Love Squad Athlete Series: Kristina Garrido

Our next Athlete Series contributor is Kristina Garrido, a former D1 soccer player who describes the roller coaster of verbally committing to a full athletic scholarship at another school, applying to a reach school as a 'hail mary' just to see if she could get in - and receiving an acceptance letter from Harvard. 

Kristina describes taking an enormous risk and going after what she wanted despite the gnawing self-doubt - and why believing in yourself is always worth it. 

The following was written by Kristina in August.

Sports by nature are unpredictable.  It’s never certain that you’re going to win, that you’re going to play well. You always have to show up and perform.   And whether or not things go the way you thought they would, you have to deal with that sense of unpredictability – learn from it, grow from it, be better because of it – and the explosive combination of excitement and discomfort that it births.  That’s feedback loop is what makes you a better athlete and ultimately a better person.  And the more tuned into this feedback loop you get, the more you start to notice it happening in other parts of your life too.  What we learn on the field or the court doesn’t stay there, or at least it shouldn’t.  The true magic of what we experience is on the field, court, track is taking those lessons outside the lines.

April 1st, 2010 was no different for me.  “Be right back,” I told my Dad as I carried my uniform into a McDonalds.  I was on my way back from a friend’s birthday lunch in Santa Cruz when we pulled over so that I could change into my uniform for my club team’s scrimmage later that night.

When I went back out to the car I found my Dad looking at his phone sobbing.  “There’s…this email…for you. Just look at it. I…I don’t know what it means.”  My heart stopped.

I took his phone and saw the Harvard header.  Honestly, I don’t even remember what it said.  I just remember the words floating on a white screen and them telling me in some language that I was offered admission.  WHAT.  I broke down and immediately called my Mom, who was at work and upon answering the phone and hearing me crying immediately freaked out, naturally.  Fast forward through the exchanges of (happy) expletives, I had made the decision that I was on my way to Harvard that fall.

About a half a year before this very moment, my life looked very different.  I was verbally committed to play soccer at a small private school in southern California on a pretty sizable scholarship.  I had grown up playing for a club where it was pretty much assumed that everyone would go on to play in college, and that’s what I shot for and made happen.  I had committed early in my junior year of high school to a program whose coaches I gelled with and playing style I saw myself fitting nicely into.  All of that is to say that I was really happy with the state of things - not having to worry about the college search that most of my peers would be dealing with a year later because I had basically done it during my freshman and sophomore year, minimizing financial burden on my parents by getting money to go play soccer, and the admissions process would be a breeze. Applying to one school? Jackpot.

And that’s what I told my high school guidance counselor during the fall of my senior year.  I already had it figured out, so her job was easy, right?  “Well…maybe you should try applying to a few other schools just to see if you get in.  Schools like Harvard and Stanford.  Every year one or two kids from our graduating class get into schools like that and you’re in a good position to do that.”

Ok full stop.  Harvard. Stanford. Yale.  Literally I don’t think those words had ever even come out of my mouth during the 17 years I had been alive.  I didn’t come from a place where that was expected or even imaginable, so the fact that this option might be possible was pretty mind blowing.  After some conversations with my parents, it boiled down to this: if I were granted admission into anyone of the schools my counselor had mentioned, how would I be able to say no?  That would be an opportunity of a lifetime, and there’s no way that I could close that door.

But, there was just one little detail that made this a bit more difficult.  This conversation was happening around November of my senior year, so all of the schools she had mentioned had already given all of their designated “likely letters” (allocated spots that the athletic department is given to grant kids admission into the school) away.  So, even though multiple Ivy League coaches told me they wanted me on their teams, I had to get in on my own.  It seemed like all the work I had done from a soccer standpoint to make the college process as straightforward as possible was basically for nothing…all the emails, all the research, all the training, all the camps…did it even matter?  I was turning down not only a financially attractive scholarship but a level of certainty in that I would be a part of a program’s plan. They wanted me.  If I got into any of these other schools, there was no guarantee of pretty much anything.  I was coming in on the tail end, so how would I be treated?

But I chose to roll with it.  And there were a ton of those unpredictable moments over the next four years as well.  From getting injured on the first day of preseason, to scoring goals, to not playing as much as I had hoped, to being a sounding board for my teammates through trials and tears…I saw the game from all sides.  And every single side made me a stronger, more aware individual.  Even though I didn’t like some of these sides at time, I don’t think that I would be who I am today without experiencing and learning how to respond to each of them.

I think that those moments, when I take a step back and look at the whole thing, are what have made me love soccer and sports in general more and more over the years.  At each twist and turn, I’ve had to evaluate what being an athlete and a part of the sports community meant to me.  During my youth club days, it meant the chance to compete and get better at something every day.  During college it meant being a part of something greater than myself.  And now…well now it’s everything.  All of those learnings and meanings have come together to give me confidence in job interviews, in meetings where I’m the only female in the room, in my relationships.  It’s almost like not playing every day and not being in that environment has amplified that meaning for me, which is a bit…unpredictable…don’t you think?

By Kristina Garrido

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