by Meghan Crocker
The decision to retire my skates after nine years of competitive skating and six years on Team USA was the most challenging decision I have ever faced. Last year at this time I had to make a decision to go away to college, ending my competitive career, or plan college around skating in order to continue skating for Team USA. The thought of potentially representing the U.S. in my own backyard at the 2013 World Synchronized Skating Championships in Boston was both exciting and heart wrenching.
My high school senior summer was a difficult transitioning period, with college applications and life altering decisions on the horizon. I asked myself everyday how skating would factor into my decisions. I spent endless hours evaluating the pros and cons of skating after graduation and the potential outcomes weighed heavily on my heart and mind. I thought about the sporting events and day trips to Boston with friends that I missed out on in high school and considered all the sacrifices my college-aged teammates made as a result of the demanding commitment to be a part of the team. I wrestled with whether the thrill of competition was enough to keep me on the ice, or if the chance to experience new adventures tempted me enough to leave my skates behind.
The direction of my decision was altered significantly upon receiving an acceptance letter from my top choice college. I was conflicted and confused, however, I was lucky to have great friends, teammates, and family who made the process easier by giving me useful advice. In addition to talking with past team members who also had to face this paramount decision, I was fortunate to have a great friend and teammate who was currently facing the same quandary. My teammate and I could indisputably empathize with one another; we attended the same high school, skated together for years, and were coincidentally both hoping to attend the same college.
After months of evaluating everything and confiding in each other, we knew deep down that this was the best time to transition out of skating, especially after placing bronze for the second time at the 2012 World Synchronized Skating Championships in Helsinki. What better way could we end our skating careers?
After I learned that Worlds would be held in Boston 2013, the confidence I had gained in making my decision faded. I began to ask myself the same questions all over again – should I skate one more year on Team USA? Should I choose a local college so I can do both? Or should I defer my college plans for a year? The decision process was lengthy, stressful, and frustrating, but with the continued help of my friend and teammate, I was able to assertively decide on the path I knew was right for me – the University of Maryland won my heart.
Today, I know that I made the right decision, although I still occasionally yearn to be with my former teammates. I miss spending time on the ice together, joking around on our way to competitions, and feeling the exhilaration that comes with competing, but my decision to attend UMD has proven to be exciting and full of new experiences. It has successfully filled the skating void that I had expected to feel. The time management skills I learned by skating competitively have served me well as I fill my days with an abundance of activities, ranging from pledging a sorority to interning for the University of Maryland’s Athletic Department.
Although I still need to manage my time for schoolwork and make time for my friends, it is on a much different scale than when I skated. I am able to be more flexible with my plans instead of working around a strict practice and competition schedule. I also have the ability to distribute my time more evenly between the different aspects of my life rather than devote the majority of my week to skating and school. Instead of managing how much time to allot for academics and socializing, I now find myself designating time to skate. It is strange how things have changed so drastically with the absence of skating in my life, but I know that skating will always be a part of my life, and, as cliché as it sounds, a part of who I am.
Until this year, I was totally immersed in skating and competition. It was my passion, my focus, and my life. Although it was a truly difficult decision to let go, I know that I made the right choice for me, and my future. I still experience pangs of nostalgia when I come across pictures from competitions or when I see old teammates during breaks from school. However, I am lucky to have my old teammate at UMD so we can watch skating videos and anxiously await competition results together.
The motto of the Haydenettes, my old team, is “Once, always.” Synchronized skating will always be a part of who I am. Even though I no longer spend 15 hours a week on the ice, or have the luxury of competing in various countries, I cherish my memories, friendships, and experiences and will carry them with me throughout my life.
I feel as if it is fate that the 2013 Synchronized Skating World Championships are in Boston this year. I bought my ticket for the event months ago, and while I may not be a competitor in this elite event, I can experience all the joys that come along with skating: the spirited crowd, butterflies before a skate, the good company of athletes and fans who share the same passion, and of course representing the USA—this year as a fan. Go Team U.S.A!