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Sports

Revers: Stumbling, sparring through life

| Friday, February 28, 2020

The Bengal Bouts has taught me the value of hard work and dedication: The lessons have been brutal at times, but the process has been the most fulfilling journey I know. From a young age, I’ve embodied the mantra, “Do what you don’t want to do.” It’s served as a starting point for motivation and self-improvement.

I grew up harboring a silent discontent toward my mild speech impediment. It’s something that at times feels uncontrollable and inseparable, but I’ve done my best to cope. I routinely struggled throughout elementary and middle school and felt at odds with words I knew I had but couldn’t physically express. Aspiring to be a more fluid speaker, I joined the speech and debate team my freshman year of high school. Initially, the unknown audiences mimicked the sneers of elementary years. However, I sincerely wanted to improve.

For four years I lived in the speech and debate classroom after school, obsessively ran practice rounds and resolutely spent my Friday nights honing speeches for the following day’s tournament. My efficacy as a speaker and concurrently success in debate, burgeoned. Though impediments are disorders, I entered Notre Dame regarding mine as quite the contrary.

During my freshman fall semester, I sought something that would again push me as extensively as stuttering through debate rounds. I tried boxing with an open mind and quickly fell in love. The practices kicked my ass and the 2016 captain cohort immediately became guys I looked up to. When the opportunity to live in Bangladesh on behalf of the boxing club presented itself, I jumped on it.

Time in Bangladesh kindled many untamed emotions — our band of four lived on the opposite side of the world in a country where most everything seemed converse to life in the states. The heat is suffocating. The language is different. The country is predominantly Muslim. Dhaka is the most densely populated city in the world. The roads are chaotic. Day-to-day life required us to step back and consider the bigger picture.

I lived with then-senior captain Jackson Wrede in rural Sreemangal, a city about five hours north of Dhaka. Most mornings were spent teaching English to 40-plus boys and girls while the afternoons were spent visiting nearby tribal villages. I often still think about these big smiles and selfless demeanors. Their intentions are pure and authentic while their values harp family and joy despite difficulty making ends meet. I went into Bangladesh with the intention “to help” the “weak bodies” we honor in our club’s boxing slogan — śakti, sāhasa — but I left the country having taken much more from them.

When I am no longer part of the men’s boxing program here at Notre Dame, I will forever remember the people who have served as sincere role models for the past four years. The 2016 and 2017 captains were early heroes; the people of Bangladesh impress a spirit of gratitude and triumph you can’t find in the United States. As iron sharpens iron, my fellow captains and coaches have sharpened me into the nearly graduating senior I am today.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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