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Shreya Pai: Encouragement

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When Shreya Pai was faced with a new and intimidating challenge, she found encouragement from a surprising source.

“Did you ever wrestle?” I asked my dad as I squirmed in the passenger seat. We were on the way to my first wrestling camp.

“Not really, but I did get into a lot of fights when I was younger,” my dad replied. That gave me some hope that maybe he could help me figure this out.

I didn’t want to go to the camp. I was nervous. Images of hospitals and ambulances floated around in my head.

It felt like an eternity before we found the wrestling room. A wave of sweat mixed with rubber greeted my nose as I saw a stampede of kids running on a huge mat. They were mostly boys and only a handful of girls. A sweaty coach came running towards us and handed me a pair of worn out wrestling shoes.


“Go run with them.” He pointed at the stampede of kids.

I imagined myself getting trampled on. I was certain that I was going to end up in the ER.

The warm up was followed by drills, and finally a live match. I was paired with a boy. When the timer went off, I was pink, sweaty, and exhausted, but I had managed to hold my own. I didn’t let him pin me down and the final score was even.

As I shook hands with my opponent, a voice from the crowd yelled –

“You’re a badass! never stop wrestling!”

I tried to process the words as everyone’s attention turned towards me and I turned towards the voice. It was a parent from the crowd.

As his words sunk in, I realized a complete stranger saw potential in me. I was washed with a sense of pride.

On the way back, I told my dad what had happened. “Encouragement is a magical thing, and it can make all the difference,” he said.

It’s been a year since that camp. I continue to excel in wrestling. I never saw that parent again, but his words still ring in my ears, every time I go on the mat.

My dad was right. Encouragement makes all the difference.

With a Perspective, I’m Shreya Pai.

Shreya Pai is a sixth grader from the South Bay. She loves math and when she is not wrestling or doing math, she is baking sea salt chocolate chip cookies.

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