Updated: Oct 16, 2019
All my life I've been a member of a team, which is perhaps why my UMDPT family feels more like my teammates than my classmates.
I consider my first introduction to teamwork an early one. With the 4 siblings and 2 parents I like to think of us as a 2x5 soccer match where my parents are rarely (re:never) getting subbed out. We're a unit in constant communication. We share our triumphs and failures, have different strengths and weaknesses, and are united by a common goal: to be the best team we can be. It was (and is) in this house, I learned what it means to be a good teammate.
Throughout my adolescence, my parents encouraged team sports. I played every sport I could, and loved the camaraderie in the dug-out of the softball game more than I liked to actually play softball. I taught cheers and brought bubble gum and learned to fishtail braid hair and spit sunflower seeds. We won and lost together. Celebrating successes with dribbles of ice cream on dusty hands after an afternoon in the sun, and kicking the mud off our cleats after bad games still looking forward to the next time we'd take the field. It was on these summer-rec leage teams that I learned the point of the sport wasn't just to play the game. It's building relationships with peers, understanding how differing personalities can work together, and growing in skill with the help of teammates.
As the All Star Softball days of summer came to a close, I found myself passionately involved in All-Star Cheerleading, also known as competitive cheerleading. I made it on to a level-5 team my senior year of high school, despite my level-4 (at best) skills. I was thrilled to have made the team and worked strenuously to prove to my coaches that they made the right decision in putting me on the team. While I knew that I would never be the best athlete, I knew that I had a lot to offer as an older team member. I made life-long friendships, laughed, cried and even bled one time. It was on this team, I learned that you don't have to be the best player to be a great leader.
In college, I struggled to find my team. I had been so used to having the support of my cheer teammates and family, and I wasn't finding my fit. I made awesome friends my freshman year but was looking for something to fill the void, when I realized cheer-tryouts were coming up. I was, again, thrilled when I made the team. Finally! A home away from home, a family. I loved cheerleading and wanted my coaches to know. I practiced non-stop, at practices I was focused, at games I was on point. Cheerleading became my life and exhausted my energy. Schoolwork became second to my obsession with proving my worth on this team. But this time was different than in high school. I wasn't getting accolades for the effort, we weren't gelling like my high school team. My spirit was draining -- this wasn't what was supposed to happen. It was on this team, I learned that not all teams will succeed. This, above all, was the hardest lesson for me to come to terms with. Though I wanted so badly to make it work, this wasn't the team for me.
I grappled with a minor identity crisis: was it time to leave Miami and return to Pittsburgh where I knew family and friends would love and support me through the rest of my college career? I decided to put myself out there in hopes of finding my Miami-Family. I ended up joining Alpha Delta Pi my sophomore year of college. These girls immediately showered me with love, support, kindness and are friends till this day. I took on leadership roles and later joined both ADPi and Panhellenic executive boards. In both I had opportunties to collaborate, communicate, take risks, encourage honesty and develop strengths in leadership and "follow-ship". It was on this team I learned so many things. Above all, I learned that I thrive in that team environment. In order to succeed in college, I needed this outlet. The support, the friendship, the encouragement. People to bounce ideas off of, a place to go when I needed to get away, and people to listen when I needed to vent.
When I was applying to physical therapy school, I wasn't really sure how to "pick" a school. Some combination of location, rank, requirements and faculty created a lengthy list of applications. I went to a PT-Club meeting where two third year girls from the UM program came to talk about their program. They spoke a little about daily life, but described the familial environment of (everyone's favorite building) Plumer. The two shared their extracurricular schedules: beach days and bar crawls, pro bono and DOCs, the sailing elective. I could tell the girls genuinely loved UMDPT and their classmates. UM was already high on my list, but after hearing from them I knew that UM was my #1 choice.
Which, of course, leads me to my most recent team experience. My UMDPT classmates are one of the most functional teams I've ever been on in my life. Over the past two and a half years, I have sought the advice, guidance and help of each person in the class. Whether I needed help with studying for anatomy, practicing my practical skills, crafting emails, or choosing an outfit - I knew there were people I could always turn to. We are a diverse group of people with varying learning and communication styles. Each of us contributes a uniqueness, a perspective, that helps us better understand our future patients. We've shared personal stories that have grown us as clinicians. We are professionals, but we have fun together. We laugh while we learn. We are as close-knit as 60 people can be. Being a member of this team taught me (again, so many things) but above all I learned to trust, rely and reciprocally depend on my team.
As we part ways for clinical, I'm hopeful that my classmates and my clinical experiences cultivate similar team environments. That we each are able to contribute our perspectives, knowledge, and uniqueness to both the patients and the staff we engage with. And, that we may continue to be there for and support each other, offer advice to one another, and give comedic relief in our GroupMe. My hope is that we all have a team we want to wake up every day and win with.
Good luck on clinicals Class of 2020!