I first noticed her name, well, my name, in a box score.
Amy Donaldson scored 19 points as North Summit took fourth place in the 2006 state basketball tournament. One of my colleagues quipped, "Hey, Amy, nice game! Think you'll make all-state?"
The Coalville native found out that some sports writer shared her name when she was a freshman.
"Her fourth-grade teacher would compliment Amy on the great articles she would write for the newspaper and finally one day Amy had to tell her that was not her, it was another Amy Donaldson," said her mom, Frankie Donaldson.
After three years of watching her excel in volleyball and basketball, I decided I'd like to see what it's like to spend the day with an Amy Donaldson who was a genuine star athlete. I mean, I have never scored 24 points in a game and it took me an entire three-year junior varsity career to pull down 23 boards.
Amy allowed me to hang out with her during school and then with her family as she played her last home game Saturday night. How cool was it to hear my name over and over as athletic Amy scored 15 points and earned 15 rebounds in North Summit's loss to Rich? For athletic Amy, it was not a "cool" night. When I complimented her on her numbers, she quietly said, "It wasn't enough."
As her mom told me earlier, Amy cares very little about individual accolades.
"She's really humble and just wants the team to do well," said her mom. "I don't ever have to say anything to her; she's so hard on herself."
Friday I hung out with athletic Amy at school. I stood next to her as she served lunch to her classmates and teachers.
"I was very impressed last night," said English teacher Mrs. Bates as she reenacted Amy shooting the ball during the team's win against South Summit. Amy just smiled and asked her what she wanted for lunch. Apparently Mrs. Bates didn't get the message that all of Amy's friends and family have no public adoration.
"We can never brag about her, especially outside of the house," said her mom. "She never wanted to be a show-off."
But Amy's attempt to keep people from admiring her basketball skills is as futile as my attempts at having a basketball career.
"Amy, 24 points, 23 rebounds! Those are like pro numbers," said one boy as she heaped fettuccine onto his plate. Amy just shook her head and laughed. Then she changed the subject, asked those passing through the lunch line about their lives.
"Trevor," she says to her 14-year-old cousin, "let's see 12 points tonight."
After she's finished serving lunch, Amy gets her own lunch and takes her places among her friends. They talk about the upcoming senior prom, her boyfriend who is, like my high school boyfriend, a wrestler, and who is or isn't going tanning. And yes, they talk about the team's win the night before.
"She's the focal point of our team," said North Summit head coach Sheldon Smith. "She's our leader our leading scorer, leading rebounder, team captain. She's our go-to person when we need something."
I was never the go-to person on any of my teams, unless of course, you count the newspaper club. Then, my friend, I was large and in charge.
As for her personality, coach Smith said athletic Amy is quiet and reserved, although she's gotten more aggressive on the court in the second half of the season.
"She does everything we ask her to do," he said. "She's very coachable."
Although I was never described as reserved, I was also willing to do whatever the coaches asked of me. My assigned tasks, however, were more along the lines of "Amy, how about filling those water bottles?" I don't remember a coach ever telling me to take the team on my shoulders. Maybe the ball bag, but never the team.
While she's been MVP of many teams (averaging 40 points per game in Junior Jazz), I was always the most improved or most inspirational player. She just shot herself a six-point elk on a hunting trip, while I once knocked myself out trying to shoot at some cans with a borrowed rifle.
Athletic Amy Donaldson has skill and that competitive edge that I have never had in athletics. But give me a tip and a notebook and watch the fur fly.
I learned a lot hanging out with Amy, and not just that we both love horses, have one brother whom we absolutely adore, and prefer P.E. to math or English.
Somewhere, amid all of the compliments, I realized that the best aspect of high school sports is that there is a place for both kinds of Amys. Every team, every school needs its talented superstars.
"She's highly motivated," said her dad, Don Donaldson. "When she wants to do it, she puts forth everything she has."
Adds her mom, "She's a ton of fun, always smiling. She just loves to play basketball."
Amy Donaldson is a great role model of what humility, hard work and determination can accomplish.
But teams also need support staff. You know, the players who will run sprints knowing full well they aren't going to play in the game unless the team is up by 40. Athletic Amy is the first to acknowledge her teammates who have an experience like mine and what they contribute to a squad's success.
The amazing gift of prep sports is that regardless of your ability or your role, if you open yourself up to the experience, it gives you far more than you'll realize until you're closing in on 40 and wondering what ever happened to that boy who escorted you to senior prom.
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