High School Sports

State of high school sports: Tacoma Captains Council student-athlete roundtable

Editor’s note: Roundtable was conducted at a Tacoma Public Schools Captains Council event at Baker Middle School.

This student-athelte roundtable is the final of four talking to some of the biggest stakeholders in Washington state high school sports. The roundtables:

Part 1: Specialization, with a South Sound coaches roundtable.

Part 2: Recruiting, with a WIAA roundtable.

Part 3: Participation, with a South Sound athletic directors roundtable.

Part 4: Academics, with a Tacoma Captains Council student-athlete roundtable.

The panel at the roundtable: Julia Battishill, Stadium volleyball player; Tamia Braggs, Lincoln girls basketball player; Bishop Fejerang, Foss football and baseball player; Jasmine Parker-Borrero, Wilson girls soccer, girls wrestling and track and field; Dakota Smith, Mount Tahoma girls golf.

TNT: What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming school year?

Smith: I kind of know what to expect now and I know how hard I can push myself so that I can go even further. That’s what I’m excited about.

Last year I was doing multiple sports so this year I'm going to focus on the sport that I've been growing up so I can improve myself in that one. I want to go to college and I want to do a sport and I've been playing golf since I was 7, so I'm hoping that I can get into a college for that.

Battishill: I'm really looking forward to this year because I think that our team it wasn’t so strong and last year was getting stronger. It started off as kind the place everybody went to knowing that they were going to crush us. We were kind of that school that you played and you did so to kind of pad your stats. But we are slowly kind of building up, not necessarily into a great program, but we are getting better.

I feel like this year the people that are choosing to come back and the way that we think we can go, especially with how many people we have coming in and the type of talent that we have and the dedication I’ve seen, I think it is growing and will get better and better. I think this year will turn into turn something a little better.

TNT: What are some of the greatest benefits you get out of being a student athlete?

Braggs: I think the biggest thing for me is just I've been playing basketball my whole life so playing basketball really created a whole new opportunity for me. There were no other resources for me to be able to go to college. My parents can't afford it and stuff like that.

So playing basketball literally gives me the opportunity to go and get a full-ride scholarship and play beyond high school with a group of people that are supportive and what you do and what you love. It's amazing.

Parker-Borrero: Doing sports also helps you get to know a lot of people. I do wrestling and wrestling is like a family thing. I went into wrestling only knowing my brother. That was it. And I came out knowing like 100 people – knowing people from schools all around.

Sports helps you get to know people and it helps you find yourself, and like she said, it helps you get your college. To think my mom has six kids. That's a lot and I am the oldest. So it's hard to get me into college and sports might be the only thing that does it for me. Sports is my opportunity to go to college.

Battishill: I've been in sports my whole life. I grew up in athletic family and both my parents played college sports and it's just been kind of a part of how I grew up and people around me were always athletes. And they were really hard workers and I learned growing up through middle and high school especially that sports helps with school so much because, one, it makes you keep coming because you have to be there to be in sports and also gets you in this routine every day – this is what I have to do. I go after school and I'll do this and this and that and then it's time for homework.

It just gives you this thing to do so then you have a routine going. I guess it keeps you less stressed because you get to play hard.

I’ve learned that I'm really glad I know other athletes because they're all hard workers. We never sleep. Student athletes are constantly practicing. I play year-round. I play club volleyball, too. And so I have practices all the time and we have games and it also makes you want to take hard classes and get good grades. Because those are the things you have to do if you want to play.

So that means you're going to be up really, really late and you're going to be working really hard to get things done. We don't have a lot of free time but I feel really lucky to know so many student-athletes growing up around them because it teaches you hard work.

Fejerang: We have a new head coach at Foss, Matt Johnson, and I'm just excited about how the other student-athletes are going to be looking up to him differently from the previous coach because a lot of people kind of take his coaching for granted because I they think he's not as good as the last coach. He's the little brother. But I don't believe in that. I believe he really takes good initiative and wants the best for us just as much as the last coach (Pat Johnson). He is always on top of our grades and being in the weight room and stuff like that.

Some people are like ‘I'm not going to go to the weight room’ or whatever. And I try to get people to come to the weight room or go to the football meetings. We have like 10 people come to football meetings.

Smith: I play golf and I am the only girl. So good for you and for me that we’re the only people there.

TNT: So what are all of your plans, athletics-wise, this year?

Braggs: I was thinking about volleyball. I played freshman and sophomore year on varsity, but then I was like, ‘No I will just stick to basketball.’

Fejerang: I played football and baseball. I had played basketball too and I'm kind of thinking about playing this year for my junior year.

Battishill: I will be a junior at Stadium and I play volleyball there. I played basketball for like 9 1/2 years. My family was kind of a basketball-oriented family and I played volleyball one season and basketball the next season. I then chose to drop one of them. I was playing AAU basketball and club volleyball year round so I decided to go year round in volleyball.

I love basketball still and I love to watch it, but it's just not what I play anymore.

Smith: I will be a senior at Mount Tahoma, and I played soccer the first two years and I kind of dropped. I'm deciding now to go fully with my golf career.

Parker-Borrero: I'm going to be a sophomore. I did volleyball last year, and I went to state for track (placed seventh in triple jump at 3A state championships) and I won a state wrestling title (in the 135-pound weight class). And then next year I am playing soccer. So this year I plan to do soccer and wrestling and track

Battishill: I can barely manage to play one sport year round

TNT: That actually brings me to one of the topics I would like to discuss. It's kind of become a big thing around sports, talking about specialization. The U.S. women's soccer team came out in support of playing multiple sports, but then you see other athletes say if ‘I focus on one sport that's my opportunity to get a college scholarship.’

Smith: That is why I decided to do golf because that is my main sport. I went to state and I was five spots from going to the second day (shot a 102 on first day of 3A state golf championships at Horn Rapids Golf Course in Richland) and I was so close. I could see it, and then I wasn't able to have it

Parker-Borrero: I think you should do multiple sports because, at least for me, it’s provides me with multiple opportunities to go to college. One college may offer me this, but there may be a better college offers me for a different sport, so I feel like it's just giving myself more opportunities.

TNT: But a lot of you are doing just once sport. Why is that?

Braggs: Sports costs a lot of money. I'm not going to lie. During the summer, AAU costs over $1,000 to $2,000. We go to Washington, D.C., Georgia, and Las Vegas in one month. So playing only one sport – even that cost so much money. And it's just like, if you really want it that badly you dedicate yourself to that one sport and that's how bad I want it with basketball.

I dedicate myself to that sport, to the money it's going cost to play and that's what it is. If I were to play multiple sports, that's just a lot of money on my parents and it's on me too.

Smith: I do just one sport because like I grew up with all that. Golf is my life, and if I did not have golf I would not have anything else because I do not do anything but golf.

So two years ago I did not go to state. My sophomore year. And I was like ‘I know I can, I know I can do this.’ So what do I need to do? So I dropped my sports, I started training for golf.

People think it's super easy. You just get used to it. But I have to go to the weight room, I have to work on my arms, I have to do everything. I have to run and it sucks. But I do that and I went to state and now I'm doing it and I'm happy.

Fejerang: I know doing multiple sports was very helpful for me because it helps me stay fit, and I'm working on doing other things in football that help me in baseball. Baseball helps me get better at football. I'm working on footwork that I didn’t do before.

And it helps me get a different group of friends. None of the people on my baseball team also play football except for like one. So I can just get around and get to know a lot of different people.

TNT: Do your coaches stress playing multiple sports or focusing on one?

Battishill: I would say it is a little bit of both. They say that ‘You know, if you want to play one sport that’s fine.’ Obviously they think their sport is really important because that's what they have dedicated their lives to, But they still support players who want to play basketball and come back for volleyball season.

But they do encourage that ‘If this is what you're really passionate about, instead of spending your time in basketball season and you would rather build more passion for the sport and enjoy it more and just play volleyball, then that's what you should do, too.

I also don't think there's anything wrong with following your passion. If you're going to choose, it's always going to be about which one you are more passionate about and which one you're never going to get tired of doing all year.

Smith: I feel like the first year that I did that I dropped my other sports because I played three sports the entire year. I dropped the other two just to play golf. They gave me a lot more time. I realized it's kind of hard to just focus on one sport if you have all these other things to do.

Last year all I did the entire year was golf. And sometimes it got a little bit tedious and sometimes I would wonder ‘Do I want to even do this anymore?’ It was kind of like being burned out. But then I remembered that my older siblings, they had to go through this, too. My sister she did not go to state and neither did my brother. So this was my opportunity and I should be blessed that I have this opportunity. So I was like ‘I got this.’

TNT: What is time management like for a student athlete? How much of your time is taken up?

(Room bursts into laughter)

Braggs: There is no time.

Smith: I will wake up at about 4 in the morning and I will go running. Then at 6 I will come back and go out I'll play a round of golf. And then I go straight to school and then I do all the school stuff. Then after school I have practice. … You just don't sleep. Champs don't sleep. No, I'm kidding.

But then after that I will work out for an hour and then I do homework and then maybe I will go to sleep.

Braggs: My summer workouts are completely different from during the season. Because I have to balance it out. You have to get some type of sleep. So during the summer I will work out from 6:30 to 9, and then after that I'll probably have the rest of the day and I'll do another two-a-day.

During the school year, I would go before school starts from like 5:30 to around 6:30, so it's not like too long, but then you still have to think about the after-school training with your team. So you still have that and practice, so I try manage it out a little bit. But it's still hard because you have to manage doing your homework, doing the things that you have to do at home and it's hard.

TNT: And do you balance that with a job as well?

Braggs: During the summer I have a job, too.

Battishill: I'm a nanny during the summer, which means my hours are weird. I'm there for a full day sometimes. So that means I'll be in the park and they are all playing in the park and I'll tell them ‘I'm going to do some push-ups over here, you guys just keep going.’ I've literally done push-ups in the park while my kids are playing.

But yeah time – I don't have free time. During the year it depends. If it is during club season I don't have practice every single day. But even days of practice, if there's something I want to work on, like I had a footwork problem this year, so I did 100 or 200 of these drills every day, then work out and then practice. If I didn't have practice I would make myself work out some more.

And I take a bunch of AP classes and honors and stuff, and so then I do that for about four hours or however long.

TNT: And that still leaves time to sit down at the dinner table, right?

Battishill: Maybe sometimes after one of my practices (laughs).

Smith: I am not part of any club so my schedule is self-made. I do that by myself. And then I have an AP classes and sometimes I have free time if I'm like ‘OK I did this for so long, maybe I should just take a break.’ But then that just gets boring because you're used to doing something. I’m like, ‘Well, I have to do something now.’

Fejerang: I don't really wake up early, like 4, to go running. I do stay up late, and do a lot of homework, especially this year. I'm going to have to try to manage football and all my classes. Also a lot of stuff has been going on with my family, so I've also had to make sure I have time to take care of that.

TNT: That was the next question I was going to ask was, do you still have time to spend with your families?

Battishill: It makes you learn how to have time mean something. To make the most of time.

I'm really, really close with my little brother. He is one of my favorite people on the planet. So I will make sure that when I'm spending time with him that is really meaningful. That my time with him is spent really paying attention and focused on him and what he is doing. The same thing with my mom with working out something together or talking about something. And my dad and I, we will run together. So that's working out, also. I ran with my brother yesterday, actually, because I said ‘Hey I haven't seen you, why don't you come running with me?’ I dragged him for almost three miles before he went home. And it was really hot, so we both went home.

Parker-Borrero: I’ve just always been really busy since I was little. I did gymnastics, and I do national team for judo still. I quit gymnastics because it was five hours per day for practices, and then I'd go literally right from that to three hours for judo to get ready for national. So since I was 6 I've been doing that.

But when I got to high school it was like a whole different thing because now I have to go to my school, but I have to go running first. I have to wake up at 5 a.m. to go running like five miles, then I have to get home, take a shower, get dressed, and then go to school and do all that. I'm also in all AP classes and my parents don't let me get me get Bs. Then I go to my sports, then I would go to select soccer, then nationals training for judo and I'll get home at like 11 and do homework and then go to sleep and get up again. I've always just been really busy.

TNT: So what are your thoughts on this? Isn’t this troubling for you guys? Is this a concern? Or is this just how it is supposed to be?

Smith: It's just how it has to be. If you want to get far, this is what you have to do. And if you want it, if you really, really deep-down, dig-deep want it, then you're going to do what you need to. So I feel like I would do this because this is literally it – this is what I want.

I feel like that is a weird thing to say, that golf is my life, but it kind of is (laughs).

Fejerang: And even if you don't go pro in your sport, it's a good life lesson to learn how to manage how to work hard, stay dedicated and teach yourself how to discipline yourself.

Parker-Borrero: if I didn't have sports, I don't know. I won't say that I'm the best person because sometimes I hang around the wrong crowd. If I didn't do my sports, I would literally probably be doing a lot of bad stuff right now. Sports keeps you in check real well. I don't do any of that bad stuff, the bad people do, it's just that's the crowd I hang out with.

But being sports also teaches me to be an example and I'm trying to get them out of stuff like that. Whereas without sports, I would probably be heading in the wrong direction.

Braggs: Another thing with all of this is that this is preparing you for college. Literally, in college, you do almost three-a-days. And so what we are doing are little steps to going to bigger and better things in what we want to do with our sports.

Without sports, it would be tough to know what to do and not to stress out.

Battishill: And this also teaches us that if you really want to go somewhere you have got to work it's not just going to fall into your lap.

TNT: Being a student athlete, are there are more opportunities for you to cut corners compared to those who aren't in athletics? Are you, or have you seen student-athletes allowed certain privileges in the classroom other students aren’t?

Battishill: My teachers would not give me any space. If I told them that I got home at like midnight the night before, then maybe. But I'm also not the type of person that likes to go in and be like ‘Hey this happened, or I was home late, I need excuse.’ I don't like to do that kind of stuff. I don't like how that makes me feel.

I'm kind of a perfectionist and kind of a Type A personality. I really just want to get things done and get it done the right way. Maybe if I talk to them privately, but for the most part I think they would say ‘Well you chose to do sports. That's great. But you're also in school.’

Fejerang: That's why I kind of like to get to know my teachers and show them that I'm a student first. Because you know how there's just those athletes who say they're just athletes and they're sleeping in class or whatever. I try not to be just the athlete.

Smith: I'm a super quiet person in school. I just like to get my stuff done. I just do my work. I guess just being that kind of student kind of gets you a little bit more privilege because they know who you are and that you do it right. If you show that you are a good student they'll give you a little bit of room and that's how all my teachers are to me because they know me.

TNT: Do your schools place enough emphasis on the student portion of being a student-athlete?

Braggs: When you're an athlete, you can’t just be an athlete. You're also a student because anything could happen to you in any sport. So you can't just rely on your sport to get to where you need to go because you have to have a grades. So if you don't take the student part of being a student athlete seriously it's not going to be worth it in the end because you can't just rely on that stuff all the time.

Smith: My junior year I decided I was going to try and do soccer, and I tore a tendon a month into it into my foot so I couldn't play. So I had to stop.

TNT: I want to talk about finances, too. First of all, how do you feel like your school’s finances and how does that affect you as an athlete? As far as the schools resources – stadiums, gyms and weight rooms – does that impact you and your athletic development?

Battishill: We did have an issue this year with our nets. It doesn’t sound like much because you don't even need to touch them. When we are playing we are literally not allowed to touch it. But it was a big deal because it takes nearly 20 minutes to set it up and it was really dangerous when you hit the net, which happens all the time when you miss, part of it would fall. And there's like metal in them, metal wires and wooden rods. And if that falls it can be really dangerous.

So it took us a long time to get the district to recognize that we shouldn’t have to pay for that ourselves. It took months for them to finally come in and take a look at it. And when they did, they were like, ‘these are really messed up,’ and we were like, ‘Wow, thank you.’

But for the most part our gyms and our weight room and stuff – those are all fine.

TNT: Does that also impact what school students decide to go to? Depending on which school has the better facilities?

Smith: Last year I was considering transferring to South Kitsap or Bellarmine Prep because their coaches are a lot better than Mount Tahoma’s coaches for golf. And because of where they go. Their courses are a lot better.

Battishill: I think, like any school you go to, and I'm completely fine at Stadium, but if I was ever thinking about going somewhere else, one of the things I will look at is not just the academics but I can't help but look at the court in their gyms and their weight rooms and coaches and seeing if that's where I want to be. I'm going to play sports in school. That’s what I love and I’m going to keep doing that. So it would be a factor for sure.

Braggs: There's all this ‘Everybody wants to be an Abe.’ Everybody wants to come and use our court and our weight room, and our big field. I've been around Lincoln since before the bleachers got changed, before the weight room got switched up with John Kitna. So I knew what it looked like before. So I understand why people want to come to all the new things. For me that would be a big factor, too.

But at the same time you have to see what is going to benefit you the most.

TNT: The other part of finances is how much it costs to play your sports. What does it cost to be a student athlete?

Smith: Oh my gosh. A lot.

Battishill: You got club sport sports and those are super expensive. But then there's uniforms and really good shoes that are going to support you well – all are expensive. And it just keeps going up and up and up.

If you travel with your team and you do well, that's expensive and that just keeps going up. Eventually you got to make a decision if that is what you want to do because you're going to run into a financial situation. So if it’s what I want to do, I'm going to keep doing it and be really dedicated to it and committed to it. But if I'm just going to decide later that I don’t want to do this, then there's no point in putting this much money into it.

Parker-Borrero: I have sponsors for most of my sports. For judo definitely I have sponsors. But I also have a church and they do fundraisers for me, and I have this guy who is like my grandpa and he pays a lot. But my parents don't like taking money. But it is a lot of money. Especially because when you travel. For judo you have to travel a lot, and for soccer we travel, and for wrestling they're trying to get me to start traveling places next year, I’m looking at going to Japan and Greece and France for judo. It's a lot. It's a lot of money.

And not only that but I also do show choir and so that is also $2,000. There is a lot of money going into me.

Fejerang: That's why I like my coach. He does whatever he can to get us cleats and stuff. For me, financially things aren’t all that good. So I kind of talked to him and he kind of understands so he was able to get me and some other players cleats and stuff like that.

When I was younger I never played AAU or other sports outside of school. I kind of just started sports in the eighth grade.

Braggs: Me and my brother (Anthony Braggs, Jr.) play AAU. It's harder on me and my parents with that because sometimes it's like ‘Well, maybe you can't go to that tournament.’ They will sit at home and they won't have the food to eat and stuff like that. It's harder for them so they can make our dreams happen.

That's the biggest thing for me. So that's why never take anything that I go to for granted. Because literally everything I do will be for my parents because they financially put everything down for what I'm doing.

Battishill: It just makes you appreciate what things you are allowed to do even more, and to have the equipment that you need because you know that your parents are putting all of this into this. And all of their time and all this other kind of stuff. The people who take that for granted don't do that any justice.

TNT: We had mentioned recruiting a little bit earlier, but I want to get your thoughts on high school recruiting. Are rules against recruiting and transferring in high school strong enough or too strong? And what exactly are the dangers of recruiting?

Braggs: I know in basketball that plays a big part because everybody feels like they need to switch schools and everybody feels like they should go back-and-forth between schools because they don't like this coach, they don't like this person. The WIAA has been really strict about that stuff and I really have to give them props for it because you can't get on with life like that. You can't say ‘Oh I want to go to this college. No I don't want to go there anymore, I want to go to this one. You can't just keep doing that in life. You can't go ‘I want this job, no actually want this job now.’ You just can't do that in life.

So with the WIAA being so strict, it’s a good thing because it shows them that you can't just keep switching and change up all these things just because it's what you want at that given time. That's not beneficial to you.

TNT: One of the analogies I've heard is that nobody gets on the tuba player for wanting to go to Bellevue because it's a great band program. But because it's sports, there’s a lot more emotion tied to it. If the school has a great football basketball or volleyball program do you feel you should be able to attend that school to be a part of that program?

Braggs: I think you should be able to go to any school that you want to. Because, honestly, my home school is Mount Tahoma. I literally live about three minutes away from Baker Middle School. But I optionally enrolled to go to Lincoln because that is where my family was from. All of my family are alumni from Lincoln and that's where I felt that I was going to benefit the most. You should get that option.

But at the same time, just switching from school to school like ‘Oh, I want to go to Foss this year. No I want to go to Wilson now. No I want to go to Stadium.’ That is a whole different situation.

Battishill: You should be able to choose because if there are things that benefit you the most, this is your education and your athletic career and that should be the choice that you have. But you shouldn't abuse that either. It's one thing to be like ‘Oh, that school has a really good program and I want to get noticed by colleges and they are going to notice me there and I'm going to grow stronger with those coaches.’ That's great to make that decision. But don't flip every two minutes. That’s just abusing the system. If you are afraid that your teammate is going to leave at any given moment, that makes things so difficult.

Braggs: That's why I respect so much Shelton girls basketball. They don't win a lot of games. But you talk to the coaches, talk to the team and they say, ‘We had a great season, we got to know each other better, we created bonds with other people, we learned more about ourselves and how we can improve.’ And I respect them and their coaching style the most out of any of the schools in the district because, as much as they don't feel like they have a lot of talent, they do and they respect themselves and respect their coaches and everyone around them. I have to give them a lot of props for that. And for their team.

Battishill: One of the most important parts of sports, for me at least, is I love playing the sport because I love it. It's a passion of mine. But also it’s because of that bond that you make with really close teammates.

My most successful teams that have won the most and I both felt were the most successful one and got better were the teams where my teammates and I were really, really close. Especially in volleyball, you have to be on the same page and together. And I think coaches that encourage that and encourage teammates to develop bonds together – those are the teams that are going to click. If you have teammates switching schools all the time you can't really develop those bonds and have that environment.

Some of my best friends and the people that I trust the most are the people that I've met through sports and I've played volleyball with.

TNT: I want to also talk about not just high school recruiting but college recruiting. What are the challenges of being recruited by colleges?

Braggs: This is probably the hardest year of high school for me. I've been recruited since like freshman year.

I recently did just commit to the University of Arkansas but I got a phone call from them the other day and they told me that they needed me to be 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 and they needed an actual post player. And that just kind of hurt my feelings and my self-esteem and confidence. Because I was like ‘Man, I really like this school.’ I went on a visit and they've seen me play a lot of games in Las Vegas. When they called me, it just kind of hurt because I had my dream set on going to that school.

So I just felt disappointed and I had to restart this process all over again. And it sucks because you literally have to take the time out, get to know the coaches because with my experience I don't want anybody else to feel how I felt. People ask me every day, ‘Did you decommit from Arkansas?’ And I'm like ‘No I didn't. They just took the scholarship away from me.’ It's not what I wanted, I really wanted to go there for a long time. It's hard. I don't want people to have to feel how I felt.

I literally had to regroup my whole process. Financially I wasn't going to go to the rest of the tournaments for AAU, but lucky enough for me, my coach got me the sponsorships to go play, and now I'm getting recruited by schools in California. It's hard, but you have to get through it to go where you want to go.

Battishill: And that’s not something you can control. You can’t just make yourself grow two inches.

Braggs: I have a lot of trust issues with these schools now. Will another school do me exactly like how they did? I don't feel very comfortable now going to different schools and visiting because it's not really what I wanted to do. I wanted to completely chill my senior year and play basketball and get my grades together and stuff like that.

Battishill: I have to do all that this year because your junior year you're supposed to set up your recruiting videos and contact coaches and the schools that you're looking at. But I've heard stories like that. It's kind of scary because I really don't want that to happen. I really don't want that school that I really want to go to telling me that I'm going to go there and I'm going to do great and they will call me, but then say, ‘Well, actually, I don't want you here anymore.’ That's pretty stressful because there's so many things that can happen that could screw everything up.

This year especially I have to get all my grades in order, make sure my recruiting video is perfect, make sure everything is in order and get in contact with the right people and all this stuff. I just hope someone likes me and wants to take me. But they are just all these maybes.

Smith: For me, I want to do golf and most colleges don't have golf as a sport. They have it as a club. They go out and they kind of recruit and they say, ‘Hey, come over here and join this club.’ But clubs are an option, not a sport. So they can't give out scholarships. So I have to be selling myself.

I've already talked to a couple of club people and I’ve talked to PLU, and I know they are really interested in me, but I don't know.

Fejerang: My college recruiting life has not started. Last year I played varsity but I didn't get as much playing time. We had a lot of seniors. But this year I plan on starting on both sides and getting my videos ready.

My coach he has connections and stuff like that he's always talking about us. Last summer he had (Washington State University) coaches come out to our practice and check out some people, but maybe that was just because the two big people that we had. But I definitely think him being that he has connections he's going to do the best he can to get people coming to look at us.

Battishill: Our coach doesn't really have a lot of connections. She's pretty new to Stadium. And our volleyball team just isn't very good yet. If recruiters have time to go to Bellarmine or Timberline or Stadium, they're going to go to Bellarmine or Timberline because they are really good.

If I'm playing against Bellarmine or playing against Timberline they are not there to watch me but they are in the room. So I feel like I have to go extra hard on those days because, while they may not be there to watch me, they're probably there to watch Claire Martin (Bellarmine’s 6-foot-4 middle blocker who just graduated and is now at WSU), but if I’m lined up across from her and I'm doing really well, they might see me, too.

And my coach will tell me ‘Hey, by the way, there is a recruiter in the room. Make sure you're all in today.’ And I always play as hard as I can, but if there's a day to be on, this is the day to be on.

TNT: Do you find that it's more difficult to be recruited at a school that doesn't have as successful a program as another? Even if you are the same athletically as someone else who has been recruited?

Smith: It sucks. I wanted to switch, and I know I feel bad for wanting to in the first place. But when people look at Mount Tahoma they are not looking at the golf team. They don't tell golf stats anymore at my school, and everyone is dogging on me because I do do golf. I hear these ‘Oh my gosh, that's for old people.’ And I'm like, ‘I would love for you to be doing what I've been doing since I was 7.’

The only reason why the golf coach at PLU knows me is because my golf coach went there, and so this coach came out and watched me because he personally asked him. Because they are friends. But I haven't done any videos and I haven't asked my coach to do that, so this year I have to be on my game. That’s why I've been working out extra hard now and I've been doing all of these things. Because once the school year starts I'm going to be on top of it – this is the day we are going to be taking a video and you're going be sending out to this coach, this coach, and this coach.

But it sucks because, at Mount Tahoma, nobody knows about the girls golf team. This was the first year that Mount Tahoma has gone to state. It was the first time. And no one knew. And my school they weren't supportive. They didn't even post any of the stuff. I went to state and I was like ‘I'm going to get back, I'm going to be super excited, people are going to high-five me in the hallway.’ Nope. I got back and I was back into my usual quiet, ‘I've got to do my work.’

But looking back on it I know I would've made a bad choice. Bellarmine has some good people, but I'm the only one from Mount Tahoma to go to state and I know that. So that makes me feel like I really accomplished something.

Battishill: It's frustrating to go to school where that program isn’t really known because it's hard to stand out. We went to state a really long time ago but not recently. Whereas Bellarmine Prep, on the other hand, has won state three times in a row.

So when recruiters are going to go somewhere, they're going to go watch Bellarmine Prep. Because that is known to be a good team and that makes sense. But it's frustrating because it means that it is really unlikely that there is a recruiter at my game. And if it is it's because were playing a school that is really good and they're going to kill us because they are Bellarmine Prep or something like that.

But I'm going to do my best to stand out against someone like Claire Martin. She might be better than me and have this perfect kill percentage and stuff, but if I look good against her, maybe they will notice me, too. It's really just about finding all these ways for recruiters to notice you.

Braggs: I've heard my own teammates even say that they have to compete against me. That's the thing. My own teammates feel like they have to compete against me to get a scholarship. That's what I do not want. I don't want my teammates to feel like, ‘Oh we have to go against you, we have to score more than you.’ Even in AAU. It's a competition. It's always a competition for what you want.

For example, when we play Wilson everybody feels like they got to do something to win. You have to play as a team, but we never really do. And that's why we lose. Everybody feels like they got to isolate themselves. Because there's always at least one or two recruits out there when we play against Wilson. So everybody feels like they need to isolate themselves and do their own thing to get recruited.

TNT: Is that a media problem, too? I believe it is when you played Sumner that it was hyped up to be Tamia Braggs against Jamie Lange, like there wasn't anyone else on the court.

Braggs: Literally the newspaper article was ‘Tamia Braggs and Jamie Lange.’ That's what it was. So my team felt like ‘Tamia is going to have to win this game. Tamia is going to have to do this and do that.’ I fouled out and had to sit at the end of the game. So they were looking at me like ‘Really?’ They get upset.

TNT: I really don't want to take anymore of your time, and thank you so much for all of your help. But is there anything else that you didn't get a chance to talk about it that you think should be said?

Battishill: I just don't know what I would do without sports. I don't know how you would handle stress, because I'm naturally a perfectionist. If I was just dealing with school, I didn't have somewhere to not think about things and forget about things and do what I love to be passionate about, I think I would be crazy by now. I just feel really lucky to be able to do this and to have the people that I met through this and to develop the mindset that I've been able to through sports – and that's hard work and being able to know yourself and serve a roll. I think it's really hard sometimes but I think we're lucky.

t.cotterill@thenewstribune.com

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