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2015 Woman of the Year finalist: Taylor Skala

The two-sport college athlete reflects on the lessons she learned through four arduous years on the basketball court, the soccer field and in the biology lab

By Taylor Skala as told to Tom Yelich

I grew up a tomboy with a love for competition. When Rockhurst offered me a basketball scholarship and said I could also play soccer – my first love – it was a no-brainer. I was off to Kansas City.

Playing both sports, combined with my studies, was a juggling act. I’ve always practiced good time management. As a biology major, though, I ran into four-hour labs and demanding classes like organic chemistry, so prioritizing my time became my most important skill.  I learned to rely on to-do lists – how would we survive without them?

There are times when you just have to say “no.” It’s an invaluable lesson that is easy to keep in mind but hard to put into practice. By the time soccer ended every year, basketball was well underway. I had no time for a break. I had to get on the court and earn playing time – nothing was given. I wanted to volunteer as much as possible, especially with Relay for Life – a cause near and dear to my heart – so that consumed most of my spare time. More often than not, I had to put social endeavors on the back burner: I celebrated my 21st birthday six months after turning 21.

I found family at Rockhurst. Whether it was homework sessions on the bus, late-night studying with my roommate and teammate, scoring two goals at Southern Indiana to tie and break the school soccer scoring record, or even missing a free throw to lose a basketball game, my teammates were always there for me.

I’m preparing to join a new team. I graduated in May but am working to become a physician’s assistant, a profession in which the stakes may be greater than winning or losing, but it is still built on trust and teamwork. I’m fortunate to have learned so much about both of those in my time at Rockhurst. Juggling two sports tested me – academically, socially and athletically – and I’m better prepared for what comes next because of it. My advice to someone considering life as a two-sport student-athlete is simple: “Do it.” Why? They were the best years of my life.