“Go run the hill!” Something I heard almost every day from our coaches last year. We were in the middle of the season and our regattas had already started. This practice, we had to sprint against the varsity girls crew. Us being the junior varsity crew, we lost and the consequence was to run the hill thirty times.
That season, I was the steerswoman and I was mostly responsible for the actions that my crew executed. I always felt accountable for any loss that we took, even if it was just during practice, but I didn’t really feel like a leader. To me, it was inane to think that I am better than anyone. I was the same as everyone else, but the only difference was that I had to sit in another seat and I had to keep the boat straight.
It was already about six ‘o clock and I didn’t want to run at all. My feet and legs were dirty from the mud and dirt at Keʻehi. Because paddling is during winter season, it was colder and practice that day felt demanding and I was exhausted. Running on the hill that day… I could barely feel anything. My legs were so tired, and I could barely feel my face because the air was fairly cold. I thought to myself, “I can literally just give up at fifteen and finish the fifteen tomorrow.” I didn’t really care too much about it. It’s not like anyone payed attention to me while I was running anyways. Coaches were busy coaching, and everyone just kind of focused on themselves.
My crew and I were running for a good couple of minutes. Everyone was so exhausted that we barely had enough oxygen within us to speak. Usually we would be a loud group running up and down the hill, but the only thing I could really hear was heavy breathing. I really just wanted to quit, but something kept me going. Something always keeps me going because that’s just the type of person I was… to just put everything I have into the things that I love to do.
We were about half way there and I heard these two girls saying, “You know what? I think I’ll just do them tomorrow. I’m so tired.” But there was this one girl, Nai’a and she kept going, and I just kept going with her. I wasn’t gonna leave her alone. She kept persisting, she was determined to finish and I was going to finish with her. We finished a few more hills and I already saw the girls walking down the hill saying, “Okay, you guys just wanna go then?” Nai’a just kept running and said, “Nah, I’ll stop when Zion stops.” All of the girls that wanted to stop just kept going. Obviously not because they wanted to, but more so because we kept going. In that moment, I just realized so much. I wasn’t really trying to set the bar, be an example or a leader… or anything of that matter. I just had the will to keep going, and I was always going to support my teammates.
Most importantly I realized that people do pay attention to me. Some of them even look up to me. I realized that my actions affect more than myself. By just persisting, that could provide inspiration for my crew to keep going. They looked at me as a leader, and I started looking at myself as one too. I learned that being a leader… isn’t so much being better than everyone else. I definitely don’t run the best and I am surely not the best paddler… but I think after this, being a leader to me is just about the drive. I had heart, and unconditional love for what I did. Being a leader... It was never about being the best, or being the most talented. It was about how supportive you were of the team, and how much you were willing to do. How much drive you had. After all, being the best doesn’t matter if you don’t have the attitude for it.