Can you imagine being made the captain of the girls’ varsity basketball team as a sophomore? That’s exactly what happened to Shaydee Gunnell this year. She and fellow captain Carmen Fiarito (10) were approached by their coaches, who commended them as great examples for their team and gave them the good news. “[It] was almost unreal,” says Fiarito. In that moment, Gunnell felt proud, excited, and nervous all at once.
Gunnell has played basketball for seven years now, and picked up the sport because of her brother. “He was so into sports and being fit. He’s a big role model for me and I wanted to be like him,” she says. On the court, she has to put in a lot of hard work, and becoming a team captain has added to her responsibilities. “My job is to be able to pick everyone up when they’re down and make sure I always bring energy for everyone else to match.” Gunnell also has to make sure the rest of her team stays focused, and says that the new tasks are part of what makes being a captain so fun.
Initially, team practice involved work on specific parts of offense, as well as different kinds of shooting drills and fast breaks. The team tryouts were scheduled for the week of November 12, after which practices changed in format, according to Gunnell. During tryouts, prospective team members demonstrated drills, scrimmages, and conditioning while the team coaches watched and evaluated. While Gunnell wasn’t part of the evaluation process, she and Fiarito made sure to cheer everyone on and reassure them, particularly the freshmen. “Encouragement and energy are big to our coaches, so we tried to spread that throughout the gym and make it a positive environment,” says Fiarito.
It cannot be denied that Gunnell’s positivity has impacted the team, whether during tryouts, practices, or games. “I admire how much she cares about her teammates and always has everyone’s back on the court no matter if she’s angry or having a bad game,” says Fiarito. “She constantly cheers on her players.” Gunnell’s passion for the sport is evident, and with such a high level of talent and dedication, she has proven herself to be a truly committed athlete. As a sophomore, Gunnell has plenty of time to adapt to and grow into her new role as captain, and will surely continue to improve the girls’ varsity team this season and throughout her high school career.