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The Juggling Act (4/12/13)

 
Got my gold medal and diploma
 
These two things make everything worth it!
 
High School graduation
 
High School graduation

BY TAYLOR LIPSETT

Something that many people do not think about or realize when it comes to Paralympians, and many Olympians for that matter, is that the majority of us are only part-time athletes. The Olympians and Paralympians that you see on TV or in magazines only represent a very small percentage of the thousands of Olympic and Paralympic athletes and hopefuls who are striving to be at the top of their respective sport. All but a few players on the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team juggle hockey, school and/or work throughout the entire season. For myself, I have tried perfecting the balancing act of all three!

When I was introduced to sled hockey in high school, it never dawned on me that I was going to have to learn how to balance training, traveling and my school work. In the beginning, I didn’t really think about it. I was so excited to have been introduced to sled hockey and to be working to earn a spot on the Paralympic team, that nothing else really crossed my mind, other than the fact that I had to keep my grades up. I figured out early on that one of the most important things was to talk to the “higher ups.”

In high school, that was the school principal. Once I had her ok, I knew it would be much easier to get my teachers to work with me. I knew the importance of having this type of cooperation would intensify in college, so before I even started my first semester, I met with the dean of Southern Methodist University, explained my situation, my dream and my goals both on the ice and in the classroom, and he was 100-percent on board. Again, I knew once I had his support, it would be much easier to get the support of my professors. Each semester, I made sure to get into contact with each professor prior to classes starting, that way everyone was always on the same page. Even though I had their ok and cooperation, the biggest component relied on me keeping my grades up. My schedule was a little crazy. I usually had class from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m., training from 12 - 1:30 p.m., quick lunch, then class from 2 - 6 p.m., depending on the semester. And of course each night concluded with a few hours of studying and doing homework. Most people might say this is a crazy schedule that would become quite monotonous, but for me, the only thing I focused on was the possibility of a gold medal and being only the second person in my family with a college degree.

The motto of having no regrets fueled my fire and kept me on track. I knew I couldn’t let me teammates down and since my academic career had always been so important to me, I also knew I couldn’t let myself down. This juggling act was at its peak my sophomore year, which was the 2006 Paralympic year. I missed a total of 60 days of school that year due to our strenuous training and travel schedule. Through all of the classes, all of the training, and countless days of traveling, I was not only able to end my college years with a degree in finance and a 3.5 GPA, but I also won my first world championship gold medal to top off my senior year. At that point everything was validated, and all of the hard work and sacrifices proved worthwhile.

Post-graduation, a new element was about to enter the picture… Work! The most important step in interviewing and landing a job as a Paralympic athlete has been communication. I have always been upfront and honest about the time commitment and travel schedule that I have when interviewing for a job. Fortunately for me, Bank of America and every boss (four so far) I have had within the company has been extremely understanding and supportive! As long as I schedule everything out as soon as my hockey schedule for the year is released, I have never had any problems! Yeah, I blow through my vacation days by the end of June every year and have to take any days off the rest of the year unpaid, but knowing that I have a job I love when I get back home, and a company and boss the supports me 100 percent is a huge weight off of my shoulders. Now that I have the old 8-5 schedule, my training has been rearranged. Instead of training in the middle of the day like I did in college, I started training in the evenings from about 6-8 p.m. every day. I always try to do something on a daily basis, whether it is CrossFit, rowing, skating, etc. I try to challenge myself to make myself better each and every day.

After a while of just balancing the work/training routine, I guess, subconsciously, I felt like things were getting too easy, so I decided to go back to school to get my Masters degree, which is where I am today. I am currently attending University of Texas at Dallas, pursuing my MBA in finance and investment management. I usually take a class on campus and another class or two online. So that gives me three nights a week I spend training and two nights on campus for school. Friday nights and Saturdays have been claimed by my wife, Kathleen, and Sundays I skate. So as you can see, it has become quite the juggling act, and people often ask how I do it, and my answer is always the same… I don’t think about it. I know I have to do what I have to do to accomplish the goals I have set for myself on the ice, in the classroom, and now in my profession, and I don’t let anything stand in my way, not even only having 24 hours in a day, haha.

This journey and juggling act definitely sounds a little overwhelming, even to me as I read back over it, but the fact of the matter is this is the same juggling act that so many Paralympians and Olympians balance on a daily basis. Training, school, work, family, etc., are all so important, and where there is a will, there is a way. In the end, it is all worthwhile, and when I look back at what I have accomplished and what I still have to accomplish, I remind myself that anything is possible as long as I set my mind to it. Next on the list is the 2013 World Championships in South Korea, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram:@usasledsniper7