Only five girls and five boys were chosen by the USA Judo and Olympic Committee to represent the USA in the Youth Olympic Festival. The Festival is taking place in Sydney, Australia in January 2013. This is the first year the United States was asked to participate. One girl and one boy were chosen out of each weight class. Weight class 52 kilos had to decide between two girls. Both girls were fantastic in Judo, but the Olympic Committee could only pick one.
Fifteen year-old Nicole Stout anxiously waited for the answer, would she be the one chosen to represent America in the Youth Olympic Festival? Here and there Nicole had been hearing and seeing references to Australia everywhere. In here text book, during her online classes, was this a sign?
Nicole recounts the day she heard the news. “Finally on Monday, November 26th, my mom got the long awaited email. She called my dad who was driving us to Judo. When my dad got off the phone, he turned to me and said, ‘I got some good news and some bad news.’ I started to tear up. I was certain I wasn't going because of how grave my dad's voice was. ‘Give me the bad news,’ I said, preparing for the worst. ‘You’re going to have to diet down to 52 kilos.’ He gave a broad smile. ‘YES!’ I screamed for joy. I had wanted to go so bad and it was finally confirmed. A wave of butterflies flooded my stomach as I daydreamed about the opening ceremony and the four other girls I would meet.”
Nicole Stout had been chosen to represent America in the Youth Olympic Festival. During the 5 days of competition, 30 nations, 1700 youth elite athletes, will be competing in 17 different Olympic sports. This is the first year the United States has been invited.
When Nicole arrived at the gym for Judo practice, she excitedly relayed to her teammates the news. “They couldn’t believe it”, Nicole said later about the experience, “They were so happy for me.” Nicole’s Sensei was especially proud. Nicole was the only girl on his team and was the very first person to compete internationally for the team.
“This opportunity means the world to me!” Nicole excitedly conveyed during the interview. “This will give me my very first taste of what the real Olympics are going to be like. I have been and will be training so very hard for this. I will make sure I do my absolute best.”
However, all these opportunities would not have been available to Nicole without the blessing of homeschooling. “Homeschooling has allowed my schedule to be very flexible,” Nicole explains. Rather than struggling to get her extracurricular activities to work around Nicole’s school, Mrs. Stout works the schoolwork around Nicole’s busy schedule. Nicole can do book work while driving the hour and a half to Judo practice, and attends online classes to create flexibility when she travels to another state or country for competitions.
To Nicole, homeschooling means more than just a flexible school schedule. “It means that my mom and dad will always be there to help me and push me to become better academically and physically. It means that I will have a better relationship with my siblings because we are not growing up in separate classrooms,” explains Nicole, “I know that everything I am assigned with is carefully thought out with my future in mind.” Even when it comes to her teachers and academic opportunities, Nicole knows that homeschool has allowed her many blessings: “I always know that my teachers really care and want the best for me. I also know that because I am home-schooled, I will get opportunities that most kids just can't do.”
Even with all the opportunities and successes Nicole has been afforded, she explains that “[she] wouldn't trade the fact that [she’s] homeschooled for any Olympic gold medal.”
Without the blessing of homeschooling, Nicole wouldn’t be preparing (right now), as the only girl from her team, to compete in the Youth Olympic Festival. Homeschooling allowed her the flexibility and opportunity to engage in Judo, which led to her acceptance to attend the YOF. And Nicole gives all the credit to her parents and the blessing of homeschooling. As the interview came to a close, Nicole gave a shout out to her parents for all their love and support, “My parents have invested so much in me, my academics, and my sport. Love you guys!”