I don’t exactly remember when I started to slouch. “Stand up straight!” my parents would constantly remind me. But I could not seem to master it. Everyone’s parents tell them to mind their posture. But since I naturally stoop worse than my 85 year-old Nana, I often heard: “You look like a question mark!” ”

When I was little my dad was the volunteer coach for my peewee soccer team, and he always played me. I knew how lucky I was, not just for this advantage, but also for having a dad who loved me enough to spend his Saturday mornings with screaming children. My dad never pressured me to be the best, he just wanted me to try hard and have fun. He always encouraged me by saying, “When you stand tall and run, you are unstoppable.” Even though my greatest worries at the time tended to center on snacks, off the field I still slouched around like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Now that I am a senior, I am almost always huddled over something. Cooped up at my desk trying to finish my calculus homework, lugging a 40 pound backpack around school, or peering down at my phone sending off that last urgent text message to my varsity soccer co-captains reminding them about an upcoming practice or game.

But when I play sports, I stand tall and feel powerful. This begins the instant I stride onto the field, whether it is for soccer or lacrosse, a practice or a championship game. Something about running and being free allows me to let go of the stress from homework, exams, and labs. Everything I’ve compressed throughout the day is decompressed, and I find myself channeling my energy and focusing on the goal directly ahead.

As my high school soccer career comes to a close, the legacy I will leave from this season as team captain has become very important to me. To rally my team I give pep talks and organize team dinners. To help the girls develop their skills on the field, I lead drills and races to build our stamina. I make sure that everyone feels they had the chance to play their best game. But mostly, I remind them to stand tall and always to put in their best effort.

Sometimes I have moments when I want to throw in the towel like everybody else. For example, at the end of a grueling pre-season workout this year, I shouted, “I’m so tired I’m going to collapse,” and heard the echoes of a dozen younger girls agreeing with me. I immediately saw them slowing down, and realized that as captain, they were taking their lead from me. Remembering my dad’s advice from years before, I immediately shifted my attitude and stood tall, exemplifying the behavior that I hoped the girls would follow.

It sounds so simple, but reminding myself to stand up straight is a constant challenge to be the best version of myself I can be. When I do that on the field, my teammates follow my lead. When I do that in the classroom, my peers listen and respect what I have to say. Standing tall, I am more positive, alive, and confident in my abilities. I love watching the big cats on the Discovery Channel, when they, feel threatened, they arch their backs and rise up to intimidate their predators. I have read studies that claim posture has a direct effect on people’s mood and self-esteem. But I don’t need a study to tell me what I have learned firsthand. Now, whenever I see a friend crouching over a book, or an exhausted teammate slouching on the field, I yell, encouragingly, “Stand up straight!” and then I repeat softly, to myself, “because then you are unstoppable.”