This is Kayla’s third year with the UVM Women’s Hockey program under Team Impact. Over the years, she has come to know several players, some more than others. Players graduate and move on, but at UVM there is always someone on the team who steps up and takes over. That is the beauty of a team: there are always players willing to take over the reins and be the leaders.
After watching UVM athletics for over 18 years, I have come to realize that the student athletes who attend UVM are genuine, good individuals. Years ago, I watched them as competitive athletes competing at a Division I school. I never thought about what got them to UVM, their families, what they wanted to do after college, or their experiences.
Over the last three years, I have come to realize that there is a lot more behind these athletes than sports. The life experiences that some of these athletes have endured are unthinkable. Whether it be mental health issues, losing a parent, fighting an illness, experiencing a severe injury, or having a family member who has a disability, many of them have a story to tell.
Commitment, dedication, patience, and love radiate off this one team leader. Commitment to seeing Kayla outside the rink, dedication to showing up for EVERY “Successful Skating” class that occurs for 16 weeks and bringing along teammates, patience in dealing with Kayla’s ups and downs, and love, which she shows not only for Kayla but for all the kids she interacts with.
After talking to her mother and hearing her story, I was impressed by the strength of this student athlete and the connection she has made with Kayla. This teammate has cared for and loved an individual with a similar diagnosis as Kayla. Unfortunately, the degree of a diagnosis can present in many ways. The condition can be debilitating, and it is heart-wrenching to see any child experience this.
Kayla is fortunate. Not only does she not show signs of this horrific condition, but she has an amazing, supportive, caring teammate who she truly loves. So, the next time you are watching collegiate sports, remember that they too might have a story to share.