We had just finished a competitive game of hockey and an even more competitive game of ‘candy grabbing’ when we sat in a circle to introduce ourselves. One girl spoke up, “So … why did you decide to do this program here in Cusco?”
To be honest, I was a bit startled. I was used to surface level questions like, “What is your favorite food?” or “Do you have a boyfriend?” (all questions that Alika and I had become accustomed to answering during our first week of orientation). But this one made me think more. Why was I here? There are a million things that I could have done after graduation and yet, here I was, standing in the Peruvian sun about to speak to the 15 girls who were looking up at me. After gathering my thoughts and processing them quickly into Spanish I said, “I came here because I have a passion for playing sports. Deciding to play sports was the best thing I ever did. I want to share that love with other girls too.” Okay, so not the most eloquent answer ever, but anyone that knows me knows I am not the best with words on the spot. Less so when I have to speak another language. But I meant what I said. Now I get the chance to elaborate on that a bit more here:
So, hey guys! My name is Lydia (Burns, to everyone in the sports world), and I hail from the beautiful city of Boston. Despite only having played soccer in high school, I decided to try something new in college and stumbled upon rugby. That was the best decision ever. The team went varsity during my sophomore year, and it was a privilege to be part of that transition within the larger legacy of the club. At 5’2, I always have been among the smallest players on my team. That only made me want to work harder to close the gap between the largest girl on the other team and me. And, trust me, we played some pretty big girls. Being a part of a rugby team taught me what true teamwork looks like. It’s a game of support, trust, and utmost confidence in yourself and the other girls on your team to get the job done. You have no time to doubt yourself or take a break. I love sports so much because there are countless lessons that I learned (and am still learning) from being on a team that I have been able to apply to life beyond the pitch. If you don’t believe me that rugby is the best sport for girls, just read this.
I can’t wait to share the best parts of my sports experience with the girls here. Their enthusiasm, quirky personalities, and unconditional love that we have seen already is going to make each day of work exciting and unique. Playing with the girls reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
“Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her.” -Mia Hamm
It’s about the roots, the raw passion for sport, and love for the process. I hope to help plant those seeds here with the chicas dinámicas in Cusco. It’s going to be a great year, and I can’t wait to get started!
[Me on the left in support]
To be continued…