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At RA, we begin each week with an all school assembly. It is tradition for every Grade 8 student to take a turn running the assembly and speak about something that is meaningful to them. Each week, their speeches will be posted for our community to read. These outstanding young people are the leaders of our school and have experiences and stories that are important to share. This past Monday, Meredith J. spoke about the importance of focus. Enjoy Meredith's story!

This year, our challenge as an eighth grade class is to find a value or word that really speaks to each of us individually. Something that I find really significant is focus.

Focus has many definitions, but the simplest one is to concentrate. Your concentration can be applied anywhere inside the classroom or out. From working on a school project to practicing for your next sports game or concert, you need to bring focus and attention to whatever is at hand. You can be an excelling student or an amazing athlete, but if your head isn’t there, you can’t accomplish much.

I’ve had many experiences in my life where I’ve really had to focus and zero in on something, but one that I really remember was during my softball season last year.

To give you all a little bit of a background, I’ve been playing softball since I was eight and it has sort of become a lifestyle for me because I’m so passionate about it. During my softball season, which is technically year-round but the formal season is April through July, everything centers around softball. I’ve been out on the field for hours at a time in one hundred degree weather, but I’ve learned to enjoy it and push through the heat and long practices with the help of my supportive team.

Because softball is a slower game than many other sports, concentration and being alert are both key. As soon as the pitch is thrown to you, you have to tune everything out and fixate on the ball coming at you in order to hit it.

Last spring, I really struggled to do this and wasn’t able to get a hit in the beginning of the season. I either popped up or hit the ball on the ground right to a defender just about every time it was my turn at bat. I began to realize that this was a result of two things: The first was that I really wasn’t seeing the ball. The second was that I had a hitch in my swing when I was loading, or trying to build up energy and momentum. This caused me to swing late or drop my hands too much under the ball, forcing me to fly out.

In order to change these problems, I had to work on tracking the ball through the strike zone and fixing the technical elements of my swing. Every practice, I had to really zone in and put one hundred percent of my effort into watching the ball and thinking about my swing. I had to imagine that there was nothing except the ball and my bat. This was hard to apply to a game situation, especially when I knew there were runners on base that needed to be scored. Taking extra swings during practice on the tee really helped me concentrate on what I was doing each swing. During games, I slowly pulled myself out of my slump. Repetition and sheer focus got me through.

From then on, I really understood the value of focus.

So what does focus mean to you?

You can all apply your focus here at school, outside of school, or at home. It can be something as simple as doing your homework, right when you get home without procrastinating, which I know is really hard to do because I’ve been there. You could do all your household chores without hesitation. When you’re working on an in-class project, you can choose to really concentrate instead of being distracted by something else or talking to one of your friends. In the future, whenever you’re trying to complete a task, ask yourself if you’re really focusing. I guarantee that if you are, you can achieve just about anything.
Written by Meredith J.