In the Paint

Understanding Mental Toughness

molly-shephardBy Molly Shephard, freshman

The transition from high school sports to college sports is something that people either do well or spend their entire first year trying to figure it out. There is no doubt that there’s a difference between the two — the pace, the intensity, the sacrifices. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was going to be walking into the first time I stepped foot on a college basketball court. Anyone could have told me countless times what it was going to be like with story after story, but until I experienced it for myself, I had no idea what it would be like.

I’m a freshman on the Lynchburg College women’s basketball team, and I couldn’t wait for the day that I committed. In no way did I think that it was going to be easy, but if I could have known one thing before I entered this next phase of my basketball career, it would be this: there is no way you are going to survive here unless you are mentally tough.

What is mental toughness, you ask? It’s the grit, as my coach always says — the ability to push through adversity and not lose confidence about who you are and what you do well. College sports aren’t easy in the slightest. Your coaches will push you to your limits. Practices will kick your butt. One day you won’t be able to hit a shot to save your life, but those are the days that can either make or break you. It’s how you mentally come out from those days that define how tough you are. Some people have it naturally, and some people never grasp the importance of it until it is too late.

Personally, I have a difficult time channeling my mental toughness — I’ll admit that. I’m the first person to second-guess myself. I want to do everything perfectly. I want my coach to know that I am the player that she recruited me to be. Messing up and being called out in practice multiple times a day is the ultimate confidence killer. No one likes to mess up in any way; we all want to be an asset to the team and do our part to help our team reach the ultimate goal.

At the end of the day, making a mistake isn’t the end of the world: Everyone makes them; it’s unavoidable. The mental toughness comes in when you take the constructive criticism that you are given from coaches or teammates and apply it to your game. When a coach is yelling at you that means they see something in you, something that you haven’t become yet. Once a coach stops yelling at you, does that mean they don’t see anything in you anymore? Have they given up on you? Did you give up on yourself? Coaches are supposed to be hard on you. They’re supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.

Imagine how it would feel to have so much potential in you, but because you weren’t able to become mentally tough, your coach recruited over you, and you never had the chance to reach your full potential. Henry Ford said it best: “It’s your thinking that decides whether you’re going to succeed or fail.” Stop second-guessing yourself. No more believing that you can’t do something. What if one day you couldn’t play the sport you loved? Would you be happy with the way you finished things? Good athletes push themselves to be good; great athletes push themselves to be great. It’s not about the play, or the defense, or taking the right shot. It’s about knowing that, when time is running out, and your team needs you, you’ll be able to produce. Allow yourself to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, and when you’ve done that, then you’ll be the best athlete you can be.

Good luck.

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Who we are on and off the court

caroline-naumannBy sophomore Caroline Naumann

We are LCWB. We are a strong, determined team that loves to play together. But that’s only half the story. The other half is who we are off the court, and never in my life would I have thought I would have these amazing girls as my teammates.

There is never a dull minute with this team. Whether it involves ambushing the nearest Chipotle for dinner or competing in a dance-off in the locker room, these girls are much more than basketball players. I firmly believe that one of the reasons we work so well together on the floor is because of the many relationships that we have built with each other off the floor. We were able to build trust through these relationships, and that becomes evident when we play.

So, here’s what you have all been waiting for… What exactly do we do off the floor? Personally, the locker-room is my favorite place to be. Whether we are getting ready for practice, or a big game, there is always a song to be sung and dance to be danced. We have assembled the most perfect pre-game playlist, and we sing every word. I have found that these moments are the best times to clear your head of anything outside of basketball, and simply be yourself. After a few songs of nothing but the most off-tone singing and the most ridiculous dancing I’ve ever seen, we focus up and head out to the court.

Another one of my favorite things about LCWB may seem small and unimportant, but by far shows how much of family we are. There is no better feeling than seeing each other around campus during a long day of classes. If there are more than three of us within 50 feet of each other we immediately meet up like a bunch of lost puppies. These moments usually consist of hilarious inside jokes that, if anyone else heard, they would surely think we were quite strange people. Or, my personal favorite is hearing my name from across the Dell, turning many heads of passing students, followed by a wave and a very big smile from one of my teammates. Honestly, we could walk by each other and say nothing, and that would turn into a joke.

After all is said and done, it is easy to say that these women I have the pleasure of knowing and playing with everyday are my family. Every team dinner or movie night we have, I can feel that bond get a little bit stronger. These women make me laugh harder and smile bigger than I ever have before. We can be the biggest goofballs you have ever seen or the most determined cohesive unit on the court. Either way, we are LCWB.

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The College Basketball Dream

By Sarah Coronel

Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of playing college basketball. People always warned me that college basketball was a whole new level. “It will test your physical and mental strength,” they said. “You have to sacrifice things you care about, “ they said. It didn’t matter to me; I was just excited to take on the challenge and jumped in headfirst. Now that I’m playing in my junior year, I realize that they were right. Playing college basketball is tough; it has tested my physical and mental strength; I have sacrificed things I didn’t think I would. But what they didn’t say is how rewarding it would be and how much I would love every bit of it.

Over the past few years, I have watched our program transform. It was already building when I came in as a freshman, but since then has grown and improved even more year after year. Physical and mental expectations were raised to a new level. Sacrifices were made, chemistry grew stronger, and the ODAC title became closer within our reach.

Conditioning was the first thing that was built upon. Between my freshman year and sophomore year, the team began doing boot camps three times a week in the off-season with the women’s soccer team in addition to lifting 3 times a week.. The team pushed each other every day, always remembering that the work we were putting in would pay off in March. Between my sophomore and junior year, the school hired a new strength and conditioning coach. We began lifting and conditioning workouts with Coach Smith 4 times a week at 6am. I believe that the work we put in during the off-season is paying off and will continue to pay off throughout the season.

Mental toughness was another thing that was built upon throughout the past few years. Coming in as a freshman, I don’t think I fully understood the importance of mental toughness. As a college athlete, I’ve had to balance schoolwork, classes, workouts, practices and other activities. Sometimes it’s hard to block out everything other then basketball when I’m on the court, but it’s necessary and I’ve learned to do so everyday. The mental toughness of our team has grown remarkably in the past year. Last March, we had the ODAC championship on our fingertips and lost it. We had never felt such a devastating loss before. Instead of hanging our heads and feeling sorry for ourselves, we raised the expectations and standards of our team. We woke up at 6am to work our butts off every week of preseason and we challenge each other every day in practice to reach our common goal. I believe that our team’s mental toughness has the potential to carry us into the ODAC championship game again and this year, come out with a victory.

Someone once said, “Sacrifice something that matters for something that matters more.” I think that this quote perfectly describes the level of sacrifice that our team has risen to over the past few years. Instead of taking a nap or watching Netflix between classes, my teammates and I are in the gym, putting up extra shots. Instead of going to the pool with friends in the summer, our team is lifting and conditioning. I have had to sacrifice things that mattered to me over the past few years, but winning an ODAC championship for my team, my coaches and my school matters more.

The relationships I have formed with my teammates so far in my college career have been one of the best parts of the whole experience. We lift together, run together, eat together, laugh together and play together. I have made friendships that I know will last a lifetime. We trust in each other enough to sacrifice things and push each other physically and mentally in order to reach our full potential.

People may think or say that once we reach our goal, it will all have been worth it. It’s easy to encourage each other to push through obstacles because it will be worth it when we win. But you know what, I think it will have been worth it anyway. Yes, winning an ODAC championship is what we all work towards everyday and want more than anything, but as Arthur Ashe says, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” When I look back at the end of my career, I will remember laughing on bus rides, trying to get bench warnings, and driving to Chipotle with my teammates after practice. I will appreciate being part of something bigger than myself and working with other people to achieve a common goal. The work ethic, time management skills, and other lessons I have learned so far will prepare me for life after graduation better than I could have ever guessed possible.

I am so lucky to be living my dream and playing college basketball. I love playing for Coach Pyzik, Coach Siler and Coach Ann with my teammates. I‘m so happy here at Lynchburg College and can’t imagine playing basketball anywhere else.

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How LC prepared me to play basketball overseas

By Courtney Brewer ’15

They say, “Good things come to those who wait,” but I beg to differ. I think good things come to those who are patient but have a go-getter mentality.

Snapchat-827239743701365092Those who aren’t afraid to keep trying after many failures.

Those who persevere and keep fighting for what they want.

Those who don’t let a challenge, big or small, force them to lose sight of their goal.

Those who have an encouraging support system, and those who invest in a dream and work towards it.

For various reasons, I’ve always dreamed of playing overseas. The game is so different there. Everything from the speed of the game, the gyms, language barriers, to training, traveling, and even the ball, is different than in the USA. When I went to Boston for Spring Break ’15, I had no idea I would be presented with information that would point me towards an opportunity of a lifetime: my chance to FINALLY play overseas.

I was given the knowledge along with a little encouragement, but it was up to me to decide how I wanted to use it. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to decide I wanted to go overseas, but now while I am here I am getting my Master’s in Art & Design and playing the sport I love. I always said I would never pursue a master’s degree, but when the opportunity arose for me to play and go to school in another country, I couldn’t turn it down. What better place to learn about art and master my craft than on the continent where many art gods, so to speak, lived and did the same.

I am attending Leeds Beckett University in Leeds, UK and so far I love EVERYTHING about this city, which is good considering I had to become a citizen of the UK because of how long I’ll be here.

Snapchat-459201486904723466Obviously, it’s a bit different than home and I’m still adjusting, especially in terms of food, time change, the currency they use. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve almost been hit by a car driving on what I happened to think was the wrong side of the road, but I’ve only been here since mid-October, so I’m still learning!

I’d like to think human nature is the reason most people have to be forced out of their comfort zones, so it may seem weird that I willingly left mine, hopped on a plane, and moved THOUSANDS of miles away to another continent. I’d also like to think being a member of the Lynchburg College Women’s Basketball team prepared me not just for the next game of basketball, but for the next game after college, which is life. It took me some time to realize this, but if you’re not pushing yourself or your teammates in practice to go 100 percent and beyond, then you’re not helping them or yourself become a better player/person. If this doesn’t happen, no one is being forced out of their comfort zone and being made to adapt to a new situation.

LCWB taught me how to grow up. I matured not only as a player, but as a person. Being a member of LCWB was a great privilege and honor, and I honestly could not imagine life at LC without that. My teammates and coaches became my family, and to this day I would still go to war for them. There is no greater feeling than the one you get once you take the floor and realize you have 13 other girls, who at the end of the day, no matter win or lose, ALWAYS have each other’s back. For me it was also important to wear that jersey with pride, for those that came before me and shared the same blood, sweat, and tears. I never played against a guard I thought was more talented than me. It is always a state of mind, fight or flight. Am I going to do what I can to help my team win or am I going to tuck my tail and let this girl score all over me? I always picked to fight because the pride I had in my team and that jersey was something worth fighting for.

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Life lesson from LC basketball


hairstonBy Charmaine Hairston

Adjustments are something that we all have to make in life. We all have to transition to someone more mature or better in order to be successful. However, making these adjustments and transitions aren’t always easy because sometimes we have to sacrifice things that we like or that we are comfortable with in order to find that good balance. I know this from my own personal experience, which started here at Lynchburg College.

Before coming to LC, I always felt as if I was open to new things and adjusted well to different situations, so I figured that my transition to college would be easy. I was wrong. I came to school thinking: It can’t be too much different than high school, things could only be better. I wouldn’t have nagging parents and teachers who watched my every move, and I could do my own thing, because that what’s college is about right? It was at that moment when I made the mistake of that assumption. The first few weeks were good. I felt like I had a good handle on things, basketball was great, and I really thought I had it all figured out. That was until reality hit me. As season was approaching I became injured, which killed me the most because nothing motivated me more than getting the opportunity to play basketball. Especially since it was something that I had work so hard for most of my life and had been looking forward to for a very long time. While I was injured, I was bummed about the fact that I couldn’t play, other personal issues started to affect me, and I started to let my effort towards my schoolwork slip. That didn’t last long before Coach Pyzik made it very clear that if even when I could play, I wouldn’t if my grades weren’t up to par. That being my motivation, I started becoming more productive in the classroom, but work still began to pile up as basketball had really started to get going and it was hard for me to find that balance. I didn’t realize how tough it would be to find a happy medium of being a college student and athlete.

At that moment I had started to wish that I still had those nagging parents and teachers from high school who always made sure that I was on the right track and helped me make tough decisions when I didn’t know what to do. The whole idea of doing my own thing and having it all figured out wasn’t so fun at this point. After a couple of days of thinking this, I decided that I couldn’t be the college student athlete that I had worked so hard to be and basketball was what I had to give up since it seemed like it just wasn’t my thing anymore. I then decided to share my decision with Coach Pyzik, and she told me that I could adjust and find my balance if I just stuck it out. I wasn’t exactly convinced, but the fact that she had faith and believed in me made me think that maybe I could do it. She encouraged me not to sell myself short and assured me that adjustments were a part of life, and that I couldn’t quit every time things got hard. She was so right, so from that point on I carried that advice with me.

Coach Pyzik’s talk with me made me realize so much about how life will be as I grow and enter the real world as an adult. Running from issues or quitting versus just making adjustments, finding a balance, and conquering the issues, wouldn’t get me anywhere in life. I spent my sophomore year, and currently junior year here at LC living by those words that were shared with me. I apply them to school, basketball, and most other things I face in the real world, as I become an adult. I appreciate Coach Pyzik very much for encouraging me to tough it out because I couldn’t imagine being a student athlete any place other than Lynchburg College and sharing the love for basketball with her and my amazing teammates who also make my journey easier and so worthwhile.

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The importance of preseason training

forbushBy Chaney Forbush, senior

As my last preseason begins I have been reflecting about my time at Lynchburg and what it has meant to be part of the women’s basketball program. The relationships I have made with my teammates will last a lifetime and the things I have learned being a part of this team will help me far beyond my playing days.

Some of the best relationships I have from the program are with my fellow seniors, Sammi, Sarah, and Jaimie. We have been through so much together these last three years and I wouldn’t have wanted to go through all the ups and downs with anyone else. We are not just teammates, but best friends. Basketball may have brought us together, but our bond will continue to last a lifetime.

From freshman year until now I have learned what hard work really is and how far it can truly take you. Freshman year was the first time we got a small taste of success. It was the first time we won a game in Salem and the first time since 1989 that we made an appearance in the ODAC semi-final game. After that season, we realized that if we wanted to make it farther and reach our goal of winning an ODAC title we needed to work even harder and turn up our intensity in everything we do. Sophomore year was another year of making history; it was the first time we had a bye going into the ODAC tournament. Unfortunately we lost again in the semi-final game. This was the turning point in our program when we realized that pushing ourselves to the limit would be the only way to make it past the semi-final game.

Junior year was the year of the most change. It finally felt like we were at a new point in the program. Fitness became one of the top priorities for the team and we wanted to be the fittest team in the ODAC. In the preseason we worked hard to get into the best shape possible and made it a culture in our program. When the season started in October, I knew we were in the best shape we had ever been in. Last season was one of the best seasons I have ever experienced in my career. We got to do so many new things, including playing basketball in Puerto Rico. We also made it to the ODAC championship game, which was one of our goals. Even though it did not go how we had hoped, it was still an amazing experience and is now one of the biggest driving forces for this upcoming season. I want to make it back to that championship game and win it this time.

So in my last preseason I am using the ending of last season as motivation to become even better and push everyone else to get better. When I graduate from this program I want to leave the legacy of working as hard as you can and pushing yourself beyond what you thought you could. The only way to do that is by working hard and getting out of your comfort zone. To the freshman and future Hornets, I want you to know that if you give everything to the game and your teammates you will be greatly rewarded. You might not know what it feels like to play in Salem, but trust your upperclassmen and work as hard as you can for them, because when you do play in that championship game you want to be prepared as possible, and the offseason is when you prepare. I can’t wait for this final season to begin and to see what ensues.

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Working at the Duke University basketball camp


goldsmithBy Sammi Goldsmith, senior

I recently worked the Duke University women’s basketball camp. Working a camp at a big-time, Division I basketball school was new to me, but the 7 a.m. alarms and tired legs are something I know very well. Basketball has been a part of my life since the age of five and I love the sport with my whole heart. My college teammates have joked about how I would even marry the game if I could.

I suffered my first career injury during my freshmen year of basketball at Lynchburg College. My meniscus was torn and I missed our conference tournament. This injury served as a huge reality check. I hated being away from the game even just for a little while. That is when I knew that I wanted to get into coaching once my playing days were over.

My coach at Lynchburg College, Coach Pyzik-Smith, has helped guide and inspire me to pursue my coaching dream.  She called me into her office one day and told me she talked to someone on staff from Duke women’s basketball and that I could have a position working their program’s summer camp. I was both grateful and ecstatic upon hearing this news. Not only would I get coaching experience, but I would also be doing so in one of my all time favorite places. As a North Carolina native, I’ve been rooting for Duke since I was in middle school.

Working the Duke Women’s Basketball Camp was everything I wanted it to be. Each day the coaches and campers woke up early and our schedule involved non-stop basketball all day, taking breaks only to eat and hear different Duke players talk about the game. I coached my own team and got to know as many campers as possible. I love working with young women who have dreams of being great athletes. Sharing my love of the game is something I am passionate about. These girls were great to work with because they were ambitious about more than just basketball. One of my campers told me she wants to be an astro-physicist, while another said her goal is to be a college basketball player and study to become a cardiologist. My job as a coach was to teach them as much as I could about basketball in a short amount of time, but they inspired me as well. My fellow counselors taught me a lot, too, and generously gave me advice about my future profession. I met numerous Duke women’s players and staff members, along with college and high school coaches from the area who share my passion for coaching women’s basketball.

Working the Duke women’s basketball camp is one example of the numerous doors that have opened as a result of being a student athlete at Lynchburg College. My team volunteers at Special Olympics every year and we are consistently inspired by the hard work, persistence, and utter joy displayed by the athletes. This past year we woke up before sunrise to serve breakfast at a local soup kitchen. We also took it upon ourselves to run 1 million “Yards for Yeardley” during postseason in order to raise awareness for the One Love Foundation and its stance against sexual violence. Not only do these volunteer opportunities open our eyes to how humbling it is to lend a helping hand, but these experiences provide our team with time to bond and grow as a unit of strong women who are more than just athletes. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given during my time as a member of the Lynchburg College women’s basketball team.

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B20Q5494010_thumbI honestly don’t know where to begin. What I’ve been saying to parents, professors, classmates, and others since March 2nd is that this program has come so far in the four years that I’ve been here, that this year was a huge step in Lynchburg basketball history, and that we should be proud of what we had accomplished. These statements are all just skimming the surface of what it felt like to experience my last year on this team.

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Player Turned Coach: A Look from the Other Side

Guest post by Assistant Coach Ann Dorris ’14

For around 13 years, being a basketball player defined much of my life. I began playing on teams from the second I was old enough and when that final horn blew in the ODAC semifinals last year, I was nowhere near ready to stop. I had all kinds of weird and crazy emotions running through me once I started to realize it was coming to an end. Read more ›

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Study Abroad – Jaimie Grace ’17 in Australia

Sophomore Jaimie Grace, a business major and a forward/center on the Hornet women’s basketball team, narrates her unique summer study abroad trip to Australia.

By Jaimie Graceimage001

This summer I traveled to Australia with 19 other Lynchburg College students for a month long study abroad trip. The trip, organized by the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS), focused on the study of Australian Public Relations and Australian Character and Culture.

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