At the start of the school year, Seoul Foreign School (SFS) introduced a new winter-season varsity sport: wrestling. This unexpected addition was met with surprise because the winter sports at SFS had always been limited to basketball, cheerleading, and swimming. Despite the unfamiliarity of the sport, many students decided to take a step out of their comfort zone and explore this new opportunity. Their enthusiasm quickly spread throughout the school, and I was surprised by the growing number of students wearing the wrestling team sweatshirt. News from the wrestling team began to fill up the school’s social media pages. When the team brought home a victory, both teachers and students rushed up to shower the athletes with hugs and words of encouragement.
|[Photo of an SFS wrestling team member engaged in a match.
Photo courtesy: Crusader Athletics]
However, amongst all the people who contributed to the achievements of the new wrestling program, one student was particularly noteworthy -- Brian Choe. A senior at SFS, Brian is acknowledged for introducing wrestling to the school for the first time in its history. He helped found the wrestling team and is currently regarded as its champion. Brian had previously attended Seoul American High School (SAHS), where wrestling had been a big part of the sports program. The schools that participate in varsity wrestling are mostly from the U.S. Army garrisons in South Korea, which are members of the Far East program, a DoDEA academics and athletics program. DoDEA stands for the Department of Defense Education Activity, an association of schools for the children of the U.S. Military workforce. However, the level of competition was always limited because most international schools in Korea didn’t take part in the Far East activities.
In order to bring more competition and excitement into the program, Brian felt that “the sport of wrestling should be shared across all schools in Korea.” So when he moved to SFS this year, Brian was motivated to “spread the knowledge and art of wrestling to schools that unfortunately did not have a varsity wrestling team.” Through his hard work and determination, Brian clearly accomplished that goal. But more importantly, his brave steps showed students that moving to another school doesn’t always have to mean adapting to a new community -- it can mean bringing a part of your past community with you.
At the beginning of the year, many expected wrestling to be popular only among male students because wrestling is often associated with manliness. But surprisingly, the female students also gradually joined the valor because the masculine novelty of the sport sparked their curiosity. Georgie Clare, a member of the SFS varsity wrestling team, said that she and many others joined the program because they thought it would be “a great opportunity to learn something new.” Now, as an active member of the team, Georgie shares that her experience with the sport has been “a positive one,” as she could feel herself growing stronger after each session. In addition, competing against a single opponent has allowed Georgie to grow more confident, not only in sports but also in her everyday life. She believes “more girls should be encouraged to join wrestling.”
It was inspiring for me to watch these students break the stereotypes that come with this sport. All too often, we label different sports as being “for girls” or “for boys,” but students like Georgie are taking these small steps to change those stereotypes.
|[Interviewing Georgie Clare, a member of the Varsity wrestling team at SFS,
about the gender stereotypes associated with wrestling]
It’s always hard to break away from what you’re used to and venture into the unknown. It was the same when wrestling was first introduced to SFS. Students doubted the success of the new program and speculated that only boys would join the team. However, Brian, Georgie, and many other pioneers showed courage and passion to come out of their comfort zones in pursuing this new experience. Their passion and commitment have positively impacted the wrestling program this year, and I can’t help but expect another successful season to roll around in the coming school year.
Sophomore (Grade 10)
Seoul Foreign School
Stephanie Park email@example.com
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