In early May, 2013, I was nearing the conclusion of a major part of my life. Graduation from university was not only the finale of a five year growth period as a young adult, it was also the end of all I knew up to that point. Thirteen years of school in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, followed by another five at Penn State University, I was finally entering the life all of those years were preparing for.
It was September of that year when I started my first career job at Advanced GeoServices in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Everything seemed to be going really well; within a few months of graduating, I was working in the discipline I went to college for and truly enjoyed. I was proud. Everything was going “as it was supposed to.” I started work early, completed my tasks, went to the gym that was thirty feet across the parking lot from my office, and went home. Every day was pretty similar. I was comfortable. What I didn’t know at that time was comfort can be dangerous. It can absorb your desire to grow like a dry sponge, lull you into a false sense of accomplishment in a heartbeat as if you’ve been groomed by society to be average. It’s amazing how fast this can happen. After three months of this new life, I had to change something.
I began to seek out local sports leagues (baseball, softball, soccer, flag football), but nothing gave me the feeling I would be satisfied. Out of curiosity, I searched for a list of Olympic Sports; I had always dreamed about representing the United States at a higher level. “What am I thinking,” I asked? “How could I actually get into one of these sports?” I second-guessed all of my emotions. “Am I crazy to be researching this? What sport can I just jump into with no previous experience?” I took a deep breath and sighed, figuring I’d continue to scroll just to see all of the sports. The search seemed to be for not.
I decided to read into some of the more interesting sports. Whether by chance or fate, I clicked on Bobsled & Skeleton first. I pushed my dinner plate to the side as my eyes lit up. “There’s no way,” I thought. The required skillsets seemed to fit me really well, and no previous experience was needed! “Is this happening? Am I going to do this?” I thought for a few seconds, watching the snow fall outside my dining room window, and nodded. That was it – I decided at that moment I was going to leave my comfort zone.
I began digging deeper, looking up training programs and testimonials from current and previous athletes, as well as past “combine” dates and results. Making this team would be my goal, although I told no one. This was going to be my fight that I needed to self-motivate, all while progressing my career in the working world.
On May 2nd, 2016, at 9:48am, I finally signed up for the July 9th combine in Bradenton, FL to tryout.
It was a long journey, as cliché as it sounds. It’s amazing how many potholes and road blocks you see if you travel far enough: changing jobs, moving to another state 1,000 miles away, getting strep throat once or twice every two months, having a tonsillectomy and losing 14% of my bodyweight, dealing with a lower back injury, as well as all of the other daily battles we all have. Yet, what’s also amazing is how easy it is to get past all of them when what’s pulling you is strong enough – a decision.
On July 9th, I gave it all I had, but I held no expectations. From our post-combine group meeting, I knew the coaches were looking for a certain number of athletes, and there were so many great ones around the country. I was happy to have had that opportunity, anything more would be a blessing. Come August 11th, the blessing came true. I found out I made it through to the next round! It was truly a surreal moment, two years and eight months after a simple Google search.
Every step has been exciting and new – definitely out of my comfort zone. From my first arrival to the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY, to taking my final run at U.S. Nationals closing my rookie season, I’ve come to learn how addicting it is to try new things. Every run down the icy track teaches you a lot about life. To be resilient, because failure is inevitable; it is the only way to improve. To learn how to let things go, because dwelling on your mistake in curve 2 will only hurt you down the line. To be willing to take chances, because the safest line down the track is not the fastest line. To be humble, because even your best run ever can soon be followed by your worst. To be patient, because no matter how hard you try, success does not come quickly. And when you do see glimpses of it, it’s important to appreciate it, because it does not come without a cost.
I am very appreciative and feel very fortunate to have had such an exciting, adrenaline-filled rookie season – a season that concluded with me placing 13th at U.S. Nationals as well as being named Rookie of the Year! The trials and triumphs along the way make it extremely rewarding.
Sports can be addicting. What’s more addicting is the pride of representing the United States of America. There are so many great people that I get to compete for while wearing red, white, and blue. It’s very humbling. It’s like hearing the National Anthem sung spot on as a fighter jet formation soars across the sky. I get chills every time I think of that. I get chills every time I think of the opportunity that I have.
I will need to lean on others even more in the coming seasons as our competition schedules become denser and traveling increases. Though I will continue to pursue my career working for AECOM, I will be spending a lot of time out of the office on unpaid leave, meaning less money coming in. Building a strong support team is going to be critical for me. I truly appreciate any kind of help or encouragement!
First Track Walk
Bobsled/Skeleton Recruiting Class 2016
Skeleton Driving School 2016
First Intersquad Competition -- First Place!
First Intersquad Team-Competition -- Victorious!
National Championships 2017 - Rookie Class!
GO TEAM USA!!!
- Timothy Barefoot
- Ann Hordeyczuk
- DLD Abstract
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