By Lily Gustafson

A lot of kids — both girls and boys — dream of being professional athletes when they grow up. But only a select few can achieve it. Even getting a scholarship at a Division I school is unlikely and it takes countless hours of work. But two class of 2016 girls in the Seattle area have done just that. Soccer player Maddy Schutlz from Edmonds, Washington, and basketball player Mikayla Pivec , from Lynnwood, Washington, have had great individual and team successes on the field and the court. Despite their outstanding abilities and accomplishments, they are people just like anyone else: teenage, friends, daughters, students, and athletes. In an attempt to understand what it’s like and how to to be one of the best athletes in the state, I had the honor to ask each of them some questions.

“I play to win. At the end of the day, I know who I am as a person, so when I hit the soccer field, I’m there to compete and grind it out.” – Maddy Schultz, Class of 2016, Edmonds-Woodway High School

Maddy Schultz used to play soccer just north of Seattle at Edmonds-Woodway High School. She made the Under-17 US Women’s National team in 2013, and got to travel to England and Jamaica to play in red, white, and blue. In 2014, in her junior year, she led her high school team to a state championship. Schutlz then signed to play soccer at the University of North Carolina, who has won 22 national championships in the last 37 years. The college with the next highest number of championships in the same time period is Notre Dame with three. After her first semester this year, she finished high school and is now in North Carolina playing soccer for the Tar Heels.

Lily: What excites you about playing soccer in college?

Maddy: The part that excites me the most is knowing that I have the chance to play for a national championship. Most people don’t win one, so having the chance to would be amazing.

L: Have you ever felt sort of like a celebrity? If so, how has it affected you? How have you remained focused on getting better?

M: Sometimes it does get a little overwhelming with all that goes on with accomplishing so much. But I always remind myself that I’m still a nobody in the soccer world. So I have a long ways to go to truly be a celebrity. It’s important to know that no one cares about your awards, but more about who you are as a friend and the personality that you have.

L: What was it like winning a state championship?

M: Winning in state was a highlight in my soccer career. I have never gotten to truly play for my community, so being able to bring home the first ever state championship was something that will always be remembered. I got to impact Edmonds-Woodway with my gift of soccer.

L: How would you describe your experience playing for the national team?

M: The national team is special. It’s an experience that is hard and tiring and not always fun. You are judged on everything that you do and it takes a lot of mental strength. I remember the first time they named me for the roster to England I cried my eyes out. I was just a girl who was lucky enough to get this gift of kicking a ball and to finally have the chance to wear the United States crest on my jersey was something that only 24 girls at the time would also get to do. You dream of things like this happening but never actually believing that they’ll become your reality.

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L: What is your mentality while you’re playing?

M: I play to win. At the end of the day, I know who I am as a person, so when I hit the soccer field, I’m there to compete and grind it out. Sometimes that means I’m not always the nicest girl around, but it’s nothing personal, just what the game calls for.

L: How much are you into the mental side of soccer, like visualization?

M: Visualizing success is key. I always watch a video of me scoring goals. It brings goose bumps to me every time I watch them. It also reminds me that I am capable to playing well and scoring goals and beating defenders. It’s important to play with cockiness because then you are confident. With confidence comes swagger and no one can stop someone with swagger.

L: What advice would you give to younger female athletes?

M: All the young girls should just know that success will come and go. Never doubt what you are capable of because when you start to doubt yourself, it’s hard to gain back your confidence. Just remember that you are different than the girl next to you and you bring something to the table that they can’t. Believe in what you can do and not worry about what the others are capable of.

“To be able to make another person’s day, or even an hour, a bit better helps confirm why you work so hard to improve. Inspiring others creates your bigger purpose than just simply putting a basketball through the hoop.” – Mikayla Pivec, Class of 2016, Lynnwood High School

Mikayla Pivec elevates in lane  for layup against  Bellarmine Prep (March 1, 2014)Mikayla Pivec is a senior at Lynnwood High School, which neighbors Edmonds. She will be playing basketball at Oregon State University next year. As of Feb 16, OSU is ranked 7th in the nation and shares first place in the PAC-12 with Arizona State. In addition to basketball, Pivec does cross country and track. While she has competed in the States for both cross country and track, basketball is where she has found the most success. ESPN ranked Pivec as the 24th best player nationally and 7th at the point guard position. Last year, she helped the Lynnwood High School Royals to a 25-2 record on the way to winning the state championship. She was the MVP of the championship game, with 31 points and 17 rebounds, and was later named Gatorade State Player of the Year. The Royals are currently undefeated and looking to repeat as state champions.

Lily: What excites you about playing basketball in college?

Mikayla: Playing against the best is one of the things I am most looking forward to. The PAC-12 is a stacked conference for women’s basketball, full of talented players. I look forward to competing against them and see how I measure up. I have scrimmaged a few times against the UW women’s players, but soon I will get the chance to take part in that kind of competition every day. The work won’t be easy, but I am excited to improve while competing at Oregon State University and to take my game to the next level. If I have the opportunity to, I would love to play in the WNBA or even overseas.

L: Have you ever sort of felt like a celebrity? If so, how has it affected you? How have you remained focused on getting better?

M: No, I don’t feel like a celebrity. I’m still that same little girl from Lynnwood, WA, who loves to eat macaroni and cheese and watch Spongebob Squarepants. Every now and then someone will recognize me and come up to congratulate me on an accomplishment I have had in the past. It’s cool to get that recognition and very nice of them to take the time to say that about me. A couple kids have requested my autograph and that makes me feel like a rock star. To be able to make another person’s day, or even an hour, a bit better helps confirm why you work so hard to improve. Inspiring others creates your bigger purpose than just simply putting a basketball through the hoop.

I focus on getting better every day. There’s always things to work on and skills and strength drills that I can get better at. I try not to focus too much on the opinions of others. I value the opinions of my close friends and family members. All others I try to block out because they will be with you one day and against you the next. I have dreams of playing in the WNBA and I need to continue working incessantly to help achieve that goal. 

What was it like winning a state championship?

Winning the state championship last year was the best moment of my life up to that point. Nothing topped it. Hours of skill work, shooting drills, and torturous conditioning culminating in a state championship for the Lynnwood Royals. It was the first-ever state championship in a ball sport in our school’s history. The subsequent weeks following the state championship win continued to impact our team and our school, as you could find our gleaming smiles in the halls. It was a great moment for our team, our school, and our community. 

No regrets. Not even one small thing. The mistakes that we made during the game and throughout the season didn’t matter because we won the game. We took home the precious state title trophy. I personally missed a career-high six free throws in the state championship game, but I didn’t care. I was a state champion along with the rest of my teammates.

What about being named Gatorade State Player of the Year?

Receiving the honor of Washington’s Gatorade Player of the Year for girls’ basketball was a like the cherry on top. Not essential to the sundae or to my happiness at all, but a cool accolade nonetheless. I am proud to be able to represent my high school and community and put Lynnwood on the map a little bit.

Mikayla Pivec extends for a layin  against Snohomish  (December 2014)

What is your mentality while you’re playing?

While playing basketball, my mentality is to constantly be in attack mode. If I stay aggressive, I will be able to take good shots and gaps will open up for my teammates as well. My sole objective while playing is to help my team get the win. My team has a better chance of winning if I assert myself early in the game and lead my team to victory.

How much are you into the mental side of basketball, like visualization?

Mental preparation is important. You have to be ready to go mentally before a game. I try to be relaxed as much as I can, yet focused. It’s okay to crack a few jokes to release some of those pre-game nerves and tension. When the whistle blows and the ball goes up for the toss, my mentality changes and my focus is complete. It’s game time.  I don’t do a lot of visualization or meditation.

I believe I am pretty mentally tough. You have to be mentally tough to do well in running middle-and long-distance races. My training and competing in cross country and track has helped me develop mental toughness. Basketball doesn’t often go perfectly. Missed shots and mistakes will happen. I try to remain positive and persevere through any bad moments that may happen.

What advice would you give to younger female athletes?

I would tell younger female athletes to participate in as many sports as possible. Don’t feel the need to specialize in one sport at a young age. Every sport you play will teach you something new and help you develop another skill that you can use in some aspect of life.

“Dreaming Big with Maddy Schultz and Mikayla Pivec” was senior Lily Gustafson‘s final project as an Editorial Intern at the Awesome Sports Project. Photos of Mikayla Pivec are credited to Scott Williams.

Click here to find out more about the internship program for high school girl athletes. We are currently seeking editorial interns for March – June.