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Every year, my college’s athletics program puts on a dinner for the athletes and hand out awards to deserving students for their athletic and academic achievements. It’s a night to commemorate the hard work that is being put in every day as both a student and an athlete, which is not always an easy feat to juggle school work and practice times, along with every other aspect of being a college student. As my final year in college comes to a close, this year’s banquet was extra special to me. As a senior, I swam for all four years, and played softball for the past three. I’ve watched the program grow and improve, making friends and long-lasting relationships along the way. So here’s a summary of all that I’ve learned during my time as a college athlete.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Everyone likes to win, but more importantly, no one likes to lose. When you put all those hours of practice in, going to a sporting event and doing your best, coming in second or losing a game can be devastating. After that, people can usually take it one of two ways: ask themselves ‘why do I keep doing this’; or tell themselves ‘here is where I can improve.’ Being able to get up after a loss is a feat in itself. Being a swimmer taught me to look at hurdles and obstacles in life in a similar manner. Sometimes, someone is just better than you. Sometimes, you beat yourself, and your best wasn’t truly your best.

Regardless, it’s necessary to understand where you can be better. It’s not easy being rejected from a job or doing poorly on a test, but that just means there is room for improvement. Having never even picked up a softball until my time in college meant that I needed to be clinically and technically good at the sport. I could not just skim on by, only putting in a little heart and energy. I had to give it my all to even be halfway decent, and even then I had to work just that much harder than my teammates who had been playing since they were children. And it paid off. While I wasn’t starting on the field as often as some of the other girls, I still earned a place and respect on the team from my coaches and fellow teammates. Gaining that respect counted as a win in my eyes.

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Know the Difference Between Being Friends and Being Teammates

Sports bring together an eclectic group of people with all different backgrounds and interests. Because of that, you’re going to run into a few people that might not have the same views or opinions as you do. With that, it’s important to understand the distinction between friends and teammates. Oftentimes my teammates become my friends, because of going through the same pain every day and the countless hours spent together. However, there was always someone that rubbed me the wrong way, someone I didn’t always get along with, or just someone that didn’t become a close friend. And that was fine, because we still learned how to work together and be a team, and be the support network we all needed at our lowest points. It didn’t matter if we went out to dinner after a practice as one massive team – it mattered that we came together and worked well with one another when we needed to.

Your Coach Is There For You

Your coach is there to push you. They’re there to find your limits and extend them, break you down just to build you back up. But they’re also there as support, a shoulder to lean on, and a mentor. While not all coaches will be that open, I’ve had the pleasure of having fantastic coaches that let me open up and talk about my personal life with them and help me work through my problems, even if they were minute. Having that mentor in my life was extremely necessary during my time in college. For some, they find that role in a professor or a friend, but with the amount of time I spent with my coach, I developed more than just a player-coach relationship, but a true friendship.

Know How to Trust Your Team

Along the same lines as working with your team, you need to learn how to trust them. You need to learn their strengths and weaknesses to fully understand how you all work together. Similarly when working with a group of people in an office setting, knowing where someone excels more than another can allow for more efficient working. With softball, it was important to know how hard my teammate could throw, or knowing how fast they could run in order for the team to operate as efficiently as possible. With game sports like softball where there is a set number of people playing at a time, there is an automatic sense of competition within a team that is bigger than the number of people playing. When you spend so much time practicing, you want to be able to showcase your talent and make the practices seem worthwhile; yet, when someone is consistently better than you, they are going to take your position and chance to play. So it is necessary to understand and trust your teammates’ abilities, and only use that to drive your own excellence.

Be There For Your Teammates

I spent the last three years as a captain for my swim team, which taught me a lot about people and how to interact around them. Firstly, I learned to never flaunt the title of captain. If anything, I was a teammate first, and a captain second. My role was to be a liaison between my coach and my teammates if need be, a shoulder to lean on for my teammates, and to be a mentor for those in need of guidance. I would always tell my teammates that if they needed anything – a study buddy, a wall to vent to, or just someone to eat lunch with – that I would be there for them, and all they have to do is ask.

Image: Courtesy of Sam Amberchan

HealthProfessional SpotlightSpotlight

After experiencing the magic of rehabilitation in high school, Vikash Sharma decided to pursue a major in Exercise Sports Science. Vikash went through many years of schooling and a residence experience that ultimately led him to open up his own physical therapy practice, Perfect Stride. As a runner, Vikash has first-hand experience with what his patients are going through, and he and his team work hard to help their patients fully recover.

Vikash gave Carpe Juvenis an exclusive look into his business, his top running tips for preventing injury, and why meditation and exercise are the keys to maintaining his happiness.

Name: Vikash Sharma
Education: Major in Exercise Sports Therapy and Minor in Philosophy from Elon University; Doctor of Physical Therapy from The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences; Orthopaedic Residency at Temple University
Follow: Perfect Stride Physical Therapy / @PerfectStridePT

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Vikash Sharma: Seizing your youth is about taking risks and understanding that there is plenty of time to learn, grow, and recover. As you begin to move further into your life, these opportunities to take risks diminish as responsibilities and commitments take priority.

CJ: You majored in Exercise Sports Science and minored in Philosophy from Elon University. How did you decide what to major and minor in? 

VS: My decision to major in Exercise Sports Science came due to the fact that it was the degree that would allow me to fulfill the most pre-requisites for Physical Therapy School. It was a decision that I had made fairly early in my undergraduate career due to the numerous hours that I had spent rehabilitating various injuries in high school. I just loved the casual atmosphere and positive interactions that I had with my Physical Therapist (PT). It always remained in my mind as a career option.

My minor came as a result of wanting to delve into something that I didn’t have much prior experience with. After I took a few classes, I couldn’t stop. It made me think differently and opened up my mind to looking at the world in a new light.

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CJ: You also received your Doctor of Physical Therapy from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

VS: It was something I had known that I wanted to do since selecting my major in undergraduate. Working with my PT in high school and seeing how they were able to spend quality time with each of their patients and really unravel the mystery that is each and every person’s body sparked an early interest in me.

CJ: You were an Orthopaedic Resident at Temple University. What were your experiences as a Resident like?

VS: They were amazing; coming out of my doctoral program I had a great scientific and theoretical understanding of what should happen. However, as we all know, that’s not how things always happen. This is where the residency experience was extremely helpful. It bridged the gap between being a novice clinician without any direction and guidance and being a skilled practitioner who is able to recognize various patterns and draw upon clinical experience.

CJ: You co-founded your own physical therapy practice, Perfect Stride Physical Therapy. What does your role as physical therapist entail, and how do you balance those duties with your role as co-owner?

VS: My role as physical therapist entails working with my patients to help them return to their optimal level of function; essentially get them moving as well as they possibly can. I do this through careful assessment of each individual’s unique body structure and ability to move. Based on these findings a plan of care specific to that individual’s need is developed.

These duties as a physical therapist are balanced with my duties as a co-owner through very careful planning and execution with my team at Perfect Stride. We all work very well together towards ensuring that our clinic remains at the forefront of physical therapy practice and is running efficiently. My business partner Daniel Park, our office manager Austin Shurina, and our Director of Operations and physical therapist Joseph Lavacca are all to thank for the success of Perfect Stride.

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CJ: You specialize in sports rehabilitation. Why is this topic of interest to you?

VS: As a youth I spent a great deal of time participating in a number of sports and with this love for sport came injury upon injury. Spending time in physical therapy for sports rehabilitation piqued my interest in this specialty early. I was always fascinated with the human body and how it is able to heal from injury and bio-mechanics.

CJ: What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned in opening your own physical therapy practice?

VS: As cliché as it sounds, you have to be willing to take the risk to make your dreams come true. I have always known that I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and open my own business. However, moving outside of your comfort zone and taking a risk on something that isn’t guaranteed takes a lot of passion and dedication. Looking back, I can say that it has been one of the best risks that I have taken in my life thus far. It has opened countless doors for me and also changed my personality for the positive as I am much more confident stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I have also learned that you have to be a salesman, you have to always be looking for opportunities to further yourself and your business because they arise with each and every interaction that you have.

CJ: You have been an avid runner for most of your life. For those who are interested in running and preventing injury, what tips do you have?

VS: Most of the running injuries that I see walk through my door are a result of not allowing the body to adapt to the loads that are put on it (doing too much too quickly). The body has an amazing capacity to heal stronger than before. However, many people are too eager to get running and don’t acclimate their body to the loads and stresses appropriately.

Cross training also comes along with this adaptation process. By properly training your tissues under loads similar to or greater than what running demands on the body (forces up to 2.5 times that of ones own body weight), you are conditioning your tissues for success. Coupled with a proper nutrition plan, training schedule, recovery plan (the most underrated aspect of training in my opinion), and equipment, you are laying all of the groundwork to ensure that you are setting yourself up for success and avoiding a trip to see me for a running related injury!

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CJ: What is your favorite running shoe?

VS: Saucony Kinvara – I love the heel to toe drop and feel of these shoes.

CJ: What is your favorite running warm-up?

VS: I have a few depending on the situation but I like this one presented by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

VS: Before I even get the chance to step out of bed I am usually responding to emails and planning the day. My mornings are usually a mix of breakfast, making phone calls, working out, running errands, answering more emails, and getting into work.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a physical therapist do now to set him or herself up for success?

VS: I would highly suggest gaining some experience as a PT aide or getting some observation hours under your belt at an early age. I would also recommend looking at particular schools’ pre-requisites for admission as they can vary from school to school. Make sure that you are covering all the necessary courses during your undergraduate studies.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

VS: In terms of professional resources, there definitely isn’t just one. I can’t stress the importance of communication and consultation with my peers. Getting a better idea of how others think and gaining perspective on the bigger picture has allowed for me to grow infinitely as a practitioner. This, along with getting my hands on any text or web-based resources that are evidence-based, have gone a long way in my growth as a practitioner.

CJ: When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to reset?

VS: Meditation and exercise are the keys to maintaining my happiness. My meditation practice is mainly based around focusing on and controlling my breathing. I have had some formal training in Buddhist meditation; however, my practice comes largely from what I have found to personally work best for me over the years. I have always found that getting in a strenuous bout of exercise is a great physical and mental reset; it makes me feel more alert, increases my energy levels, and most importantly gets my body moving!

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CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

VS: Personally – I am always looking to be decrease stress in my life and this is something that I heavily rely on my meditation practice to help me with, in addition to remaining physically active.

Professionally – Currently my focus is on learning more about what I can do to get all of my patients moving and feeling better than they ever have. This is done through taking continuing education courses (that we also host at Perfect Stride) and reading as much as I can possibly get my hands on.

Another big goal professionally is growing Perfect Stride Physical Therapy to better service the needs of our patients. This is accomplished through patient feedback and careful planning and trouble shooting with the rest of the team.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

VS: I would tell my 20-year-old self that failure is an option, failure is acceptable, and that failure is welcomed with open arms just as long as it is learned from. There have been countless instances where my fear of failure has stopped me from doing what I wanted in my youth and now looking back on those instances I can say if I had taken the risk I would have either succeeded and/or learned a great deal from whatever endeavor I pursued.

Vikash Sharma Qs

Culture

There are plenty of things to celebrate in the world which is why there are so many holidays and special events on the calendar. The Super Bowl has quickly become its own event even though some may think of it simply as an annual football game. So why has it become so important these days?

The Super Bowl is the championship game of the professional football season. It is the highest honor in professional football. The Super Bowl has been around for decades and has not lost any steam. Last year, more than 111 million people watched the Super Bowl, showing how much its popularity has grown. As a child, I watched the game with my father who loves sports. As I got older, I realized I enjoyed the big game for all it has to offer (which is more than just the sport!).

The Super Bowl has become an event that has something to offer for everyone. For the sports fan, there is football itself. For the music fan, there is the glamorous half time show. There are also the Super Bowl commercials, known for their inventiveness, humor and heart. By combining all those factors, almost anyone can sit down and find something to be entertained by. There is no adult content that many people can take offense to. It is programming for all ages and everyone in the family. Because of this, tons of people can gather around the television and binge on their favorite junk food. Watching television has basically become a party during these few hours of the year.

The Super Bowl has evolved into a national event. That said, it is not necessarily a bad thing. While it is a major production that generates a huge amount of money and draws millions of viewers in, it is also a wonderful event because it brings people together. Here’s how you can make Super Bowl Sunday special:

  1. Join a group of people for a viewing party. This could be your family or anyone who is important to you.
  2. Pick out your favorite recipes. Thanksgiving has turkey. The Super Bowl is junk food heaven. Find your recipe and indulge or share a healthier recipe with your loved ones.
  3. Be willing to stop what you’re doing for awhile. You may be tempted to text or do something else during the parts of the game that you are not interested in. By doing that, you might miss some of the excitement. Be part of the moment.
  4. Enjoy yourself. This event isn’t steeped in meaning like some. The point is to make memories with those you are close to. Don’t miss the chance to bond with those you love.

Image: Unsplash

Health

There are a lot of drinks out in the market there that you may think are harmless, but think again! A lot of these commercially-owned brands are actually incredibly detrimental to your health. Just to lay out the facts, ingredients on foods are listed from the most to least. So, if sugar is number one on the ingredient list, whatever you are eating has sugar as the greatest component. Here are a few drinks you may want to reconsider buying:

Fruit Juices

I really hope this is not your “healthy” alternative to soft drinks. Their name is the most deceiving of all. “Fruit juice” would usually imply their healthy characteristics – juice from a fruit. And even though I applaud you for selecting a freshly squeezed fruit juice, I’d like to remind you that juice from fruit is like drinking sugar. The healthy component of any fruit is to eat the fiber which then cleans out your intestines. And the vitamins? It turns out that the vitamins from fruit are not usually in the juice of it – they are in actual structures of the fruit. For example, in an orange, the vitamin C is in the white outer lining of the orange; the part that is stuck on the peeling, the part we all throw out.

Most of the vitamins and minerals in apples are in the peeling of it. Fitting the puzzle pieces together?  Fruit juices are not always the best choice. Moving forward, commercial fruit juices are definitely an aisle you want to steer clear of. If you really look, most fruit juices will state their disclaimer, “contains X% of fruit juice.” If you ask me, I would like my fruit juice to be 100% fruit juice. That would only make me wonder what the other % consists of. In addition, the sugar content is out of this world high. Most brands are packed with artificial sugars or sweeteners to help boost its flavor. Ever hear of high fructose corn syrup? Check out the ingredient list. Many fruit juices, especially the infamous Welch’s brands, are packed with them and oftentimes are on the top of the ingredient list. For this reason, try to choose the juices that are 100% juice.

Sweetened Coffees

Coffee overall is not healthy, though it is not incredibly unhealthy either. It has its pros and cons, but sweetened Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffees like the ones you see in all of your co-workers or classmate’s hand every morning really get your body screaming for help. White chocolate mochas, McCafe frappes, peppermint white chocolate mochas, pumpkin spice lattes, crème brulee coffees, coolatas, mint chip mochas, caramel macchiatos, au bon pain’s vanilla lattes, toffee mochas, mocha lattes, etc. all sound fabulous and lip-smacking; however, they’re also fatal to your health. A grande peppermint white chocolate mocha from Starbucks has 75 grams of sugar, 60% saturated fat, and 520 calories. The ingredients in these drinks are not only packs with all kinds of harmful sugars but they also contain a great deal of detrimental chemicals and vague ingredient labels such as “natural flavors.” What are natural flavors? Aren’t they unnatural if they are only flavors? Are these drinks all delicious? Absolutely! But are you drinking the elixir of life? Not quite.

Flavored Waters

The point of water is for it to be unflavored, neutral and thirst quenching. Why would anyone want their water to be flavored? If you’re one of those people, here are a few facts about flavored water. Many contain a great deal of the “natural” and artificial flavorings mentioned above. They also have high amounts of sugars, sweeteners, and added nutrients like Vitamin C. According to Business Insider, “Natural flavors are created from anything that can be eaten (i.e animals and vegetables), even if those edible things are processed in the lab to create flavorings. Artificial flavors come from anything that is inedible (i.e petroleum) that is processed to create chemicals of flavorings.” Making these flavors in the lab instead of actually extracting them from the actual fruit, spice, or herb is much cheaper and faster. Vanillin, for example, is extracted from cow waste while artificial strawberry flavor is chemically similar to that found in an actual strawberry. As you can see, many flavors do not actually come from their implied source. You’ll be surprised with a little research!

Soft Drinks

Soft drinks are perhaps one of the unhealthiest drinks you could consume. The first big point is that sodas contain a very high amount of sugar. One 12 oz. can of soda can have 39 grams of sugar which is more than the amount of daily recommended sugar intake for both men and women. Almost all contain high fructose corn sugar which stresses the pancreas and leads to spiking blood sugar levels which in turn affects the way your body produces insulin, a sugar stabilizer, and can eventually lead to many problems like diabetes. Sodas cause dehydration by not only serving as a water replacement, but they also contain a great deal of caffeine which acts as a diuretic, causing the body to have less water and fluids. Like many of the previously listed drinks, sodas can be deemed to contain “empty calories” which in turn causes weight gain. Lastly, phosphoric acid derives from rocks and is found in these soft drinks depletes calcium from your bones and also blocks calcium absorption which can then lead to osteoporosis. It also causes tooth erosion. Not fun, my friends.

Sports Drinks

Although sports drinks can revamp electrolyte levels, they also have their cons. Their acidity and sugar content cause tooth decay over time. Sports drinks are meant to be consumed when you work out. If you are not exercising when drinking them, they may call for some serious weight gain. They have a substantial amount of carbs in them and high amounts of carbohydrates at once can cause your insulin levels to increase and in turn, causing fat storage. They also contain high fructose corn syrup which is not only harmful for your pancreas, but it is also a contributor to obesity, decreased brain function, diabetes, and liver fibrosis.

Energy Drinks

When it comes to needing energy, you either go for coffee or a convenient energy drink. This goes for high school students, college students, and employees trying to meet deadlines. However, they can lead to weight gain because of their high sugar content. The mix of this sugar and crazy-high caffeine levels can lead to cardiovascular issues which are associated with a quicker heartbeat and increase in blood pressure (or god forbid, heart failure). These drinks also cause anxiety, irritability, and jitters due to their ingredients.

When it comes to choosing a drink, there tend to be many frustrating and misleading information. I would suggest sticking to water. You can never go wrong with water!

What are your favorite healthy drinks?

Skills

The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and we couldn’t be more excited to watch the Seahawks and the Broncos take on one another for the big win. As the players compete their hardest for the Super Bowl title, we are reminded of how important healthy competition can be. This game will be life-changing for either team and losing would be a huge disappointment. However, despite what the players feel on the field, how they act and respond to referee calls, taunts, and their own mistakes is a major test of their character. There are many ways to demonstrate good sportsmanship on the field. The outcome of a game is a moment in time, but the way people conduct themselves in situations of winning or losing is very telling for who they will be for the rest of their lives.

Whether you watch sports or not, there are many lessons to be learned from how the competitors on the field and court act. Here are 11 ways to be a good sport:

1. Remember that losing can have positive outcomes. When you fail, you can learn from your mistakes and have something to work on to be better and stronger next time.

2. Failure is temporary. You can improve your skills, move on from that moment of losing, and think positively about how you can work towards permanent success.

3. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you don’t want to be called names and prefer to be treated with respect during the game, treat others with the same mindset and values.

4. Don’t gloat. If you win, that will be obvious for everyone involved based on the final score. Be proud, but don’t rub it in other people’s faces.

5. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. 

6. Don’t swear or make others feel bad. Dirty words and trash talking on the field is a no-no. Use words that won’t hurt others.

7. Play fair and follow the rules of the game. Rules are implemented so that all of the players have an even playing ground. You would want others to play fairly against you, right?

8. Respect yourself, your teammates, your opponents/competitors, your coaches, and the officials. At the end of the day, you are playing a game. Show respect and others will do the same to you.

9. Have a sense of humor. As hard as this may be when you lose something you are passionate about, having a sense of humor will lighten the moment and provide a different perspective during this challenging time.

10. Be gracious and pay a compliment after the game. Walk up to the other players, their coaches, and the referees and thank everyone for a “good game.” What happened on the field can’t be changed, might as well show off your true gracious colors.

11. Be grateful for the opportunity to play. You have the chance to play a sport that you love. Use this opportunity to learn, grow, and have fun!

How are you a good sport?

 

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When you think of someone seizing her youth, it’s hard not to think of K.C. Oakley, a U.S. Ski Team athlete, co-founder of the foundation Jill’s Legacy, and an MBA student. K.C.’s ambition in her sport, her determination to raise awareness about lung cancer, and her dedication to earning her MBA make her an inspiring role model. When she’s not busy with business classes and spreading awareness about lung cancer and Jill’s legacy, you can find K.C. tearing up the slopes and dominating in her sport. With November being the official Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the World Cup coming up in December, K.C. may be busier than ever, but she tackles her goals with a smile on her face (just another reason why she rocks!) Read on to find out how K.C. overcomes self-doubt, how she plans on beating lung cancer big time, and how she works incredibly hard to make her Olympic dreams come true.

Name: K.C. Oakley
Age: 25
Education: University of California, Berkeley
Follow: Twitter | Jill’s Legacy | U.S. Ski Team 

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

K.C. Oakley: Experimenting and taking every experience that you can. You’re going to find yourself through the more you do, the more risks you take, and the more opportunities you take advantage of. It’s finding what you like and finding what your passion is.

CJ: When did you first get involved with skiing and how did you decide to do it professionally?

K.C.: I first started skiing when I was seven-years-old. My cousin was a ski coach so I joined the Alpine Meadows freestyle team and started competing in regional events. When I was going off to college, I decided that I needed to focus on a single freestyle event and realized that I liked moguls more, so I switched over to the Squaw Valley ski team and started focusing on moguls. I was never fully dedicated until I finished college and within a year’s time I made the U.S. Ski Team.

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CJ: What does freestyle skiing mean?

K.C.: Freestyle skiing is five events under the Olympic criteria: moguls, aerials, half-pipe, slope style, and ski cross. I compete in freestyle moguls which is a set of moguls, a jump, another set of moguls, a jump, and another set of moguls. It usually takes around 30 seconds and judges allot scores with a formula of 50% turn technique and how well you’re skiing down; 25% air score, which is the degree of difficulty of the trick and how well you do it; and 25% speed, which is transformed numerically by an equation that takes into account the length of a course, the pace set for a skier, and how fast you actually ski the course.

CJ: What is going through your mind when you are mid-air?

K.C.: In half pipe and slope style, there is a flat landing, but in mogul skiing, the most terrifying part of the course is the landing because you land and the moguls are right there. If you’re not in the perfect landing position or don’t get onto your edge quickly, then you’re usually going to take a hard fall. More emphasis is put into the takeoff on the jump because that will define how good your trick looks in the air and how you will land. In mid-air, you’re preparing for your landing so that you can ski into the moguls successfully. It’s the most intensive thought time in the mogul run.

CJ: You’ve been on the World Cup series for 2 seasons. What was that experience like?

K.C.: It’s different because even though we’re an individual sport, we still travel with a team. The U.S. Ski Team is there to support you, but at the end of the day, they are still your competition. When I made the team, I didn’t know anyone, so I was terrified. I was the same age as some of them, but I felt like a rookie. When you are the underdog, you get this inner fire and think, Oh, there’s nothing to lose. I can beat all these people! I think this is why I had a successful first season on the World Cup. Once you realize you can start winning, it’s almost like you start thinking the opposite way—fear of getting beat. It’s all about finding the mindset that works.

The World Cup has been cool – we travel so many places – some good, some bad. It’s a different experience. I chose to take skiing seriously for the year after college and really put all my effort towards this. The experiences you get out of traveling on the World Cup are so different than anything anyone else our age is doing.

CJ: How do you mentally and physically prepare for the World Cup?

K.C.: We train all summer and fall and get on the snow early, but when it comes down to it, the most important time is when you’re about to push out of the gate in competition. I have this mindset to go all out, to not give up, and I’m known for my consistency. I don’t get as many podiums as some people, but I’ve never missed a finals. It’s an inner fight in me. Mentally, this is what we need to prepare for. I’m lucky I don’t get that nervous, but I think that I must have some unconscious nervous jitters. We have to overcome this, visualize our run, and be confident in what we are about to do.

There is a lot of physical preparation beforehand, including the water ramping and many hours in the gym. It’s like the 10,000 hour rule. It’s hours and hours of work. When I’m not working on it physically, I’m visualizing it. It’s about having a strong mindset and making sure you’re confident in your life inside and outside of skiing. If I didn’t have all this stuff going on with school and Jill’s Legacy, I probably wouldn’t be as confident in skiing. They’re a part of me, and if I didn’t feel strong in one area, I probably would feel like I need to overcompensate in another. It all really works for me. I know some people just need to focus on one thing, but I need to keep myself busy.

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CJ: For youth wanting to be a professional athlete, what advice do you have?

K.C.: It’s all about hard work, but what has been most important for me is believing in myself and having a strong mindset. I think a lot of people I’ve beaten out to the U.S. Ski Team might have been more talented on skis than I was, but I had a mindset of courage, confidence, and competitiveness. You really have to work on yourself when you want to become a professional athlete—set expectations for yourself, work towards short and long-term goals, and believe wholeheartedly that you are going to meet and reach them.

CJ: What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned while professionally competing?

K.C.: I hate the word opportunist because it sometimes seems like people take advantage of stuff, but I’ve been given all these opportunities since I’ve reached a certain level in skiing. I’ve learned to take a good opportunity when I get the chance. We’re given the opportunity to travel, and though not always convenient, I try to immerse myself in the culture of different countries and visit important and interesting sites. We’re given the opportunity to go to school, and although it is difficult with our schedule, I am receiving an amazing education and learning how to manage my time. We’re given the opportunity to meet some wonderful and influential people, take risks, and use our athletics as a platform for more important causes. Therefore, the greatest lesson I’ve gotten out of professional skiing is to learn from the opportunities I’ve been given because of it.

CJ: In addition to the World Cup circuit, are you training for the Olympics?

K.C.: Yes. There are 6 skiers who travel on the World Cup circuit, and 3 of us will make the Olympics, maybe 4. We’re training for the World Cup, but ultimately we’re training for the Olympics. That’s the ultimate goal. It’s the goal you hold as a kid. We’re a really strong team and we’re all capable of doing it. The first World Cup is December 14 in Ruka, Finland, and then we have 5 more stops in January before the Olympic team is named.

CJ: You are currently working on getting your MBA at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. What inspired you to get your MBA and how do you balance that with your busy life?

K.C.: The U.S. Ski Team had a deal with Westminster College for undergraduates where they could go to school for free, but because I had already finished my undergraduate degree at Cal Berkeley, I approached them and asked about a graduate degree. Westminster College agreed to pay for 80% of the tuition and the U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. Ski Team endowment fund covered the last 20%. It was just one of those things that totally worked out and opportunities that skiing has opened up for me.

I balance skiing and earning my MBA by studying in the summertime when we’re based out of Utah training at the Center of Excellence and the Utah Olympic Park for the water ramps. I typically finish my workout in the morning and then study in the afternoon. The semester lasts from May to the end of July, and I just push through. I’m 2 semesters through and have 3 semesters left.

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CJ: You also run a foundation called Jill’s Legacy, which was launched by the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and consists of young professional Advisory Board Members who are passionate about increasing the stagnant 15.5.% survival rate of the world’s number one cancer killer – Lung Cancer. What is the inspiration behind the foundation?

K.C.: Jill Costello was my best friend and roommate at Cal Berkeley, and we met the first day of classes and joined the same sorority. She was that inseparable friend and we were both super supportive for each other’s sports. She was a coxswain for the crew team at Cal Berkeley and she became my biggest fan for skiing. At the end of our junior year, she returned from NCAAs, where the team had placed second, with a stomach ache.

When she went to the doctor they found spots on her liver and lung and by 1pm the next day she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. She told me and her boyfriend at that time to not look at any of the statistics, and from that day forward, I looked at the situation with a sense of normalcy, and always thought, “You’re going to beat this.” I never thought that one day she would die, but just over a year later she passed away and the last thing she had written in her notebook – she kept a blog and everything – was “Beat lung cancer BIG TIME!” It wasn’t just for her, it was for everyone.

I looked at the statistics later and learned that the other major cancer killers are all above 90% survival rate, but lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer with a 15% survival rate that has been stagnant for 40 years! I saw the opportunity and social need for change. It’s wrong. Before Jill passed away, she became attached to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, so we mutually approached each other to start a youth advocacy group for lung cancer.

CJ: What do you hope to achieve with Jill’s Legacy?

K.C.: Beat lung cancer big time. We see the youth as the next doctors, professors, and business men and women. They are the people who have power to influence others and change the stigma that lung cancer is just a smoker’s disease, and bring this into their lives and educate people and spread awareness. We see college campuses as the perfect place to do this because it’s filled with people who are educated and curious in learning. We want to be the next social trend for the youth market. Hopefully, they’ll be the change for lung cancer.

CJ: Besides skiing, were there any other activities that you were involved in during high school and college?

K.C.: I kind of laugh at myself now because I feel like I was lazy. I was never lazy, but I just kind of coasted my way through high school. I got A’s, and luckily that got me into a good college, but I never thought I’d be so philanthropically involved. I got an excuse to get out of 200 hours of philanthropy in high school, mainly because I was so busy with skiing. I was involved in every sport possible in high school. Athletics have always been my thing.

I went to college thinking, I want this to be the best four years of my life. That’s what my parents had always told me, so that’s why college for me was primary over skiing. Most people in skiing dedicate themselves to the sport before college. I went the opposite route because I wanted to physically be there, meet the best friends of my life, and be the cliché college girl that joins a sorority and goes to football games. I loved college. Other than that, I love to travel so I love that part of the skiing when we get the opportunity to do so. Any other break I can get, I try to get home so I can see my family and friends.

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CJ: How do you overcome self-doubt?

K.C.: It all relates back to confidence in yourself, but we are also really lucky to have an awesome team out there. I have a really strong relationship with my coach, friends, and family. They are there to support you through the good and the bad. They are there to celebrate with you, but they are going to be there for you when you do have self-doubt. All you have to keep on telling yourself is that you’re there for a reason, you’re there in that moment, and you need to make the most out of that moment.

CJ: Who is your role model?

K.C.: Jill Costello. There’s nothing I’ve ever seen as brave as her story to fight through cancer and still cox your team to the NCAAs and win Pac-10s. But the thing that was craziest to me as her roommate was that I saw her everyday fight through these struggles and every morning wake up at 5:30am for her practice with a smile on her face. It wasn’t like she was fighting cancer, it was just like another day and she was enjoying life as much as she could. To her, enjoying life for the year she was given to survive was about enjoying her family and friends, and to open up our minds to making a difference in this world and sharing her legacy. If it hadn’t been for her, I don’t think I’d be anywhere where I am. I go through every day of skiing and think, things are easy for me. It really puts things in perspective.

CJ: What does an average day look like for you?

K.C.: It depends on the time of year. My month of April is my only month off. May is all gym work. I call the Center of Excellence, where we train, the Black Hole because I go in every day at 8am and all of a sudden it’s the afternoon and there is no time left in the day. We spend many hours in the gym in the summers. Our summer training also includes the water ramping. Water ramps are made of synthetic plastic and you ski off of a ramp to learn new tricks. We’re there early every morning warming up, water ramping, and then heading down to do video and train in the gym. Depending on the day, gym training can be anywhere from 3-5 hours. Luckily, lunch is supplied at the gym so we can eat there and then head out.

Mid-August, we go to Chile to train for a month. In Chile, we live up in the mountains, so it’s very focused on just skiing and working out. Then we go to Zermatt, Switzerland, in September for a month. Now, we’re transitioning into our power endurance circuits, which is our big gym block. It is just brutal. The World Cups will start in the beginning of December to continue through the end of March. We always finish out with U.S. Nationals. There are typically 14 events across the world. Each World Cup typically consists of 2 days of training before competition day, and then we move onto the next place.

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CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year old self?

K.C.: As a sophomore in college, I wanted to quit skiing, I hated it. I was having so much fun in college, but now that I look back, I’m so happy with the way I balanced school and skiing. I can’t put enough emphasis on how amazing it’s been to stand out as an individual because I’m doing something so different than most people. Many people will experience college, and I think everybody should go to college if it’s right for them. I loved college, but as a skier, I am now competing at the highest level of competition in sport, and there is so much to learn from that. I am also traveling the world and meeting amazing people. I didn’t see the payoff in that at 20-years old.

I’ve already reached my goals in skiing and everything else is like the icing on the cake. If I’m on the podium at the Olympics, if I’m able to use my platform for Jill’s Legacy, everything is just icing on the cake. It’s something I couldn’t really conceptualize when I was 20. Everything was more about, “I love my friends and I love school,” but there are so many bigger things out there.

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