In high school, I was involved in volleyball, basketball, badminton and track.
I wound up receiving a full scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh out of high school and played there from 2003 until 2006. During my volleyball years, I received many awards and accolades – some including first team Big East, conference player acknowledgements, Big East champions in 2006 and a couple NCAA appearances.
After volleyball, I then soon discovered Crossfit. I competed on a team in 2010, then in 2011 I competed individually and placed 6th at Regionals. I was on a mission, so in 2012 I competed individually again; placed 1st at Regionals, placing first in all events except for a 2nd place finish on one, along with many World Records in the events, then went on to finish 18th at the Crossfit Games.
My favorite coach, teacher or mentor and what they taught me:
My mother. She taught me to be tender, compassionate, and strong. My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia for as long as I can remember. It was difficult for me growing up and seeing her situation, so I decided I was going to be a powerful, outspoken, focused, determined woman with unwavering faith for the both of us. I made sure I became the woman she would have wanted to be if things played out differently in her life, and made a promise to honor her through my strength.
I learned from her that through failure we gain strength, through mistakes we gain knowledge and wisdom – and with confidence, laughter and love, we can take on the world.
Glory Days! My favorite athletic memory…
I have two:
My first would be when we won our conference Championships as a junior. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life – I was able to experience the strength of teamwork and the importance of selfless contribution. We beat Notre Dame, and they were the team expected to win that year.
My 2nd would be standing on the podium at the South Central Regionals after years of blood, sweat, and tears (literally) knowing that all my hard work and dedication had finally paid off.
Podium, South Central
I spent easily 3 to 4 hours in my box, 6 to 7 days a week – for two years. I eliminated my social life, wouldn’t date, didn’t drink alcohol, seldom ate any junk, and was always wide awake the next day ready to take on whatever challenge was coming at me. I would say I was a little obsessed, but when I was one of the top 43 athletes from all over the world, not only representing myself, but Iranian women, it was the most surreal feeling. It was especially special to me because the message our country communicates is that women are not as capable as men – thus having our human rights taken away. I was blessed with freedom (which is what my name actually means – Azadeh is freedom in farsi) and with that freedom I decided I wanted to soar.
Worst loss and what I learned:
I don’t use the term loss. More so because I don’t believe we ever lose everything – because in our greatest “losses” come our greatest gains and clarity. I sat here for 10 minutes reflecting on what I feel I’ve lost – and all I can think about is all that I’ve gained from things that I perceived as losses.
Although, I did one time give a gold necklace to a friend to hold on for me during a workout and it had a butterfly pendant on it. My mothers name means butterfly, and the amount of emotional meaning behind that necklace ran deep, and he lost it. To this day, I still get pretty sad! My lesson from that was not to let other people be responsible for things that are that close to your heart. J (hehehehe)
What my family taught me:
Wow. This is a tough one – we had a pretty rough upbringing. I knew a lot of struggle, fear and anger growing up and I would say was the main contributor to my greatest achievements, but also my greatest setbacks as well.
I would say the number one lesson my family taught me is TENACITY. With persistence and passion, you can climb any mountain. Things are never easy, but when you wake up every morning, give thanks for life and put one foot in front of the other all while maintaining an unwavering focus on whatever you have your mind set on, that it can be done.
Currently working on:
Becoming more clear in the route I want to take in my career path. I have so much passion for life and for people, and I haven’t quite figured out how or where I want to apply that. I know that my passion is helping others overcome adversity and be better versions of themselves, but I’m still in the process of finding the avenue in which I feel aligns with me and how I want to apply my skills.
My wish for each of our athletes:
That you love yourself, more than anyone can ever love you. When you love yourself, others love you equally as much. That you accept yourself, even with your flaws. They are what make you uniquely you. When you fully accept yourself, everyone else accepts you. When things are hard, remember that life is in the process of creating something beautiful and amazing for you.
You only live once – put your heart and soul into everything you do, and if it doesn’t make you happy, don’t be scares to release and surrender it. Make mistakes – crazy mistakes that sometimes knock the wind out of you, because the greatest life lessons come from that – and you gain the most clarity in every aspect of life!
Greatness happens outside of your comfort zone. I live by this favorite quote, and want to invite you guys to do the same:
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly” <3