To all the sports I’ve loved before

Jenna Payette: Field Hockey  

When I was little, my parents put my brothers and me in every single sport they could find. From ice rinks to soccer fields, I was able to find myself a home wherever I was comfortable, driven, and resilient.

Playing competitive ice hockey with boys, I quickly grew a thick skin and learned how to pave my own road to success. Playing soccer, I learned the importance of a group effort and how rewarding it is. From the techniques I sharpened in practice, to life-long lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom, I am eternally grateful for what sports have given me.

Then, when I least expected it, I found something new: Field hockey. A beautiful mélange of my two favourite sports with a weird stick and some unusual rules. But with the arsenal of skills I obtained from a childhood filled with sport, it came easily to me. And, now I can say I am a varsity athlete because of it. Field hockey, finding me only three years ago, is not only special, but rare. Sports never cease to amaze me. It reminds me that you never quite know how your future will unfold, but consistent patience, hard work, and self-determination will never lead you astray.

Drea Garcia: Climbing 

Dear Climbing, 

It’s hard to believe we’ve known each other for so little time. When we first met, my hands shook and my heart pounded. I honestly thought I might die—some might call these butterflies. You followed me like a ghost; a dream of my childhood that I never thought achievable. Ever-present, completely unattainable. I was terrified to hold you, so for years I watched, sat on the sidelines as others found you, guiding them to places I longed to discover.

Then we met through a mutual friend, and I know this sounds dramatic and unnecessary, but I never thought you’d change me so.

You taught me the significance of devotion, persevering through difficulty, and even more so when it felt impossible, showing up when I didn’t want to. This made its way into all other aspects of my life: School, relationships, my outlook on living. You lent me a community, an entourage of encouragement when I just wanted to let go and give up. Now, I can let go and accept things as they are.

You’ve shown me that progress is not only visible, but tangible; not day-by-day, but looking back and realizing you’re where you never dreamed you could be, or in this case, climbing grades once too intimidating to even glance at.

Now I try things for fun and I do things for me. Thank you for the rush after the fear; fulfillment after frustration; scraped shins and calloused wounds. You remind me of the value of being human. 

I always knew it was you. I can’t wait to grow old with you.


Emma Hawko: Sailing 

Dear Sailing, 

No one and nothing makes me feel free the way you do. The spray of the water is fireworks on my skin; the wind in my hair is electric. You have held my hand from childhood to adulthood. You know me in a way no one ever has and nobody ever will. I am always able to trust that you will make the hard parts of life easier, and the easy parts exhilarating. 

You punish me in ways that excite my soul, mind, and body, with just enough tenderness to leave me wanting more. Your sweet caress of the boom swinging across the boat and into my head leaves me breathless and dizzy. The tug of the ropes wrapped in my hands on a windy day burns and thrills me. 

You are my sun, my moon, my everything. I live for you, I breathe for you, I love you. Sailing, you are my world, and nothing will ever break us apart. 

Yours for all eternity, 

A sailor

Alex Pantis: Rugby 

I often question why I continue to play rugby. I question why I subject myself to the broken noses, the weekly separated shoulders, the shin splints, and all the other bumps that come along with playing. At some point in nearly every game—or at least a few times during every fitness session—I want to quit. Sometimes, I think about hanging my boots up forever. But I always, always come back. 

Rugby is a different kind of sport. A sport that demands extreme amounts of toughness, grit, and truly requires a team to work as one. It necessitates gruelling practices, months of pain, and sleepless nights but, when all is said and done, it builds unique bonds with your teammates, coaches, staff, and opponents. 

I love rugby for that. I love rugby for the achy knees and the pops in my shoulder. I love rugby for introducing me to people I love, for allowing me to grow closer to people I already loved, and for providing me the opportunity to connect with people from all around the globe. I love rugby for privileging me to wear the crest of at least 10 different clubs across 17 different cities. Hell, I’m currently writing this in Mexico, at the kitchen table of a teammate of mine who has let me stay at his house for the past three weeks. I love rugby for showing me that a sport is played between lines and that outside of them, you can love your rivals. But most of all, I love rugby for giving me nearly everything I have. I’ve grown into the person I am because of rugby. It has always been there, through every up and down in my life. 

I have a special kind of love for McGill rugby. I love the coaches for the tireless support they give, I love the athletic therapists and medical staff for attempting the impossible task of keeping us all healthy, I love McGill Athletics for allowing us to be us, and most of all, I love all the people who have left the program in a better place. This program is special. One that I’ve been so honoured to have been a part of for the past seven years and one that I look forward to being a part of, in some capacity, forever. Words can’t describe how much love I have for this program and what it has become.

That’s why I will never leave rugby. I never want to stop feeling the pregame anxiety or the feeling of opening a can of beer after 80 minutes of work. I will always crave that feeling of being completely drained, the feeling that only rugby can make you feel. I will always give rugby everything I can, because it has given everything it can to me. Thank you rugby, thank you McGill rugby, I love you.

Loi Duong: Climbing

Climbing is a totally unique sport. It meets you where you are. In its infinite possibilities, anybody can find their own way up a boulder problem or sport route, using the physical and mental tools that they already have. This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with climbing. No matter where you stand vis-à-vis sports, climbing provides a deep and rewarding physical and mental challenge. 

Climbing grips my heart because, if you pay close enough attention, it has a sense of philosophical weight. The way I approach climbing reflects my current beliefs, allowing me to be more true to myself. Instead of trying to climb (or be) like anyone else, I lean into my personal superpowers, accepting that I am a unique athlete—a unique individual. 

Finally, climbing has allowed me to meet the greatest of friends. I cannot imagine my life without them. There seems to be a special bond that climbing cultivates and it is truly a magical thing.

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