Sean Kelly ‘02 reached out to fellow Wheeler Warrior Alumni Gabby David ‘08 to gain some insight on her experience as a student-athlete at Wheeler and later at Chapman University, where she played lacrosse and soccer. Gabby shares her thoughts on her role as coach for Wheeler’s new 5th grade basketball and lacrosse programs and the benefits of Wheeler adding this opportunity (along with Cross Country) for its youngsters.
- How was your experience here at Wheeler as a student-athlete?
When I look back at my time as a student at Wheeler, memories of playing as a Wheeler athlete immediately come to mind. I remember the experiences I had with my teammates, the players I looked up to and turned to for guidance both on and off the field, and the coaches that taught me the importance of hard work, determination and dedication in order to improve.
I remember small details that always motivated me before games, like Coach Carlson’s motivational line that was always spoken right before we stepped onto the field,“She who has the will to win will not be beaten,” and the letters I would receive every game day that always ended with “WGVS HOORAY.” All of these pieces that I experienced as a Wheeler student-athlete are what shaped me as a player, student, and individual. By playing sports at Wheeler, I was able to find an inclusive environment that brought me a strong foundation, remarkable role models and friendships, and was taught valuable lessons that could be applied further than just on the field.
- What was your experience like as a student-athlete in college?
The adjustment from Wheeler to college was a relatively easy-going transition, as Wheeler had taught me the skills to be successful in the transition. I attended Chapman University in Orange, California, and during my freshman year, I played both soccer and lacrosse. I soon realized that juggling two sports, my major, as well as other extra curriculums left me little time for myself. By my sophomore year, I chose to focus on only one sport – lacrosse. Coming from a background where I had always made soccer number one, lacrosse number two, this was the hardest decision to make as I loved both games. Looking back, I still believe it was the best decision I could have made.
As a student-athlete at the collegiate level, I gravitated towards leadership with ease and found that my team was my home away from home. As a team we accomplished big achievements – undefeated seasons, winning a National Championship – and individually I made All American. But these accomplishments are not what made my experience so unique and special. My Chapman lacrosse family was a group of strong, motivated women that supported me as I explored different majors, people that offered me advice when I needed to sit down and look at the pros and cons, and people who transformed me into the type of leader and person I am today.
- In what ways did sports prepare you for life after college?
On the field, you learn that you can only control the controllables, and part of the game is finding ways to move forward to accomplish your goals regardless of the obstacles that may stand in the way. Life is just a larger playing field. After college, you enter the professional world and it’s your skills from past experiences and lessons in the classroom that help you get that first job. For me, being able to strengthen my skills on the field help me implement them in the professional world. I was able to prove that I have a strong work ethic, team player, strong time management skills and natural leadership instincts simply by referring back to my experiences on the sports field.
- How would you describe the 5thgrade athletic program?
The 5thgrade athletic program is a developmental program, where the focus is about learning a sport, working together to improve on your skills, and having fun with your classmates in a different type of learning environment.
- What benefits can you see for adding a program like this?
Exposing the students to a program like this allows them to learn the importance of responsibility, discipline, hard work and resilience all while being able to step into leadership roles and learn the importance of being a team player. They are exposed to the importance of believing in yourself and never giving up, and are able to take the lessons they learn on the field and apply it to the classroom. This program allows a 5thgrader to grow as an individual, as the lessons and experiences you are exposed to on the field will help you grow as a student, player, and individual.
- What is your favorite part of coaching the Wheeler 5thgraders in basketball and lacrosse?
I love the “ah-ha” moments– the moments where you see a student who has been working so hard finally make a basket, the moment a student feels confident stepping on the field and getting themselves involved in a play, and the moments where they connect the dots on how to apply one skill they have learned to the next drill. Add in how each player supports the other during these moments, and that’s the full package.
The confidence, resilience, and support that they all display during practices is the reason why I enjoyed playing sports my entire life. This program has been a great experience, and I have enjoyed coaching the 5thgraders as they have fun learning new skills that they can apply to their everyday lives.