Category: Living Title IX

True Tests of Will

1Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Just ask Title Nine customer Stacy Tarrh. The 27-year-old physical therapist puts the idea to practice everyday in her work with patients who’ve suffered spinal cord injuries. Their goal? To walk again. Stacy’s goal? To help them do it.

Most of Stacy’s patients are victims of car accidents. She sees men, women, and children of all ages and levels of disability. Their circumstances vary, but they have one sad thing in common: One tragic moment changed their lives forever. Many of them have little reason to believe they’ll walk again other than a faith in their own will to make it so. Having Physical Therapyalready gone through standard in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation, they still find themselves confined to wheelchairs. Unwilling to simply accept their situations, they’ve chosen to undergo additional rehab consisting of three-hour sessions of intensive physical therapy. “They’re very motivated people,” Stacy says. “They could just sit at home and say, ‘This is my lot. I’m done. This is as good as it gets.’ But these are people who want to do everything they can to see how far they can improve.”

Tackling Challenges Head On
Much like her patients, Stacy isn’t one to shrink from challenges. In fact, she seeks them out, particularly athletic ones. For example, the longtime runner and lifelong athlete recently started competing in triathlons despite a deep-seated fear of open water. It’s a fear Stacy developed after a frightening childhood experience. She and her father were swimming out to a raft in the center of a lake, when her father suddenly cramped up so badly he couldn’t swim. Fortunately, Stacy was wearing a life vest, which she gave to her dad enabling him to make it to shore. Without the vest, her father is certain he would have drowned. The experience made quite an impression on Stacy, and ever since she’s been afraid to swim in open water.

Most people with such a deep and abiding fear of water would simply avoid water sports. Even the most aggressive cross-trainer could find plenty of land-based sports to satisfy her hunger for athletic variety. But not Stacy. She pullquote_stacy3saw her fear of swimming as a challenge to tackle rather than an obstacle to avoid. So on January 1, 2008, Stacy resolved to begin training for triathlons. “I knew it would take serious commitment and would push me outside of my comfort zone,” Stacy says. “I find it empowering to face things that are difficult head on and trample out fears and perceived limitations in the process. Just running? Too familiar and safe. Biking? Fun, but not that different from running. Swimming? Now you are talking about no solid ground under me and no constant supply of oxygen for my lungs. Definitely outside my comfort zone. Swimming was the challenge I sought and running and biking were my reward for surviving the swim.”

Conquering Her Swim Demons
Prior to her New Year’s resolution, Stacy had not done any real swimming sincestacy_swim the terrifying experience with her dad. The mere thought of putting her face in the water seemed scary. Actually doing so made her feel panicked, like she couldn’t breathe. Figuring she needed to start her swim training at square one, Stacy decided to take a five-week swim class at a local high school pool. “Pools are always easier,” Stacy says. “I don’t like to put my face in the water no matter what, but in a pool at least you can see the bottom and touch the sides.” The class went well, but Stacy knew she wasn’t yet ready for the open water. Next, she signed up for a ten-week triathlon training class with a local sports store. A few weeks into that class Stacy did her first open water swim. It was a great success, thanks in part to the fact that she swam in a wetsuit which increased her buoyancy and made her feel safer. “It kind of felt like wearing a life jacket,” Stacy says. But her newfound confidence didn’t last long. Near the end of the training course Stacy’s class did a trial swim at the site of the triathlon in which she intended to compete. “That’s when the nightmare happened,” Stacy says. “It was awful. My chest got tight. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t put my face in the water. I panicked.” Swimming without a wetsuit, Stacy swam sidestroke about half of the course and was one of the last few people out of the water.

stacy_whusDiscouraged but not defeated, Stacy resolved to train even harder. She started doing frequent open water swims with her husband, Scott, who was also training for triathlons. He swam right next to her and they stayed close to shore. Slowly but surely, Stacy got more comfortable in the water. When race day arrived, she had a strategy- start the swim in the back of the pack and take her time. Stacy emerged from the water unscathed and with a smile on her face. And she did it without a wetsuit.

Training for Tri’s
These days, Stacy is as dedicated to her triathlon training as she is to her work. Four days a week she gets up at 5:30 a.m. and heads out for a three to five mile run. A lifelong Michigan resident, Stacy runs outside with her dog Wrigley even in the dead of winter, resorting to the treadmill in her basement only when single-digit temps pose serious health risks. Most evenings after work she heads to the gym to swim (once or twice a week), do Pilates (once a week), or take a spin class (once or twice a week) with Scott. Once or twice a week Stacy lifts weights as well.

To date, Stacy has completed two triathlons. She placed fourth in her age group in the first race and first in her age group (fourth female overall) in the second. Not bad for a gal who’s still battling a fear of open water. According to Stacy, it’s a battle she’s slowly winning. She still gets nervous before every swim, but she feels a little more comfortable each time. Who is the most impressed by Stacy’s triathlon accomplishments? Yep, it’s her dad. Still a bit spooked by open water himself, he knows what it takes for Stacy to will herself into the water, let alone swim competitively.

No doubt, meeting her challenges better equips Stacy to help her patients meet theirs. It’s hard to imagine a more worthy endeavor. You go girl!

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Sometimes Less Is Best

For the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of writing about some truly amazing women. So you can imagine my surprise when the good folks at Title Nine suggested that the next customer I profile should be me. “What?” I exclaimed, “there’s nothing special about me.” “Precisely,” my T9 contact said with a smile. And I knew exactly what she meant. She wasn’t being rude. Quite the contrary, in fact. What she was getting at is this: Whether we’re stay-at-home moms or single working gals, elite athletes or weekend warriors, lifelong sports enthusiasts or fledgling fitness fanatics, we share a common bond—through a desire to challenge and improve ourselves athletically, we better ourselves as a whole. In that regard, we’re all special. And if we scratch beneath the surface, there’s a compelling tale—maybe of struggle and accomplishment, dedication and transformation, or sacrifice and renewal—just waiting to be told about each and every one of us. This time around, I’ll endeavor to share mine.

My name is Amy Thomas Buscaglia. I am a 38-year-old full-time mother, part-time freelance writer, and frequent volunteer. As a determined athlete, a devoted coach, and an avid fan, sports are a central part of my life. First and foremost, I’m a runner. My second love is tennis. I exercise because it makes me feel good. I also enjoy the competition, but that hasn’t always been the case.

A Young Athlete in a Small Town
I am a lifelong athlete, but until relatively recently, I’d been gifted with a lot more talent than tenacity. As a kid, I loved sports, and I was good at them. By the time I entered high school, I was a highly sought after recruit. I ended up playing basketball and softball, but my youthful enthusiasm didn’t translate to the kind of competitive drive required to thrive in small town varsity athletics. I enjoyed a successful high school sports career, but I wasn’t loving it as much anymore. As the fun faded, I began to focus more on other interests. I played guitar. I studied hard. I worked afterschool jobs. And sadly, I took up smoking.

Surf’s Up
After high school, I took a long break from competitive sports. I played casual tennis and racquetball and was a member of a few low-key softball teams, but for several years that was about it. Shortly after graduating from college, I moved from New Jersey to California for a publishing job. There, despite a lifelong fear of sharks—or perhaps, because of it—I decided to take up surfing. Every time I entered the water I felt like I was staring death in the face. Every time I emerged alive I felt like I had conquered death. Melodramatic? Maybe, but it added to the exhilaration of an already exhilarating sport, and it gave me a great sense of accomplishment even on days I didn’t catch a single wave. Surfing was also responsible for introducing me to the love of my life—my husband, Ted, whom I met through a mutual surfing buddy.

Striving for Less
Meanwhile, I was still smoking (nearly a pack a day at that point) and working crazy hours as a freelance writer and editor to help pay off two mortgages and a family loan on our first house in Santa Barbara. It’s fair to say that I was a stressed out workaholic. Soon enough, I wasn’t even surfing anymore. Something had to change. My husband’s sudden transfer to Dallas—a much cheaper place to live than Santa Barbara—provided the perfect opportunity. I took up a new self-corrective campaign. My motto? “Strive for less.” Less work. Less stress. Just less.

After seriously ramping down my workload over the first six months or so in Dallas, a boon to my mental health, I decided it was time to whip myself into better physical shape, too. Naturally, the first step was to quit smoking. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it brought a host of unexpected short-term consequences. Perhaps the strangest was a complete loss of coordination. After a couple embarrassing attempts to play racquetball with my husband—a sport we played regularly—I swore off any activity requiring hand-eye coordination. I actually worried that my athletic days were behind me forever. But after a few brutal months of being uncoordinated and dull-witted and catching every cold in Texas, I was over the hump. I was also a good 15 pounds heavier.

To work off some of the extra pounds and continue my quest for fitness, I decided to take up running. I could only muster about a mile at first, but within a couple months I had run my first 5K race. I was hooked. Over the next several months, I ran in nearly every 5K in the Dallas area, often placing in the top three of my age group. Then I entered a few 10K races. Eight months after I started running, I completed my first half marathon in just under two hours. I wasn’t super fast, but I did meet my personal goal for the race. Crossing the finish line was the greatest feeling of athletic accomplishment I’d ever experienced. After 32 years and scads of sports, I had finally found my competitive drive. And it made me happy.

Reinvention Through Sports
My newfound love of running was just the beginning of an athletic rebirth of sorts and part of a larger move toward a more balanced life. After moving back to northern California a few years ago, I started playing USTA tennis, which further stoked my competitive fires. It also reminded me of the special camaraderie between teammates. Some of the women on my tennis teams are now among my closest friends.

There’s something contagious about the fun and friendship found in team sports. I feel compelled to share it with others, which is why I help coach a Special Olympics basketball team. Funny thing about coaching, you get more than you give. Watching the kids compete is one of my greatest joys.

Another one of my great joys is cheering for my favorite sports teams, the New York Jets and Oakland A’s, a pastime I particularly enjoy sharing with my sister and her two boys. I should come clean and admit that I’m one of those crazy geeky fans who get dressed up in team gear to watch the game at home on TV. Enough said. Let’s move on.

My Current Fitness Regimen
These days, I run four or five days a week for a total of 15 to 25 miles, depending on whether I’m training for a race. I generally play tennis two or three times a week—sometimes more if I’m lucky—mostly singles, but also doubles depending on the season. I do a smattering of other sports—including cycling, swimming, softball, and soccer—on an occasional and often streaky basis, but running and tennis are my two mainstays.

Because I work freelance and only part time, I have a flexible schedule. Getting in my runs is a breeze. I just pop my nine-month-old daughter, Madeleine, in the jogging stroller and hit the road. Hitting the tennis courts requires much more coordination. I rely on a combination of my supportive husband, my generous USTA team captain, and my health club’s excellent childcare facility to watch my daughter while I play.

Sports as a Point of Sharing
As you can see, sports are a big part of my life in more ways than one. For me, athletics have been a vehicle for fitness, fun, and personal transformation. Perhaps most importantly, sports have provided an avenue for meaningful shared experiences with my family and friends. These days, for example, my favorite runs are the ones I do with my husband and daughter. This past July 4th, my little family of three ran our first 5K race together, and it was not without some sense of accomplishment that we crossed the finish line first in the stroller category. The best part is, I have so many precious moments like this to look forward to. I can’t wait for the day my little girl can hold a tennis racquet and join me on the court. I can’t wait for the day she beats me. I can’t wait for the day she crosses the finish line on her own as I shout, “You go girl!”

That’s my story. What’s Yours?

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A Modern Day Renaissance Woman

By all accounts, Title Nine customer Barb Trafton leads an inspired life. A full-time mom, community activist, artist, and athlete, she is a woman of many talents. In fact, Barb is a modern Renaissance woman of sorts. She’s an independent thinker who can champion a group cause. She’s a fierce competitor who is wary of the pitfalls of competition. When presented with the choice to do something easy or interesting, she’ll choose interesting every time. (more…)

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Adding Extra to Ordinary

Hard-driving. Determined. Persistent. An accurate description of Title Nine customer Jenny Chatman, but far from complete. Fun-loving. Family-oriented. Outdoorsy. Energetic. These are all qualities that Jenny zestfully exudes, and they have served her well in pursuing her goals as a professor, consultant, wife, mother, and athlete. But if you had to choose just one word to describe Jenny, you just might settle on extraordinary. From giving birth at age 48 to running the Olympic torch across the Golden Gate Bridge, there is nothing ordinary about Jenny’s life—not even her daily routine. In fact, the only thing routine about Jenny’s day is that she works out. (more…)

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Working Out as a Way of Life

For some people, working out is a way to stay fit. For others, it’s a way to have fun. For Title Nine customer Lisa Schneider, it’s a way of life. As a working mom, finding time to stay fit can be a challenge, but Lisa makes it seem effortless. Maybe that’s because she’s been doing it for as long as she can remember. A quick count reveals at least 11 sports that Lisa has avidly pursued at one point or another since childhood, and that number doesn’t even include the athletic activities—like skiing, hiking, and biking—that she does with her family on the weekends. So it’s no surprise that working out is a significant part of Lisa’s daily routine.

It’s a routine that typically starts at 6:15am with a quick shower before the kids wake up. As a mother of two young girls, JiJi (nine) and KaiMei (two), Lisa’s mornings revolve around getting the kids dressed, fed, and ready for the day—a task she happily shares with her partner Mary.

Breaking Barriers—On and Off the Field
After dropping off JiJi at school or KaiMei at daycare, it’s off to Cornell University. In the 90s, Lisa earned her Masters and PhD in Sociology from Cornell. Now she works in the university’s College of Engineering as Director of Engineering Learning Initiatives, managing programs that enhance the learning environment in the college.

An engineering school may seem like an unlikely place for a PhD in sociology to end up, but it’s not as far a leap as you might think. “My dissertation research was on looking at pathways to nontraditional careers for women,” Lisa says, “and looking at women who have played sports in particular. Does the confidence and experience gained by, in many cases, breaking gender barriers and expectations correlate with a greater likelihood of going into careers that are nontraditional for women?” In her current role, “there’s a lot of emphasis on attracting and retaining nontraditional students—in engineering that includes women. Nationally, women comprise less than 20 percent of all engineering students.”

So are female athletes more likely to follow nontraditional career paths? If they were all like Lisa, the answer would be a resounding yes. A talented and determined athlete, Lisa has been bending, if not breaking, gender barriers in sports since she was a young girl. She recalls being barred from playing organized youth football—her favorite sport at the tender age of nine—but often beating the boys on the playground at recess. Even Little League was off limits to girls back then, but Lisa never settled for being stranded in the stands. “I was someone who really pushed those barriers,” Lisa says. “I think that experience contributed to my commitment to breaking barriers in other areas of life—working to remove barriers for myself, women in general, and other minorities.” Today, Lisa runs programs that help women and other nontraditional students get a foothold in the male dominated world of engineering.

Taking the Work Out of Working Out
For Lisa, working out is as natural and necessary as breathing. It’s as fluid and adaptable as well. In her younger years, Lisa’s athletic career included scads of team sports, from starring on her high school basketball team to playing world-class Ultimate Frisbee in college and beyond. But these days team sports would cut into valuable family time, so team sports are out and lunchtime workouts are in. What those workouts entail depends largely on the weather. In the spring and summer, Lisa usually does a 30 to 40-minute trail run three or four times a week. Rainy days will find her in the gym, where she’ll spend about 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer followed by sit-ups and some work with free weights.

During the long upstate New York winters, Lisa spends more time in the gym and takes a yoga class once a week. In an impressive display of athletic flexibility, she also avails herself of a university perk—free skating time at the hockey team’s ice rink. A native Californian, Lisa has adapted her longtime love of rollerblading to suit her snowy surroundings in the northeast.

Getting Grounded—At Home and At the Dojo
Most nights Lisa gets home between 5:00pm and 6:00pm, draws a bath for the girls, and gets dinner started. The family sits down to eat around 7:00pm and then enjoys some family fun time until 8:30pm or so, when it’s time to get the girls in bed.

Lisa’s nightlife takes an interesting turn on Tuesdays when she practices the one sport she just couldn’t live without—karate. At 5 feet 5½ inches tall and 122 pounds, Lisa may not look like much to reckon with, but you’d do well not to mess with her. She started studying karate 12 years ago when she was a 28-year-old grad student. “It was a lifesaver when I was writing my dissertation and in the throes of that,” Lisa says. “I started training and I just loved it. Back then I went every night during the week.” Now a second-degree black belt, Lisa trains only on Tuesday nights when she takes an all ranks and ages karate class with her older daughter JiJi. It’s some special mother-daughter time when Lisa gets to share her passion with her girl.

After their class together, JiJi has dinner with a classmate while Lisa takes a black belt class. Earning her black belt ranks among Lisa’s proudest accomplishments. It took her about five years, which was fast for her karate school (or dojo). For Lisa, karate isn’t about competition. It’s about personal development. And it shows. It’s evident in the way she tackles the rigors of everyday life—with humility, grace, and quiet resolve. You go girl!

Did playing sports as a child or adolescent lead you to bend or break any gender barriers as an adult?

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