By Erin Banco
I spent five years of my life practicing, living, and competing with 19 of my best friends before graduating high school. My team spent almost every waking moment outside of school together at the rink or watching Friends in Nicole’s living room.
I knew graduating high school and moving to college would be a hard transition. I would miss my family, my bed, and the home cooking. I even realized how hard it would be to leave a team that had filled so many of my greatest memories. But what I didn’t realize, is just how difficult it would be to compete in the Collegiate division against those girls who had become my family.
I can never replace the experiences I had with my former teammates. I define my entire skating career by those five years. I learned the most about myself on that team, with that coach and by those girls. I became the skater I am today because of their help.
Now I am headed into my last semester as an undergraduate at The University of Wisconsin-Madison and my last few months as a synchronized skater. As a member of the Collegiate team at UW-Madison, I compete against several of my former teammates. They compete on teams such as, The University of New Hampshire, The University of Delaware, Team Excel and Boston University. Each competition I see my friends warming up for official practice, cheering in the stands, or doing their makeup—just like we used to on our old team. But instead of sharing those traditions with me, they are fostering new memories with their teams.
I struggled with this idea for a few years after graduating high school. I didn’t want to skate with anyone else besides my best friends. I couldn’t imagine participating in new traditions or learning new cheers. And I knew my friends felt the same. I saw them at the Dr. Porter competition my first year on UW-Madison’s team. Most of them were seniors in high school and still skated on my old team—Brit, Meg, Justine, Alli, Katie, Kimbo, Alice, Lauren and Maggs. As expected, I cried when I saw them skate their short program and when I realized I no longer played a part in their success.
But now as a senior, I am finally beginning to realize the importance of fostering new, unique experiences as a skater. I knew that nothing could replace my experience on The Colonials, but I also know now after four years, that nothing can replace my time at UW-Madison. At UW-Madison I learned what it was like to organize and run a team with no parent support. I learned how to communicate as a captain and most importantly, how to work as a team to develop a program from the bottom up.
I miss my old team and the time we shared together, but instead of dwelling on the fact that we cannot skate together, I now look forward to seeing them skate at competitions, even if its not with me. One of the best parts about skating against my former teammates is seeing them compete. I love seeing that they still enjoy the sport. There is, of course, the friendly, competitive rivalry between our respective teams. But despite the competitiveness, my former teammates and I support each other in every way possible (cheering for each other at competitions, sharing our frustrations, or sharing insights on the IJS rules).
I have a few suggestions for high school seniors who plan on skating in college:
1) Cherish every moment you have with your, as I like to call them, “teamies.” I realize not everybody shares the same bond I did with my former team, but even so, taking advantage of the time you have left with your team is important. Whether you realize it or not you are learning and growing at every practice and every competition. You will look back in 5 years and realize what you had.
2) Being competitive is OK. That is one of the best things about competing against your former teammates. That extra boost of competitiveness makes competing that much more fun. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter how you placed against your former teammates, it just matters that you are there for them if they missed a step, fell or just had a bad skate.