What makes the young female athlete tick? I don't mean the rare teenage golf or tennis phenom already playing for big money and endorsements. I mean the everyday student that participates in sports because they simply love it. I mean a young lady like recent Briarwood Academy graduate Anne Wills.
Miss Wills' record at Briarwood is an exceptional one, and not just in athletics. She was her class valedictorian, a recipient of the McDuffie Loan and Scholarship Gold Medallion and numerous other academic honors throughout her school years. She will be heading to Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee to not only play basketball but with her eyes on medical school in the future.
Anne Wills graduated at the top of her class Monday night from Briarwood Academy.
Her athletic record at Briarwood resembles that of a true Hall-of Famer. She has enough awards in basketball, softball and track to have a patent on the letters MVP. She is a three time all-state shortstop in softball and four-time all-state basketball player. She holds the school record for points scored in basketball and the state GISA record in the 100-meter hurdles. Her list of athletic honors goes on and on.
When you talk to Anne Wills you quickly get the idea that records are not what it's all about. You can tell by the way that she mulls your questions over in her mind that individual honors are stashed away somewhere in a back corner of her brain, well behind chemistry, biology, team success and good, clean fun. In other words, she doesn't wear her numbers on her sleeve.
"My dad didn't let me and Bob sit around and watch MTV on a pretty day," said Anne. "He encouraged us to go outside and do something constructive which was usually play ball." She added that when he was able, dad usually played too. Dad is Dr. Joe Wills and Bob is her brother, older by a year. Anne also credits her dad with educating mom, Lucy, about sports. "Mom knew nothing about sports when we first started playing," laughed Anne.
Anne explained that her knack for sports might have come about in a quest for survival. "I always played ball with Bob, and by the time I got to middle school he was getting rough, you know, pushing me around. He didn't like me fouling him so much even though he could always beat me at anything."
When I asked Anne if she had a sports hero or heroine she gave a very atypical answer, especially for a teenager. "I don't watch sports on TV, so I really don't have a hero unless it's Bob. I loved watching Bob play in high school, and I have a very high regard for Coach Waller." Coach Robert Waller was Anne's softball coach and math teacher at Briarwood. Her basketball and track coach was Clayton Parrish.
Since we always hear about kids playing ball and not doing their schoolwork, I posed to Anne the question about maintaining such a sparkling record in both academics and year round athletics. "I just wanted to do my best," she said. "I always wanted to be prepared for tests, and I did my homework during any spare time. I never tested my parents about grades, so I never heard any threats about not playing."
Anne also endorsed the idea that athletes should make good grades. "Sports will make you a good manager of time so you learn to use those few minutes at the end of class," she suggested. She also admitted that she only played tennis in the eighth and ninth grades and has only played golf three times in her life. I guess that proves that even Anne Wills has her limits. Her immediate plans for the summer involve mostly working out to get ready for basketball at Sewanee under Coach Dickie McCarthy, a University of Georgia graduate.
So if it is not the glory of unparalleled success in high school athletics, what is it that makes Anne Wills tick? "I love competition, I never get tired of it," she said. "It's a lot of fun to perform under pressure just to see how you'll do."
I have no doubt that what Anne sees will always be a result of her very best effort. December 15 will present a good chance to see that effort in Macon against Wesleyan College.