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When Hard Work Doesn’t Work

(Academics, Athletics, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Felicia Lombardi

Score a goal. Swim a best time. Get an A. Hit a target. These are all goals that have been defined for me growing up. For that reason, my understanding of the relationship between hard work and success has always been straightforward. If I work hard and meet all the goals, then I will be successful. After all, this method has worked for me before. In applying to the Academy, I made good grades, got good test scores, hit the community service requirement, scored enough goals, and swam fast enough. Moreover, upon reflection, doing all those things was hard, and I got appointed, which was an accomplishment, so it only made sense that I had the key to success in my hands. However, after a long and trying first year at the Academy, I found that my so-called “key to success” was not universal. On the contrary, my mindset regarding hard work and success was only good enough to keep me out of trouble, and there is a big difference between meeting expectations and being successful.

Evaluations are an essential part of any school, but especially at a military academy like the USCGA. They can be subjective and occasionally fail to reflect true merit; nevertheless, they serve an essential role in developing how personal progress and success are perceived. In soccer, strikers are evaluated by scoring statistics. In swimming, sprinters are evaluated by how fast they go, relative to both their personal bests and other swimmers. In academics, students are evaluated by GPAs and exam averages. Militarily, our fitness is evaluated by the PFE, and our cadet performance is evaluated by a Cadet Evaluation Report or CER. All these evaluations have targets, or standards of excellence. The best students are on the honor roll with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. The fittest athletes score a 270 or higher out of 300 on their PFE. The highest performing cadets have a silver star. These targets are always good to strive for, but for too long I let them define my every action, and in doing so I lost touch with my goals, and my desires.

My freshman year, I wanted to help my teams by scoring the most goals and swimming the fastest times. I wanted to memorize as much as possible, so I could pass my tests. I volunteered for an array of service events and leadership roles to boost my CER. I exercised every day to score high on the PFE. I did everything I possibly could to hit all the targets, and much to my disappointment, at the end of my first year I had fallen just short of nearly every target. It is mentally and physically exasperating when hard work doesn’t work, and the worst part was, I had no reason to complain about anything. I was successful last year, by many standards. Why wasn’t I happy?

Success is relative. That’s it. This long monologue of mundane storytelling cumulates into one epiphany I had after another goal-less soccer game this season. I can’t score because I was not playing for the love of the game. I was playing to score. Targets are a great guide, but as soon as I stopped aiming for them, I started hitting my mark. Lesson learned: do not let anybody set standards for you; set your own standards and then exceed them. My new approach this school year is to see how far my arrow will go, not how many targets I can hit along the way. It is still the beginning of my experiment, but the results look promising. Apparently, having fun gets things done.

I apologize for only talking minimally about the actual Academy in this post. With that being said, I feel like the opportunities for personal growth and achievement are an important part of the Academy. I can wholeheartedly say that I would not be having as much fun under as much stress if I did not attend a school with such a remarkable balance between rigor and support. If you have any questions, feel free to reach me at Felicia.M.Lombardi@uscga.edu!

MORE ABOUT FELICIA

Rugby: An Incredible Sport

(Athletics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Malia Haskovec

Sports have always been an integral part of my life. They’ve been my outlet, my stress-relievers, my favorite pastimes, and I can confidently say that growing up playing multiple sports shaped who I am today. Part of the appeal of the Academy for me was its focus on athletics and the importance of being a part of a team. However, by coming here I actually had to sacrifice the sports that I grew up with and came to love, and soon found out that several of my shipmates experienced the same loss. This post aims to share my journey as an athlete and how I overcame my complicated relationship with sports at USCGA.

As soon as I took my first steps as a toddler, I had a tennis racket in my hand. Since then it was 30 hours of practice a week, countless tournaments, and eventually multiple competitions against top-tier high schools in the state, leading to my status as a D1 recruit for a few universities. As I’m sure you fellow athletes can relate, no matter the sport, the game becomes essential to your routine. It helps you think, make friends, communicate and interact with others, and contributes to overall development as both a teammate and a leader. Tennis taught me so much and, although it was difficult at times, I never wanted to stop playing. However, the path I chose for my life involved other plans.

The Academy offers several sports teams that mostly accommodate the interests of the corps. Unfortunately, women’s tennis is not one of them. Despite knowing this, I still chose to pursue a career in the Coast Guard through the Academy and am satisfied with that decision to this day. After acknowledging that I would not have an opportunity to play on a collegiate tennis team, and after several failed attempts to earn a spot on the men’s team, I realized that I was desperate to find a new sport to play for the USCGA. That is how I found the women’s rugby team, which is a club.

Don’t let the word “club” deceive you. The women’s rugby team is one of the most reputable athletic groups on campus, competing at the DII national level (yes, even though the CGA is in a DIII conference), with All-American players and athletic award recipients. However, despite this, the women were so humble, welcoming, and eager to have me join the team. I quickly fell in love with the sport, its ferocity, complexity, and extreme emphasis on communication, teamwork, and fitness. I also came to find out that several of the other women on the team experienced having to sacrifice the beloved sports that they grew up with when they came to the CGA. I was no longer upset by the fact that I could no longer play competitive tennis, but grateful for a team that I instantly bonded with and the opportunity to learn a new incredible sport.

From my experience, the afternoon sports practice period is a time to decompress, de-stress, and be around some of your closest friends here: your teammates. Even if sports aren’t your outlet, there are several other credited clubs that have the same impact. Regardless, know that trying something new, even joining an entirely new sports team can be the silver lining in an otherwise stressful environment. Coaches are understanding of the academic rigors of Academy life and acknowledge that school is the number one priority here. With all the help and support that sports teams and coaches provide for cadets, it becomes easier to find the appropriate balance between athletics and academics.

Additionally, if you think you would like to play a sport in the fall, women’s (and men’s) rugby would love to have you! Make sure to come out and join us during coach’s time over Swab Summer or feel free to contact me with any questions.

Go Sports

Go Books

Go Rugby

And, forever, Go Bears!

MORE ABOUT MALIA

The Benefits of Trying a New Sport

(Athletics, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

At the the CGA, cadets have a very heavy academic course load (especially during 4/c year) in addition to our numerous military obligations. We also have to earn two sports credits each and every year. There are a variety of different ways to earn these credits, and these athletic opportunities vary in the amount of time commitment they require (from intercompany sports or ICs being on the low end of time commitment to varsity sports being on the higher end). Some cadets resume their sports from high school as they were recruited to continue that sport, while others pick up new sports and try to acquire new, different skills. The process of selecting a team begins during Swab Summer with sports practice every few days, which allows swabs to spend time with cadre that are members of their future teams, or to try a new one out before fully committing to the team when the school year rolls around.

Personally, I had been playing soccer almost since the day I could walk. Playing for clubs, travel teams, in middle school and high school, I did it all. Every day after school and every weekend for years and years I was committed to soccer. Although I loved the sport, I was a bit burnt out, and coming to the Academy, I knew that I wanted to start fresh and try something new. So, during Swab Summer, I went to the dance team’s sports practice. I really enjoyed spending time with the ladies on the team, and loved dancing and letting go of the stress of boot camp. I continued to be on the team through the first half of the school year during the fall season. When spring rolled around, I knew that I needed another sports credit, so I started going down to the boat house with one of my friends to check out rowing – a sport I had never tried before.

I downright love rowing. Even though the walk down to the boat house before practice and up to Chase Hall after practice is long and often very cold, the sport and team quickly grabbed a hold of my heart. There is something about being a member of a team where each individual must be so in sync with the others that it fosters a spirit of togetherness and teamwork that I have never felt on any other team I have been a part of before. Although being a member of a varsity sport takes on a life of its own, with extended practices on Tuesdays in addition to practice every day (including Saturday) and regattas on the weekends, it became a part of my schedule and actually made me more productive. My grades have increased since I have joined the crew team because I have used my limited time more wisely and have utilized the number of tutors we have on the team. Now, it is three years later, I am a captain of the team, and I cannot imagine my life without rowing.

I highly encourage people to join varsity sports, if their schedules allow. It provides a community of people that will rally around you when times get tough, and celebrate with you when things are going well. Also, do not be afraid to try something new – I am very glad that I did!

MORE ABOUT KIRSTEN

What I Am Thankful For

(Athletics, Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Joshua Roh

Hello, everyone. If you haven’t heard already, life at the Academy can be hard. You take 16-23 credit hours per semester and, on top of that, you have several military obligations as well as mandatory athletics. With all of these challenges, many of us cadets often forget that we have a lot to be thankful for and, as Thanksgiving approaches, I thought it would be an appropriate time for me to reflect on what I am thankful for here.

  1. The Swim Team: I have been a swimmer since I was six years old, which means I have been swimming for almost a decade and a half. Swimming is a big part of my life and my identity and being able to continue with this throughout my tenure as a cadet has been an enormous help in keeping me motivated. Not only do I have something familiar from my life before the Academy but also the men’s team is a true brotherhood. Every day, no matter how tired I am, I can look forward to practice if for nothing else to see the guys.
  2. OCF and Jiu Jitsu: Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF) and Jiu Jitsu are the two main clubs, besides the Blog Club, that I participate in. I decided to talk about them together because they both help me equally decompress. My dad was a youth pastor in Des Moines, Iowa when I was born and so Christianity has been a large part of my life. Having the opportunity to fellowship with other believers on a weekly basis at OCF is not only refreshing but has allowed me to meet other likeminded people who I now call friends. Jiu Jitsu is relaxing in another manner entirely but for me no less spiritual. I have done martial arts from when I could walk until the end of middle school and intermittently after. My dad being an avid martial artist helped train me in Taekwondo and Krav Maga before I came to the Academy but, due to the time commitment needed to swim, I was unable to continue for much of high school. When I came to the Academy, I was looking for something to get back into Taekwondo when I came across the Jiu Jitsu club, which I had never heard of before, so I thought I would try it and ever since then I have been a fanatic. As a grappling martial art, it is very different from Taekwondo and Krav in that there is no punching/kicking (i.e., striking); it’s solely grappling. After every practice I go to no matter how tired I was going into it or how physically tired I come out, I always leave energized and ready to go at it again.
  3. My Company: The Corps of Cadets is split into eight companies: Alpha- to Hotel and as a fourth class you are assigned to a company for a year and then transfer to a new company for your last three. Last year I was in Delta which was an amazing experience. I am extremely glad I was able to spend a year there and I would have loved another three but alas, things must change, and I hit the jackpot. I am now in Golf company, which by most people in the corps would not be regarded as the highest in morale. However, the people who transferred in from my class are awesome, several of my good friends came with me, and it feels like the majority of the swim team is in Golf so I get to be with my team all the time, I couldn’t ask for a better group.

There are so many more things I could write about, but, as this is longer than most papers I have written I’ll keep it at these three. Despite the challenges of this place, there is always something there to pull you through. These three are a few examples of many that have gotten me where I am now.

Spes In Virtute

MORE ABOUT JOSHUA

Semper Gumby

(Athletics, Choosing the Academy, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Taylor Rowles

As an applicant for Coast Guard Academy, I dissected, read, and reread the cadet blogs to gain insight into the lifestyle of a cadet. The past cadet bloggers truly made a difference in my interest in the Academy and helped me find my way to studying along the Thames. Now that I am a cadet, I would love to give back to those who are lost in the ongoing college decision process through blogging about my experiences thus far at the Academy.

Over the past year at the Academy I have learned to expect the unexpected because no one day is like the next. We are always adjusting to change much like an officer’s day-to-day lifestyle out in the fleet. Whether it is a pop-up uniform inspection or a drug boat causing us to diverge from coarse, I have learned that you must be “Semper Gumby” as a future officer in the Coast Guard. I would love the opportunity to voice our unique experience to those who one day wishes to serve next to us. As an avid participant in over ten clubs and women’s varsity track and field I will be able to give a wide range of information regarding what happens behind the gates of the USCGA.

MORE ABOUT TAYLOR

Find a Group

(Athletics, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Alexis Laskowski

Hey everyone! This year has started off quick. We are now getting to midterms…CRAZINESS. This school year has already been full of activities, school work, and sports. I just wanted to share how important finding a group that you connect with is. For me, that is the men’s rowing team.

When I came to the Academy, I didn’t know what sport I wanted to play. Previously, I played softball for about 10 years of my life, but I did not want to do that anymore. Over Swab Summer I got a concussion from paying intercompany softball, ironically. Going into the school year, my doctor did not want me to play any sports with balls. Luckily enough, the rowing team needed a coxswain and I needed a sport.

Now I have been on the team for a little over a year and I couldn’t be any happier. From planning races, to school work, all the way to just traveling together, I have had a blast with the guys! The team is like a new family to me. If I need anything, I can go to any one of the guys on the team, and they will be there. Last year, if I needed help with school work, anything militarily, or just life advice, there was someone on the team I could ask. Now, I am trying to do the same thing, helping the 4/c on the team. I am excited for what the rest of the season will be like, and my next three years on the team will be like.

One of my number one pieces of advice about coming to the Academy is to find a group of people you can relate to. Find people that you can go to and use their support.

MORE ABOUT ALEXIS

The First Full Month

(Athletics, Just for Fun, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

September started off with a long weekend for Labor Day (yay!). I took the train to Washington D.C. to spend some time with my grandparents. We toured the Capitol building and all the big monuments and memorials as well as Arlington National Cemetery. It was a great way to spend the first long weekend of my 3/c year. Upon returning to school on Monday, I felt as though I never left and began preparing for the short, but busy, week ahead. We had a uniform inspection, an unexpected power outage due to a storm, and our first regimental drill of the season.

The next two weekends, I played a couple of rugby matches, one against the University of New Haven and one against the University of Vermont. On the 18th after morning the colors, there was a small service honoring the 70th birthday of the Air Force that I attended. Before I knew it Parents’ Weekend had arrived. I had a non-traditional Parents’ Weekend this year. It overlapped with my dad’s 30th reunion at West Point so I could join my family in New York for that instead of them coming to visit me here.

The temperature is finally dropping and fall is officially here! Go Bears!

MORE ABOUT FRANCESCA

A New Adventure!

(Athletics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

My name is 4/c Francesca Farlow from Dallas, Texas! After completing Swab Summer, my shipmates and I became members of Alfa Company where we have continued to push through the beginning of 4/c year together.

I think the cadet blog program is a great opportunity for prospective cadets, parents, and friends to get a glimpse of what cadet life is really like. As a prospective cadet I was constantly checking the USCGA website for updated blogs; I loved them. In fact, I always wondered if I would have the opportunity to become a cadet blogger when I got to USCGA, and here I am. Other reasons I wanted to become a cadet blogger are that I love the Academy and I want to share my experiences here with anyone who is curious about attending. Finally, I have heard how tough life here can get and I hope that writing periodic blog entries will help remind me why I came to the Academy and encourage me to enjoy my time here as much as possible.

As a blogger, I hope to give insight on my involvement with the softball team and Cadet Activities Council. I also hope to share any general information I learn about the Coast Guard. Being from North Texas I did not know too much about the service before arriving on R-Day, and the more I learn, the more I love it. I am truly excited to be a cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy and cannot wait to share my experiences!

Feel free to email me at any time: Francesca.A.Farlow@uscga.edu.

MORE ABOUT FRANCESCA