Editor’s Note – At the heart of interscholastic athletics are the students, and at every school and every roster there are more perfectly representative student-athletes than we can recognize. Student spotlight is an attempt to demonstrate that exceptional student athletes are more the norm than the exception at Connecticut high schools, and these are their stories.
For Watertown junior Lisette Ortiz playing sports is just what she does. It is a part of an otherwise packed, and sometimes tumultuous life. In the fall its volleyball, followed by basketball in the winter and lacrosse in the spring. It is part of the high school world she has constructed for herself to help deal with some of the many challenges she faces.
She is a true success story of a high school student who more than likely is not going to participate in sports beyond high school, but for who the opportunity of being a part of high school teams has been just the activity she needs to successfully navigate her at-times tumultuous world.
Ortiz herself puts it best saying, “I have a genuine story to tell what high school sports are about and how it can not only determine a better path for a youth at risk, but also keep them on course all through high school years.”
That, right there, is a mission statement about the benefits of high school sports. It’s something Ortiz exemplifies with an awareness of her situation and the understanding that being busy and involved is necessary and beneficial. That means occupying her time with practices and games, and helping out in the athletics office when she isn’t otherwise occupied.
“I try to fill up my day with work and more work,” Ortiz explains. “The reason for playing several sports was to keep myself active and involved throughout the entire school year. I wanted myself busy and occupied so there was no period of time I could get myself in trouble. I also love playing sports, and feel lost if I have a day off of practice.”
These are conscious decisions Ortiz has made upon seeing the benefits of involvement and suggests a level of maturity that is exceptional for a high school student. She makes the case better than any coach or administrator, or certainly any CIAC staff person can about what every student can take away from being a part of a team or group. And it has nothing at all to do with wins and losses, but with the lessons and memories formed every time the team meets.
“The best memories I had from playing sports is basically every practice and game, they each have at least a special moment good or bad, fun or boring, I took something from every one,” she explains.
Ortiz does specifically mention two moments that stand out, when she made just her second, and then third start in goal for the girls lacrosse team in the Naugatuck Valley League Championship game, and then the first round of the CIAC Tournament. Though the Indians came out on the short end in both games, it again demonstrates the appeal of athletics to Ortiz is not just the wins and losses. In fact she also notes some of her greatest satisfaction comes from having opposition players and coaches congratulating her on a strong performance.
From every angle, and with every response, Ortiz paints a picture of a young lady who has greatly benefited from her athletics participation. Whether by keeping her on the right path amidst many personal challenges, helping her deal with an Auditory Processing Disorder, or simply filling up the free time in her day, she is clearly a scholastic sports success story. Yet on a less abstract level, being a part of sports teams has helped Lisette Ortiz build friendships and memories that will last.
“By competing in athletics the high school experience has been awesome. Some of my best friends come from sports teams and my favorite memories have been during sports or with my team. I love all my sports and teammates too much to quit.”
Here’s hoping Lisette is as good as her word and continues with her high school sports career. Both for her own benefit, and as a sterling representative to others about how commitment to high school athletics participation can pay great dividends.