By Allie Morrison, ASP Editorial Intern
Each month, one of our high school interns will interview a former athlete and current leader in her field. Our mission is to connect our girl athletes to experienced ones, to tell the stories of our women’s sports community, and to inspire her own voice.
From an early age, athletes try to find inspiring people to look up to. We look for certain characteristics like leadership, determination, and a winning record. Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Melissa Castor, a coach at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and manager of a fitness studio. I was really impressed with how she constantly brought up wanting to grow and get better and better and wanting her players to want the same for themselves. Growth was among one of the three major themes that came up in our conversation; the other two were personal connections and lasting impact. For Melissa, reaching her goal means, “empowering the next generation, and that’s always been a passion of mine.”
“For young athletes like me, on a long path to success, which can sometimes seem never-ending, Melissa can serve as a reminder that all challenges and hardships are only stepping stones to greatness.” – Allie Morrison
Melissa strives to inspire her players to grow and respect each other in a personal way. She told me that her favorite memory as a coach occurred after a game last summer at the end of their tournament in San Diego:
“One thing we do is we finish with this spotlight of everybody. And so, you all sit around as a team and then everybody spotlights one person, so you have like eight or ten people spotlighting one person […] This is more than basketball, for me that’s what it’s all about, it’s more than a sport at the end of the day […] When basketball is gone, when you hang up the shoes, what’s left is the friendships and the teammates that you had.”
Using this method of appreciation and relationship building, Melissa helps her players build a queue of positive memories. And she hopes that they will carry that empowerment with them through their journeys, just as Melissa did. For her, her high school coach is her basketball inspiration. She told me:
“He is all about raising up the individual as a person before you help them as a player and he empowered us in that way, and that really left a lasting impression and it made me just want to strive every single practice more and more to be a better player. I’m not coaching just a person, I’m not coaching just a player, there’s somebody behind it. Yes, they’re an athlete and yes, they are good at what they do, and everybody sees them as just an athlete, but they’re more than that, and you need to have that conversation, you need to be real with them.”
In the process of challenging herself and growing, Melissa has learned many valuable lessons. I asked her what the most valuable lesson she has learned from basketball is, and she told me:
“I was having the worst game of my life [in high school], and I remember coming out and sitting on the bench. I went down and sitting down at the end of the bench, and our assistant coach came down and she sat next to me and she said ‘Melissa, you’ll never be great until you learn to fight through adversity’ […] Every challenge that we face, every hardship we face, there’s a reason, there’s a purpose behind it, and it’s what drives us and changes us and it’s what makes us a better person in the long run.”
“If you’re not learning, you’re not growing, and if you’re not challenging yourself, you’re not growing.” – Melissa Castor
Part of Melissa’s growth was having to learn this lesson over and over again on different occasions. In college, during her transition from player to coach, and during another transition she made from being an athletic director at a Boys & Girls Club to being the manager of a fitness studio, there were challenges and she had to persist, as she did on the basketball court, through those obstacles. She has made these transitions to put her on a path towards her ultimate dream:
“My ultimate dream is to open up my own multi-sport complex. Where you have select programs running their practices out of […] You also have a strength and conditioning section dedicated to high school athletes and raising them up to be ready to go to college. They [other sports complexes] are not bringing in the educational piece that needs to be applied. In college when I went through some adversity, the same thing, that was something that rang true and the more you fight through it the more satisfaction you have at the end of the day.”
Melissa had to have these tough transitions to become the inspiring figure she is now. She had to find a new dream and endure the challenges that came her way. People like Melissa become empowering figures for female athletes, who then go on to inspire the next generation, and perpetuate a cycle of success and achievement. In summing up her philosophy, Melissa said, she believes that “If you’re not learning, you’re not growing, and if you’re not challenging yourself, you’re not growing.”
I feel that Melissa’s hardships and triumphs can be both inspirational and informative. For young athletes like me, on a long path to success, which can sometimes seem never-ending, Melissa can serve as a reminder that all challenges and hardships are only stepping stones to greatness. I know that, at least for me, the idea of having to change my goals and having to grow out of what I have been working towards sounds terrifying, but learning about how Melissa handled it gives me a fresh perspective and lots of hope for the future.