Talented individual

“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever,” – A Bronx Tale.

It’s an iconic quote, one that has a lot of meaning. Wasted talent. What is considered wasted talent? That’s the question that is asked every day. On the outside looking in, fans and media alike will look at an athlete and say they haven’t lived up to expectations.

But, who’s expectations are they taking about?

Maybe, they have exceeded the expectations they have put on themselves. Maybe, they reached the goals that they wanted to reach. Sure, there are athletes who try to get by on the talent they have. They may not work hard at their craft because everything came easy for them.

Sometimes that saddest thing in life is what you don’t do with the talent you have. Just trying to get by isn’t good enough. Sometimes you need to do more.

For Nichols School hockey player Taylor Pietrowski she is making good use of the talents that were given her both on the ice and in the classroom. The star defenseman will be taking her talents to the next level as she recently signed her letter of intent to play hockey at Cornell – an top-notch Ivey League School.

“Playing hockey at Cornell has been my dream since I was 8 years old and received my first Cornell T-shirt from a family friend. The opportunity to play hockey at one of the most prestigious colleges in the country was a dream come true, and I’m so thankful to have this opportunity,” stated Pietrowski. “My ultimate goal after my four years at Cornell is to attend medical school, and Cornell is the perfect place for me to pursue my passion of science. My parents have always stressed to me that school comes first, and I’m truly getting the best of both worlds at Cornell. Additionally, the proximity to home was a big factor. I wanted to play somewhere that my family would be able to travel to easily, since they have been so influential on my career and are the reason that this is possible.”

Grant it, when Pietrowski was born the man up stair gave her gift. As she grew up, she needed to make decisions on how to use that gift. She knew she had talent – but she needed to reinforce that talent. She had to work at her game to prove to everyone that she belonged.

You just can’t make it on talent alone. You need to work on you game when no one else is watching. You need to be the first and last one off the ice. You need to out in the extra hours in the weight room. You need to be better than everyone else.

For Pietrowski there was being good. But, she just doesn’t want to be good, she wants to be great.

“Most of my workouts during the season are about maintaining muscle, so during the offseason I put in time to gain muscle mass that will set me up for success during the season. Once hockey season ends in April you can usually find me at IMPACT Sports Performance five to six times a week at the Harborcenter downtown. Jason Jerome is my trainer, and I owe so much of my success to him,” explained Pietrowski. “I’ve been working with him for nearly three years and in that time I have become so much faster and stronger. For the past three years I’ve had the same two workout partners, Maureen Murphy (D1 hockey player at Providence College) and Leah Czerwinski (D3 Hockey player at Oswego State) and we have a blast competing in the weight room and on the ice during summer skates. As for offseason ice time, I mostly focus on skills and becoming a better skater. So much of in-season practice is about team-focused concepts such as penalty killing and systems, so during the offseason I try to take the time to improve my skating, stickhandling, passing, etc. Offseason skates definitely are not as fun as in-season practice, but the hard work pays off once the season starts.”

All that work she has put in during the offseason has definitely paid off. Pietrowski is one of the better players on the Nichols team and in the league. She plays a very physical game that most might not want to play.

It’s what separates her from the rest.

"I think one of the most important aspects of a solid defenseman is having confidence in your ability. A lot of players hold back during games because they are afraid of making mistakes so they play much more passively, but once you let go of that mentality you can really surprise yourself,” stated Pietrowski. “Besides confidence, I think it’s important to have good vision, since defensemen are basically like quarterbacks on the ice who see everything in front of them. Although it may not be as flashy as scoring a bar down goal, making a solid, clean breakout pass is what starts majority of scoring plays. With that being said, attention to detail is extremely important since misjudging a pinch or having bad gap control can lead to a mistake that ends with the puck in your net. Lastly, it’s important to be able to move on from your mistakes. Everyone has bad plays during a game, and it’s important to be able to have the ability to shake the bad plays off and move forward instead of dragging yourself down.”

Being able to shake off a bad game, or mistakes, is what makes Pietrowski such a great leader. Her leadership skills have grown over the years and it all started her freshman year. That year she happened to be around some very good players in Maddi Welch and Olivia Zafuto.

They showed her the right way to act in practice and in games. The experience she gained by watching both of them go about their business rubbed off on her. And when it came time for her to lead others, Pietrowski remembers those days as a 14-year-old freshman.

“My freshman year at Nichols I was fortunate enough to be on a team with Maddi Welch and Olivia Zafuto, who were the two best leaders I’ve ever played hockey with. I learned so much from playing with them when they were our captains, and I was truly amazed by how well they were able to motivate us and keep us united throughout the season,” explained Pietrowski. “I think throughout the years I’ve matured as a person and gained some confidence which has changed the way I lead. I’ve always been a more reserved person, so I mostly tried to lead by example. I think now that I’m older and have more confidence in my ability on the ice, I think I’ve become much more vocal. My freshman year, Olivia Zafuto was our top defenseman and she took me under her wing and taught me so much about both hockey and leadership, so I’ve been trying to mimic what she did for me with our freshmen currently. It’s kind of crazy to think that next year I’ll be playing against Olivia Zafuto, who will be in her senior season at Cornell’s ECAC rival school, Colgate.”

You see, the saddest thing in life is wasted talent. But, if you make the right decision like Taylor Pietrowski has, you won’t be wondering at the end of the day if your life would have been different.