathed and laughed it off, I would spend the following day kicking myself, since falling had cost me a guaranteed spot to the following week’s league championships.

I’ve participated in a lot of sports: competitive swimming from fifth grade until junior year, basketball from sixth grade until senior year with two years on the varsity team, one year of volleyball in eighth grade after trying out all three years in middle school, two years of cross country junior and senior year, and one season of track senior year. And while I love basking in the glory of people being impressed by the number of sports I’ve done, I’ve definitely wondered how good I could have been at one sport if I just chose one and stuck with it.

I especially felt this during track — by consistently competing in high jump, long jump, triple jump and hurdles, I went to a different practice for each event every day. If I wanted to focus on hurdles, I could have benefited from attending sprints practice instead of high jump and horizontal jumps practice. If I wanted to focus on jumps, I could have benefited from focusing on technique in place of hurdles practice. The fact that this was my first and last season of high school track impacted me too — if I had just decided to start track earlier and spent more time with it, I could have jumped higher, leapt further, ran faster or hurdled better.

In track and even with other sports I’ve done, I’ve watched people who have trained for so many years and have spent so much time dedicated to a few specific skills compete at a much higher level than me. And beyond the occasional twinge of jealousy and bitterness that I try to suppress, the regret I feel from not reaching my full potential is compounded when I don’t beat my personal record or if I, say, fall over the very last hurdle of a high-stakes race.

For this season specifically, I had similar feelings of regret after competing in the 100 meter hurdles at the end of the season. While I grumbled a little about the fact that I could have definitely done better if I could compete in it again, I realized I was also grateful to have done it at all, because I had fun.

And that’s really the only point, right? Having fun? If I find more joy in doing everything, then why should I regret choosing to do so?

There’s no point in being bitter about sticking to one thing — even if I have unexplored potential in the sports I’ve done, I enjoyed being involved in all of them. And not only did I learn how to compete in different ways, I got to be a part of so many different communities with amazing teammates and supportive coaches.

Senior Sophia Chen gives a speech to high jump coaches Christina Dobbins and David Hartford during the track banquet. Photo by Fanlu Kong (Used with Permission)


As I’m wrapping up my time as a high school athlete, I’m sure that I’ll continue to chase the unattainable dream of being a prodigy at something. But doing all of these sports has really taught me that I can be content with who I am as an athlete and as a person: someone who is willing to try anything and will give it my all while doing it.

End of my speech for the high jump coaches at the track banquet:

“This might have been my first and last season with both of them as my coaches, but I sincerely hope that both of them and all the returning high jumpers can spend the next couple of years really being able to work together, and I hope that they will be able to give them the same amount, if not more, of the joy and fulfillment I experienced from high jumping this one short season with them. Thank you to Coach Dobbins and Coach Hartford for being a part of my wonderful track experience, and I’ll definitely miss them.”