A joint passion
Throughout my life, my skiing partners have been my family. Specifically, my dad has played a significant role in my life as a mentor, and activities which I am passionate about directly originate from my time with him and his hobbies. Growing up, my passion for water skiing was built from watching him slalom ski every weekend morning. At four, I too learned how to ski, and that passion for skiing became a mutual bond. I tried to ski with my dad every morning, and with my cousins every weekend they were at the lake. I was blessed to be in such a great skiing environment, and never thought the skiing lifestyle could get any better.
I found collegiate skiing or it found me
When I was driving past a lake a few minutes from the Grand Valley State University campus, I saw someone skiing the slalom course and had to stop, so I pulled off the road and watched. Watching those skiers, on that day, is something I will never forget because this quick pit stop to watch some slalom skiing became one of the reasons I started graduate school this year at Grand Valley State University and in turn joined the GVSU Water Ski Team. At the time of joining the team, I had no idea of the amazing experiences and memories I would gain.
Lessons learned are learned forever
At my first tournament a member on Grand Valley’s team reached the century mark, and then later in the season at Regionals he went on to out leap his personal best by twelve feet! Our team went crazy, ran to him, and surrounded him with praise and awe. Another member of our team made the podium at almost every tournament, in every discipline. Both of these guys made the overall podium at Nationals. My mind was blown, I was skiing with these guys and getting to watch perform these feats. The GVSU podium spots were not just for males, the team had a female skier take trick podium at both Regionals and Nationals. She killed it, and it was so exhilarating to watch her ski so well and partake in the resulting happiness. All these water ski sets that resulted in podium spots at Regionals and D2 Nationals were truly unforgettable experiences. Throughout the whole season, I was so proud to call myself a Laker, and enjoyed every opportunity to ski with these athletes and the rest of Grand Valley’s team. After one season, I can not only call them my teammates but also great friends.
Passion and talent
The passion for water skiing is obvious in collegiate skiing. Skiers from all over the Midwest spur each other on to reach new personal bests. The Midwest has an amazing group of skiers of all levels who are passionate and fun. There are also many skiers who are very talented, and this shows up in the results. The Midwest region took four out of the top five positions at Division 2 Nationals; Cincinnati got fifth, Grand Valley fourth, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse third, and Miami University (Ohio) won the division 2 title.
Competition yields friendship
When I was growing up I played competitive sports. Unfortunately, I can’t say I liked any of the people I competed against, and definitely was not happy if my team lost. Collegiate water skiing completely changed that mentality. I was ecstatic for the Midwest teams that placed better than GVSU at Nationals. Throughout the season I got to know many Miami skiers, and I was honestly happy that they won the title. My first season of collegiate skiing was such an amazing emotional experience, and has forever changed my attitude about winning and losing.
School rivalries are great, they often yield outstanding competition and can be found at the core of many collegiate sports. Collegiate water skiing is different, the rivalries are there, but the distaste or vitriol for a rival school is not. From my experiences in the Midwest, rivals quickly become friends and entire teams unite under a single banner – Team Midwest. In the Midwest, we had an amazingly talented team from The Ohio State University that competed for top podium spots every weekend, they were the epitome of talented skiing in the Midwest this season. Ohio State won Midwest Regionals, and I could not have been happier for them after meeting and getting to know the OSU skiers throughout the season. I had so much fun watching the OSU team (a non-varsity sport at OSU) compete with teams from Alabama, Florida Southern, Louisiana Lafayette, and Louisiana Monroe at Nationals. Many skiers from the elite teams have scholarships for water skiing, and some have a sponsorship with water ski companies such as Radar or HO skis. The Ohio State Buckeyes still put up a fight though, and it made me proud to get to cheer them on and watch them do so well. I had no idea how excited they were going to be with their placement, but I was excited for them as the placements were being announced. When they found out that they took 6th place in Division 1 at Nationals, the reaction was amazing. Each skier filled with pure joy for what had to be one of the greatest moments of the skiers’ lives. There is no room for the divisive rhetoric in collegiate water skiing. I am from Michigan and am very proud of my state and school. However, through collegiate water skiing I got to learn how great the Buckeyes, Spartans, Wolverines, Jayhawks, Redhawks, La Crosse Eagles, Bearcats, Cyclones, and many other Team Midwest teams truly are.
In a nutshell
Collegiate skiing was equally great in comparison to my free skiing family weekends, but it was different in so many ways. Collegiate water skiing introduced me to 3-event competitive water skiing, opening me up to a whole new world. The lessons I learned, the relationships I developed, the memories I made in such a short time have been nothing short of amazing. As winter quickly approaches and ends my first season of collegiate skiing, these initial experiences I have shared with Team Midwest will never be forgotten, and will continue to shape my life for the better long into the future.
To my newfound Midwest water ski community, I can only say – thank you.