The unexpected side of being the ‘braider’ of the track team


Arianna DeLeon

The girls track team poses for a celebratory photo after winning the WSC Gold Indoor Conference Championship, all fashioning their braided hair.

For many on my track team, the bus ride to the meet is an opportunity to relax before competing, but for me, it is quite the opposite. Instead of quietly listening to music for thirty minutes, I am bombarded with requests from people wanting their hair braided before the meet. Don’t get me wrong, I want everyone to look and feel fabulous going into their races, but the entire process of braiding one’s hair is quite frustrating, to say the least.

My frustrations begin with no one ever knowing what they want, and if they do know, they want the same hairstyle they always get. While this is certainly simpler for me, it can become quite redundant and boring. On the off chance we decide to switch things up, we waste valuable time trying to come up with a new and creative hairstyle which I could be spending preparing for my race.

The second major issue I have with being the team braider is that the bus always seems to be the time people want their hair braided. Braiding hair in itself is difficult, but doing it on a moving vehicle is practically a warm-up before I even arrive at the meet. It requires perfect balance and me constantly being prepared for large bumps or turns that could potentially throw me off balance, as I don’t want them to interfere with my braiding.

Additionally, from my observations, it seems almost without fail that every time one person asks me to braid their hair, it sets off a flood of other people looking to have their hair braided before we arrive at our meet. While I pride myself on being a fast braider, I admittedly can only braid hair so quickly. This means that when my team arrives at the meet, I have to continue braiding hair, instead of getting situated and ready for my own race.

Despite all of this, I really am honored that so many girls on my team appreciate my skills as a braider and feel more confident on race day because I did their hair. It is rewarding to see all of my teammates with their beautifully braided hair ready to step up to the line. Nothing is more powerful than looking and feeling good going into a race.

With that in mind, the stress and the toll on my body makes it worth my time and effort if it makes my teammates feel fierce and ready going into their races. Upon reflection, I have come to the realization that I don’t want anyone to replace me as the braider as it is a fantastic way to bond with my teammates, and it is always rewarding in the end. For now, I just have to make sure my hair is braided prior to arriving at the bus.