In the span of a few years, the Tsinghua International School (THIS) Spartans have risen from a team that can barely score a goal to a championship-winning ISAC member. While this leap was achieved through the hard work of the THIS faculty and student body, some students have taken initiative to make athletics a central part of their lives and inspire others to do so in the process.
Christina Wang, a natural athlete, grew up playing soccer and basketball with her brother. “I’ve been playing almost my entire life,” she says.
Sophia Zhang, on the other hand, credits much of her love for physical activity to the wide range of team sports offered at THIS. “My old school didn’t have sports teams for girls,” she recalls. “Girls didn’t usually play.”
There’s little doubt that joining the THIS team has brought many changes to the way both girls see and play sports, a sentiment expressed by Mr. Preston, a PE teacher at the school. “They are both excellent examples of how you can balance academics and athletics at the same time,” he says.
“The fact that both individuals have played all three main sports from their freshman to senior year is remarkable. Both girls were able to motivate their teams and build the foundation of the Spartan spirit and culture,” says Mr. Mustonen, the head of the THIS’ Athletics department. “That will continue to grow over the years,” he adds.
It seems what Christina and Sophia bring to the team is something intangible, however, it’s a quality essential to success; inspiration. “Christina has always been aggressive and plays to win,” says Mr. Howard, an experienced Spartans coach.
Discussing Sophia, Mr. Howard laughs and points out her sense of humor, which allows her teammates to be comfortable and to have fun. Furthermore, Sophia’s leadership operates on a “grace under pressure” principle, a mark of many great team leaders. She credits Coach Howard for helping her develop her calm and collected character. “In the middle of the game, you get so nervous and emotional about things,” Sophia admits. “After joining basketball here, I learned that you have to relax and [that]it’s okay to lose the ball. It’s just not okay to give up.”
Both athletes discuss how important determination and grit are in their success in sports. “If you tell yourself you can win, then you actually have a chance to win,” Christina states.
At times of frustration or low-motivation, the girls’ advice is to keep pushing: “You have to know you can still try next time. If you get tired, you have to just force yourself to do it.”
Their mental and physical strength serve as a model to other students, especially young and impressionable girls who may struggle with their image, health, or happiness. “In local school, teachers treat [girls]delicately, letting you sit out during the time of the month,” Sophia notes.
But here at THIS, “girls can play sports and are pretty good at it. Yes we can!” she declares enthusiastically, throwing her hands in the air.
Indeed, Christina and Sophia continue to inspire athletes and non-athletes alike in the THIS community, exemplifying the fact that through showing passion, commitment, and by taking advantage of the opportunities presented to you, you can succeed at anything.
Rhea Jiang is a junior at Tsinghua International School (THIS), an international campus affiliated with Tsinghua High School. She is the co-editor-in-chief for the school newspaper, the Spartan Times, and Co-president of the Debate Club. Through her blog posts, Rhea hopes to share her unique thoughts and experiences at THIS.
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Photo: Courtesy of THIS