Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”
Saneatha Trice is a young woman that personifies Roosevelt’s words in every way, and approaches all pursuits in her life courageously and without fear. Trice, a gymnast, began competing in Special Olympics in her home state of Illinois in 8th grade, and will be competing the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington.
Trice has not always been the fearless, high-flying gymnast that she is today. When asked about how she felt before her first Special Olympics competition Trice said, “I was nervous because of the crowd.” She added, “I was also very anxious because it was my first competition. I thought it lasted forever.”
She has competed all over the country through USA Gymnastics, and revels in the opportunity to meet new people and compete with athletes from across the globe. Trice attributes much of her comfort competing at a high level to meeting friends in competition from Florida to Costa Rica.
Aside from being queen of the balance beam, Trice also loves to bowl, play softball, volleyball, basketball and swim, but gymnastics holds a special place in her heart. When asked about what she loved most about gymnastics Trice said, “I love learning new vaults. When I am learning a new vault, I get to land in the ‘pit,’ which is awesome.” She went on to say, “I also get to show my mom my new tricks and it scares her,” which she said with a smile from ear-to-ear.
A lesser-known fact about Trice is her love for anime cartoons. Traveling for Special Olympics can be grueling, and watching some of her favorite anime on her phone has become her favorite pastime.
In this world we all need heroes that we can look up to. Trice finds heroic qualities in her mother, father, coaches and teachers. To cope with the nerves that come with competition Trice said, “I just look for my mom and dad. I forget about the rest of the crowd because I have to listen to my coach and my parents.”
Trice also explained that gymnastics, like many other activities in life, takes determination and resiliency. When asked about some of the most important lessons she has learned since she began competing she said, “I fall off the balance beam a lot. My coach has taught me [that] I have to get back on it until my routine is done. I can’t give up.” She added, “ I have also learned it’s okay to not always get 1st place.” Trice also stated that she enjoys seeing her friends and competitors get 1st place as well.
Aside from gymnastics, competing in Special Olympics has motivated Trice in various other aspects of her life. Most recently, the lessons learned from her years in Special Olympics has helped Trice deal with the frustrating world of mathematics. Though she may struggle, Trice said, “I don’t like math and I have to keep trying over and over until I get it right.”
We can all learn a thing or two from Trice’s approach to events and activities that we may find intimidating or difficult. She recently participated in the Polar Plunge in Belleville, Illinois on March 9, 2018 where Special Olympics athletes raised money for the over 40,000 competitors at Special Olympics Illinois.
Trice has also recently received her learner’s permit and is excited to get behind the wheel. When faced with situations that may require some of that courage she has garnered from years of competing, Trice said, “I have learned to tell myself, ‘I can do this,’ instead of saying, ‘I can’t.” She went on to say, “Now I love to try new things, even if I don’t do it right the first time.”
For all those who struggle with a fear of the unknown, Saneatha Trice has a message for you. She says that you simply need to do your best to get over your fear. She also said, “Don’t think about people around you; just focus on the work in front of you.” She added, “I would tell them they can do it and to just give it a try.”
“Just give it a try.” Now that has a nice ring to it.
Jerry Shumway is a graduate student in the Strategic Communication Master of Arts Degree program at Pepperdine University.