By Olivia Skibiel

Being a girl athlete means being dedicated to what you do. On and off the court, it is important to be committed to any task you are given. Over the course of the 2015-16 high school varsity basketball season as a freshman at Jackson High School, I had to learn to juggle both school and athletics. Many practices were long, and drug on with a lot of conditioning and skill drills. Game days were the worst, especially if I had a test the next day. As a student committed to my grades and taking challenging classes such as Honors Biology and Honors English, I knew that I had to study the previous week too, leading up all the way to the game. Because of my high-level of sports, I had opt out of taking AP courses, and only taking honors, to balance out my schoolwork with the basketball and volleyball that I play year round. My parents have also played a huge part in how I survived this busy schedule, making sure that I always had everything I needed, and staying positive at the worst of times.

This past basketball season was tough. With a new coach, and half of the varsity roster listed as freshmen, we were big-time underdogs in the Wesco 4A division. However, as the underdogs, we shocked our league by forcing overtimes in crucial games and pulling out close wins against aggressive teams. My role on the varsity squad was a minimal one at most.  Being the only freshman starter playing with the high-praised seniors, I had a lot of work to do. I had to earn the senior’s trust in me as a basketball player. Once I accomplished that, I had to win the coaches respect, by showing him that I can shoot, take care of the ball, and rebound. Learning his views on my basketball skills gave me the confidence I needed to finish out the season strong. One proud moment I had that was the turning point in my season against  Monroe High School at home. I hit a lot of my shots, grabbed rebounds, and played really good defense. My teammates gave me  really encouraging feedback, and positive energy for me to feed off of I finished the season the way I wanted, and am looking forward to next year’s season.

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I was also playing club volleyball during the season. Three days out of the week, I would go from school to high school practice to club volleyball practice, and get back home around 9:30; then I would have to finish homework, shower and eat dinner. You could say that I was a little exhausted by the time the weekend came. At the same time, however, being a double sport athlete helps me  stay connected and in love with the game of basketball. It is a good way to take my mind off all the stress from basketball and focus on something else, so when it comes time to play basketball again, I find my zone easily, and am ready to play.

Although it was a huge challenge, it was a great experience for me as a student athlete to see what it is like to be a varsity player and a regular student in the classroom. I think the biggest lesson I had to learn this first year in high school was time management. With about two hours of homework each night, I had to figure out how  to get everything done. I struggled towards the beginning of the season, but I learned quickly  to finish homework in class and realized that although it was hard, I had to reduce the use of my phone and social media.  

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I think nutrition was a key factor in my schedule as well. Making sure I always ate protein and essential foods needed to fuel my body for the whole day. I prepared most of my meals the day before. Packing sandwiches, fruit and water for lunch, I gave myself a balance of carbs, proteins, and all the essential nutrients.  Mindful eating is also a bigger part of staying healthy and in shape. Knowing exactly what I put into my body, and how much to eat helps my body feel full faster, and  stopping me from overeating. Now, with all the basketball I’m playing, eating full meals is difficult to do, but always making sure I have enough fuel and energy in my body is a high priority.

All in all, being a girl athlete takes a lot of time and commitment in order to be the best. Over the break between high school basketball and AAU spring season this March, I had done a lot of training to prepare for the upcoming spring college-viewing season. It meant that I barely took time off, and I had to turn down hanging out with friends, in order to train. Even though it is a lot of commitment, I wouldn’t trade it–all the long practices, the soreness and exhaustions, the long days–for the world because ultimately it’s what makes me an athlete. It makes me who I am.

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(Photo Credit: Angie Skibiel)

The mission of the Awesome Sports Project is to give voices to girl athletes. It is a platform where girls get to share their stories and read about experiences of others just like them! Submit today!