This is the tenth profile in our Society Nine Storytellers series where badass female fighters across all sports in our community share their definitions of femininity, strength and empowerment and discuss what they fight for.
Have a story to tell? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – tell us who you are, a little bit about your journey and what you fight for – in life and sport.
I came of age in the mid 1960’s before Title IX mandated organized girls’ sports and gave opportunities to young women I could not have imagined, but also about the same time the President’s Counsel on Physical Fitness and Sport was a major guiding principle of physical education in public schools. We had no organized sports but were compelled to race to pick up little blocks at one end of the gym and replace them at the other end all while being timed.
I was lucky enough as a young girl, to have the opportunity to try various athletic activities, such as ballet and horseback riding, but whenever I felt myself to be inferior, I was allowed to quit so I never improved. In high school the President’s Counsel program called for us to run a mile in a certain number of minutes, but never explained why it was important to do so. And being somewhat overweight and very stubborn-this latter quality being one I hold dear to this day-some friends and I walked that mile in over 14 minutes, and got in trouble for taking so long.
Once in college, I decided to try some intramural sports, mainly softball and volleyball, and also became more interested in playing tennis with my father, who was an exceptional player. Admittedly – again given the times – he focused his own sports prowess on my brothers, though he did seem genuinely enthusiastic when playing with me. And I improved enough that it became enjoyable for me to play.
Over the years I participated in organized sports, mainly city league softball and volleyball, even gaining some success as a catcher on a winning softball team. But being a bit of a loner, I realized that, while the team sport thing was fun, I much preferred those athletic endeavors I could do on my own or with others, but not relying ON others to “win.” Thus I fell in love with trekking and snorkeling, skiing and Tai Chi, Aerobic dance and Qi Gong.
I went to graduate school, studying, of all things, Physical Education and Exercise Physiology. I took advanced tennis every quarter just so I could play tennis on a regular basis. I was in the best shape I had ever been in and felt great and very fit. I remember running into an old friend from high school one time, when visiting home, and telling him what I was doing. I will never forget his remark: “but Terry, you were never very athletic in high school!” My first job out of graduate school was in a hospital working with cardiac patients, helping them to get in better shape after heart attacks or bypass surgery. I was their “coach,” fighting for them and with them to get healthier, physically and mentally. My role as a fighter was born, both for myself and for the patients with whom I worked.
By the time I went to medical school at 31, exercise and sport were integral parts of my being and I had finally understood that exercise and fitness are not only means to a healthier end, but also the ends in themselves: that amazing feeling of being out of breath at the end of a long hike, the exhaustion after a strenuous kickboxing workout, the mental clarity that comes from pushing myself to go a little longer or a little harder.
This isn’t meant to be a chronology of my life but rather a glimpse at the path of how I became a fighter. Whether it is to be agile and balanced, or fit and strong, I fight to be all I can be, to improve from here to another level; to maintain that mental clarity; to help those who cannot, or don’t know how to, fight for themselves; to defend and support myself while defending and supporting those who are less fortunate.
Terry Wrobel is an Osteopathic Physician with 25 years experience in Primary Care. She did her training in Chicago, IL and Sacramento CA. Before that she earned an MS in Exercise Physiology and was extremely interested in Sports Medicine and using Exercise as a therapeutic technique. “Movement is critical for wellness and for recovery from illness or injury” is a philosophy she uses daily in her own life and to facilitate her patients’ health. She is an avid traveler who is incredibly passionate about volunteering her skills around the world and loves kickboxing.
Photos by Terry Wrobel