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Katie Higgins : More Than My Sport

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Welcome to Behind the G! This is a Georgia Way platform that shares student-athlete stories, hobbies, and what is important to them. To the world, student-athletes are viewed by their outcomes in their sports, but they are so much more than that. Our goal is to share with the world in their own words who they are as people, and the numerous ways they represent the G on and off the field.

Hi everyone! My name is Katie Higgins.  I am a senior on the soccer team, and after undergrad, I am looking to move on to medical school.  One of the major requirements for med school applications is a personal statement, which is an essay in which you explain why you want to be a doctor in the first place.  Before I knew what to write about, I just wanted to get my thoughts down on paper, and what follows is my first ever draft of my personal statement.  I hope you enjoy it!

At the conclusion of every fall soccer season, our coaches present a few team members with a team-voted award such as defensive MVP, offensive MVP, overall MVP, etc. As I sat at the end-of-the-year banquet, I listened to the coaches give speeches about the recipients of each of the awards knowing full-well that my name was not going to be called — after all, a torn ACL makes for a pretty subpar central defender. Anyway, once all of the MVP awards were given out, my head coach, Billy Lesesne, approached the podium and announced that there was one more award that needed to be given out. This award was the “Most Inspirational” award, and, to my surprise, it had my name written on it. 

As grateful as I was that my team and coaches thought of my recovery and attitude as inspirational, at the end of the day, I wished that I could have had the opportunity to make a positive impact on the field, not just from the sidelines. After the banquet, I remember joking with my mom saying, “I am happy and honored to have gotten the ‘participation trophy’ this year, but I can’t wait to get back out on the field so I can help my team in a real way.” Either way, if you look past my dark humor, I really was honored that my teammates voted for me. I put my trophy on my dresser for myself to look at every day for two reasons: (1) as a reminder to always keep a positive attitude no matter what, and (2) as a motivator to continue to work hard to get back out on the field with my team. 

In all honesty, the constant reminder must have worked because not only did I make my way back on the field in time for the next season, but I also found myself back in the starting lineup where I was pre-injury. I was back to doing what I loved with the people that I loved the most.  Everything was great. I was playing great, and my legs felt stronger than they were before I had been injured.  However, apparently my other knee was not in agreement because at practice 9 months after I tore my ACL, I jumped up for a routine header, came down, and heard a snap when I landed. This time it was the ACL in my other knee that so kindly decided that it wanted to tear. At first, I was so mad at myself because I thought that I had pushed myself to come back too quickly, but I also knew that I had literally done every single thing possible to prevent it.  Either way, I gave myself that night to mourn and be upset, and then I reeled myself back in and started the recovery process the next day. I fortunately — or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it — knew exactly what I needed to do to be able to get back stronger, faster, fitter than ever. I knew what it took, and I knew how to get ahead and stay ahead of the process. Because of this and because my teammates, athletic trainer, coaches and physical therapist helped me to keep my positivity in check, things seemed to move much smoother the second time around. 

Because of COVID, I worked my way through the off-season and physical therapy from home to be able to return for the 2020 season. I did what I needed to do and had expectations to work my way back into the starting lineup, just like I had done after my first ACL recovery. As the first game of the season rolled around, my excitement peaked and quickly plummeted as, not only was I not part of the starting lineup, but I also only played a grand total of 4 minutes. I couldn’t hide my disappointment and shock. I had it in my head that I was playing better and came back even stronger, just like I had after my first recovery. I told myself that it was just one game and maybe the coaches wanted to give me more reps in practice before throwing me into the game to build my confidence. However, after the second game passed and I still was not playing more than 20 minutes at a time, I knew that I needed to get past the shock and had to change my mindset. I knew that having a negative attitude towards my personal situation was doing nothing but hurting myself and, more importantly, the team.

After this game, I still worked my hardest to compete for playing time, but I also adopted the role of what I lovingly termed “bench captain.” I realized that, as a team, we spend about 12-15 hours at practice and only 90 minutes on the game field. I may not be able to make a difference for my team during games, but we all know that games are ultimately won and lost on the practice field. Thus, I focused almost all of my energy on making an impact during practices. I worked my hardest to come out to practice every day with a positive and competitive attitude. I did my best to see to it that every single one of my teammates had a positive mindset going into practice, no matter what their role was for the day. Looking back at the end of the season, I realized that I had fully embraced the role that I was given, and, without even realizing it, I had grown into the “Most Inspirational” title that I had originally made jokes about.

On a more serious note, after I got hurt the first time, everybody told me that it would make me a better doctor one day. When I got hurt the second time, everybody told me that it would make me a better doctor one day. After being injured for two years, I knew that it would make me a better doctor one day but not for the reason that everybody was telling me it would. People told me that it would make me better because it would help me better understand what my future patients would be going through, which it would undoubtedly do. But the real reason that it is going to make me a better physician is because it put me in a position of leadership that I had yet to be in: the injured role. 

Before being injured, my leadership style stemmed from hard work, positivity and selflessness. However, within those two years of ACL rehab, I discovered that the best leaders aren’t the ones who just simply work the hardest, but, in addition, they are those who strive to mold other teammates into leaders as well. I learned how to better build individual relationships with teammates, which enabled me to learn how to motivate each of my teammates towards their own personal goals, instead of just knowing how to motivate solely towards team goals. Lastly, and most importantly, whether it be a starter, practice player, manager, coach or athletic trainer, I came to fully realize that every single role of every member of a team is important to the success of the team as a whole. And that is what is going to make me a better physician, because just like any athletics team, being a physician means being a part of a medical team in which each member of the team has a different, yet equally important, role. 

All in all, I have learned that collegiate athletics will quite literally “Mr. Miyagi” you into obtaining all of the invaluable characteristics necessary to one day become a great physician, attorney, CEO, etc. For me, as I am currently applying to medical schools, I find every core characteristic that med schools look for — leadership, time-management, empathy, communication, teamwork, integrity, etc. — are all things that I have learned through soccer in one way or another. Had I not grown up playing soccer or had I quit after my first tear, I would have never grown into the person that I am today. As I wrote in my statement of purpose for med school applications: The thing that I desire the most is to become a physician so that I am able to use my knowledge and experience to help others return to doing what they love with the people that they love. Whether it be a sport, a hobby, or a profession, I want to be able to help people return to what they love doing because I know that valuable experiences and self-realization come in tandem with pursuing one’s passions.

Go Dawgs,

Katie Higgins – UGA Soccer #15

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May 20, 2021

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