BY OLIVIA SKIBIEL | EDITORIAL INTERN
It’s not incredibly hard to find an elite collegiate athlete, but to find a dual-sport collegiate player is remarkable. Mercedes Wetmore is one of those exceptional athletes, playing both softball and basketball at the University of Washington in Seattle. Mercedes grew up playing sports such as wrestling, softball and basketball. During her high school career at Auburn Riverside High School, approximately 30 minutes south of UW, she learned a lot through unique team bonding such as random orange juice drinking in her coach’s office in the morning. She learned what it was like to be a part of something greater than just a team, and to become a part of a family. Ever since I first met Mercedes at the Check Me Out Basketball Showcase, I knew she was someone special. The way she always tries to encourage and be positive towards everyone exemplifies her natural leadership abilities. During her high school career, Mercedes won Gatorade Player of the Year, Washington State Player of the Year, and was a three-time state girls’ basketball champion. She also considers playing softball in college was an honor to be a part of. I had the chance to sit down with Mercedes and ask her about her experiences at UW, and what it is like to be a great athlete.
“When I was playing softball, I still had to do individuals with basketball, do my weight workout and then go to a full softball practice.” – Mercedes Wetmore
Olivia: How many sports have you played throughout your life?
Mercedes: I think everyone starts out with soccer, and one of my favorite sports growing up was wrestling. My dad was a wrestling coach so I did a lot of wrestling when I was younger, back when girls and boys were still the same: I wrestled in the 69 and 81 weight class. So I would go from wrestling practice to basketball practice, and I actually won a lot of tournaments in that age group. My brother hated it and I loved it and it worked out because my dad was super involved with it. I also did softball really competitively.
O: What made you stay close to home and go to UW?
M: Growing up playing in the PAC-12 or at UW was always a dream to play in front of my family, and it’s a pretty generic way of thinking about it, but I had a huge fan support and all of my family loved coming to my games. I always had a fan section with consistently 10-20 people always there, always come, which actually started early on in my high school career. They would even travel down to California, so that was pretty cool.
O: What was it like playing 2 sports at the collegiate level?
M: A lot of time management. Most people don’t think about it, but professors don’t have to abide by the athletic department rules so you have to go in and talk with them to make sure it’s OK that you’re missing so much class. When I was playing softball, I still had to do individuals with basketball, do my weight workout and then go to a full softball practice. I only played softball for two years in college, but when Coach said I could play softball, he was all for it, so whatever made sense or whatever I needed to do to make it work, I could do it.
“It’s such a privilege to be in that type of institute and surrounded by such high-level thinkers and that type of culture.”
O: Would you do it all again if you had the chance?
M: Yes, I’m really happy with how things worked out. I wish we had played in the NCAA tournament for basketball, but instead I got to play in the College World Series for softball. It’s weird how things worked out and it’s a completely different stage, so I was more nervous for that than I ever was for basketball.
O: Did you plan on playing softball in college?
M: No, that was pretty crazy. I lived with a couple softball players, and at the staff birthday party each month with all coaches from every sports and Coach Mike Neighbors wanted me to come talk about how I wrestled growing up. I didn’t really want to do it, but I went down there and Neighbors said some nice things about what I used to do, and went home that night and my roommates were like, “Hey did you talk to the softball coaches?” So I went to the softball coach’s office and was offered a spot on the team to pinch run and bring energy to the team. I went and talked to Neighbors and he was all for it!
O: Do you ever wish you were a normal college student with a more wide-open schedule?
M: No, never. It’s such a privilege to be in that type of institute and surrounded by such high-level thinkers and that type of culture. You don’t realize it but the expectations of all college athletes are held so much higher it brings out the competitive nature that everyone wants to succeed. The drive carries on and you just get used to being around good players.
O: Is there anything you wish you would’ve done differently?
M: Besides the generic answer of working harder, I really think I gave it my all. One thing I do wish I did differently is not just “get through it,” but enjoying and experience it. Every player does it, when practice is hard and you’re just trying to survive it, or just want to get through finals, but then you get through it, you’re done and you go get a job. There’s so many opportunities, you just have to inject yourself and if there’s an opportunity, why not take it?
As the interview came to a close, I realized that there’s more to being a student-athlete than just the “athlete” aspect. Reflecting on the conversation with Mercedes, I learned to not take anything for granted, and to enjoy every experience because soon it will all be over, and you will move on to the next chapter in your life. Currently, Mercedes is working as a realtor, working on investments, including flipping houses. One thing that she said stood out to me: “Take advantage of every opportunity.” This is important for life because if you have big goals and dreams of what you want to do with your life, never pass down something small that could lead to greater things since you don’t know where it will take you. Overall, my time with Mercedes gave me a broader view on what it’s like to be a collegiate student-athlete at the highest level.
Each month, one of our high school interns will interview a former athlete and current leader. 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. Interested in joining our Editorial Internship Program in the fall? Send a letter of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.