Varona says goodbye

This issue I write to you, not as a journalist, but as an athlete, a MAST athlete, similar to all those who are featured in this column every issue.
For once I want to give a little of the perspective of the athlete, the girl or guy on the field who is faced with a myriad of tough choices, plays and games; the person who feels insurmountable pressure when playing a game they love, and I want to give a little insight into what motivates athletes.
Of course motivation is individual, but I believe that the primary source of our motivation stems from the support of our peers.
At MAST we are lucky to have such a tight-knit community, one where the Athletic Director never misses a game, and tweets all our successes, where school staff bring out their classes to support the teams, where the administration attends our games and cheers as if it were their own sons and daughters playing.
Parents come out in huge numbers, and I would not trade my memories of cheering for the MAST sports teams alongside enthusiastic and energized family members, from mothers and fathers to sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
From personal experience, I know how important it is to look into the crowd and see the smiling and hopeful faces of the fans I’ve come to care for is, some of them parents of other athletes, others school staff like the athletic trainer, the physical education teachers and lifeguards.
Knowing that I have a support network there to cheer me on, to coach me from the bleachers, to bring my spirits up during a hard quarter, helps me to play better and to love playing.
Another major motivator for athletes, at least in my experience, is those who teach us the game: our coaches and teammates. The State play-in game on April 9th demonstrated this to me perfectly.
After a hard quarter, which had started with the girls’ water polo team trailing by a goal, my coach Yuniel Usin pulled me aside and not only gave me tips on how to set better, but convinced me that I could play well enough to beat this team. He helped me to forget all the missed shots and to focus on what I knew how to do.
While the game is going on, it can be hard to hear our coaches’ tips, so the people playing the game with us become like second coaches.
Countless times my co-captain, senior Cara Mullery, was able to help me perfect a move that was causing me trouble, or my other co-captain, senior Judith Benigni, screamed across the pool telling me to set the ball, or pass to an open teammate.
Without their assistance, or in Benigni’s case, screams, I would not be the player I am, because no athlete is invincible and a lot of the time our success depends on the people playing the game with us.
Writing this column has helped me to better understand athletes across all fields. Attending soccer and basketball games, volleyball matches and swim meets, has helped me understand that what I feel every time I suit up for a water polo game is universal.
Describing the accomplishments of MAST athletics has made me prouder than I could have ever imagined, and has helped me connect with people from all fields, courts or golf courses.