A week in the life: For basketball player Bailey Holle, being a student-athlete is managing her time, rehabbing an injury, cheering on her team and her twin sister, Brooke
A week in the life
by Mark Wangrin
For basketball player Bailey Holle, being a student athlete means managing her time, rehabbing an injury, cheering on her team and her twin sister, Brooke.
It’s 11 a.m. on a drizzly, dreary Thursday in February. Inside Strahan Arena at the University Events Center at least 2,000 elementary and middle school students are expressing their joy at missing class for a field trip to watch the Texas State women’s basketball team play with unrelenting, high-pitched shrieking.
Standing off to one side, watching the Bobcats go through stretching, is Bailey Holle. Normally, the sophomore guard would be stretching, too, but the right ankle she sprained a week ago is too tender to play on, so she’s watching, and listening. “When you play, you tune everything out,” Bailey says. “Today it was like, ‘Wow, there are so many little kids here — and they’re SO loud.’ ”
That’s the thing with playing an NCAA Division I sport — you get so focused on the routine, on what’s normal, that sometimes you only recognize what’s plain to most everyone else around you when you get to, or have to, step away and watch. For those outside that world, most only see the games. They hear the shrieking fans, see the made baskets, and feel the thrill or agony of a win or a loss. They don’t get to see what makes up a typical week for these athletes. So, let’s look at one through the eyes of Bailey Holle.
Sunday, February 18
It’s just after midnight when the team motor coach pulls into the Strahan Arena parking lot after a seven-hour ride home from Monroe, Louisiana, where the Bobcats kept their hopes alive for a regular season Sun Belt Conference title with an 81-45 victory over the Warhawks. Bailey spent the trip trying to study, trying to sleep, but mostly with an ice pack on her elevated right ankle, which she reinjured after trying to come back too quickly from rolling it earlier in the week.
Today is normally a rest day, and Bailey will have some of that. “It’s our only day to sleep in,” she says. The remainder is filled with self-paced activity — grocery shopping, laundry, a leisurely dinner, and catching up on her favorite TV shows. She’ll also head to the training room to get treatment.
Bailey’s mom, Michelle, graduated from Texas State in 1996. She played college basketball at Angelo State until her career was ended by an ankle injury. Her father, Eric, was a defensive end at The University of Texas at Austin in the early 1980s and played four years in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Bailey rooms with two volleyball players and her twin sister, Brooke, who also plays guard for the Bobcats. They’ve got different temperaments.
“Bailey is more of a peacekeeper, wants everybody to be happy,” Michelle Holle says. The twins have played together since third grade, in youth leagues and at Austin Westlake High School. They always coordinate their sleeve length or hairstyle to be different for every game — primarily to keep the referees from calling one twin’s foul on the other.
“It would have been bizarre, going to different schools,” Bailey says. As for the obligatory twin question — they did switch identities once, in fifth grade, for a school day. They thought it was hilarious. Nobody else noticed. They never did it again.
Bobcat Coach Zenarae Antoine didn’t treasure one twin over the other during recruiting because they had comparable talent, eliminating one of the hardest things about recruiting twins. Antoine, who is the mother of twin boys, felt the same. “Twins always play better together,” she says. “They’ve been together since the womb. People assume as twins you compare them. As a parent you learn not to do that. They’re each different, and I coach them differently.”
Monday, February 19
The weekly grind begins with a 7:15 a.m. team breakfast, a chance for the players to meet away from the court and for Antoine to check in. “I think it’s tough for them to find free moments,” the coach says. “If you’re waking up early to go to training, going to class, you have to find time to eat because nutrition is important, then you have another workout, then have to eat, have to find time to study.”
Antoine, who played for Colorado State from 1994 to 1998, says that the game hasn’t changed much — the Bobcats run the same offense she did as a player — but the environment has. Funding, nutrition, sports medicine, training, and other factors are radically different. Because research has shown that female athletes are more susceptible to torn anterior cruciate ligaments, for example, the basketball program spends 30 minutes several times a week on exercises designed specifically to prevent such injuries. “I think the biggest change is we didn’t have cellphones and the easy access to communicate,” Antoine says. Aside from a sweet shot and nasty crossover dribble skills, coaches look for emotional maturity. “You have to motivate them, but you don’t want to constantly have to motivate them,” she says. “The other thing you’re trying to do is to recruit young people who are mature and organized, because of the demands they have.”
That’s where time management comes in. Bailey usually has a chance to go back to sleep before an 11 a.m. business management class, but not today. There’s a meeting with her academic advisor to discuss summer and fall registration, followed by a management class and more ankle rehab.
Monday practice emphasizes player development and self-scouting. The players watch video to learn from mistakes, stretch, have a two-hour practice, usually the hardest of the week, and then lift weights. In the evening, Bailey is off to the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, which is made up of athletes from all the varsity sports. They discuss ideas for community service and ways to make the lives of student-athletes better. Homework follows, and then lights out at 11:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 20
With a relatively normal Thursday-Saturday game schedule, and with both games at home, this day is more routine. Bailey has one class on Monday and Wednesday; and three on Tuesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. She grabs lunch off campus and heads to practice.
The practice runs long, ending at 6:15 p.m., which gives her and Brooke precious little time to shower, change, and make the playoff game of their younger sister, Shay, a sophomore forward for the Westlake Chaparrals. The game is at Hays High School and the Chaparrals get eliminated. Shay is drawing interest from Texas State and the twins are trying not to pressure her into following their footsteps. They console their sister, hug their parents, and it’s back to their apartment for homework before nodding off just before midnight.
If Shay does go with Texas State, it would make her the fourth Holle sister to do so — Lauren (B.S. ’13) was first. The Holle sisters also have uncles who played Bobcat baseball, Alan Lowden (B.S. ’02) and Matthew Schnabel (B.A. ’99); and a Bobcat aunt, Susan Schnabel (B.E.S.S. ’99).
Wednesday, February 21
After the breakfast team meeting, Bailey heads back home for a quick nap before her 11 a.m. class. One of the obstacles student-athletes face is the class time missed because of travel. Each player is responsible for meeting with the instructor at the start of the semester to discuss what days will be missed and to arrange makeup assignments and tests.
Today, Bailey has a makeup political science test from the previous week, which she shoehorns between the end of her class and the 1:30 p.m. practice. That means no lunch. It’s a good thing the locker room is stocked with fresh fruit, the makings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and protein drinks. Following practice and the individual sessions with coaches where they work on skills development, she heads straight to get dinner before another meeting with her academic advisor about schedules. Bailey is majoring in management in the McCoy College of Business Administration.
At home, she relaxes and does homework. With a game tomorrow, the team has a 10 p.m. curfew check. Soon after, Bailey is sleeping.
Thursday, February 22
It’s game day. Both sisters get their usual pregame texts from Mom and Dad. Michelle types, “Good luck. Kick butt. I love you.” Eric Holle tells them to “Fly around. Have fun.” Sometimes, he says, “Bailey takes that fly around part too literally.”
With the young students’ enthusiastic support, the Bobcats beat Georgia State 62-40. The experience is an eye-opener for Bailey, and it’s not just the decibels that shock her senses. She’s not used to watching a game in which she’s supposed to be playing. She tries to help coach, point out things the players may not see themselves, but there’s also the awkward feeling of not being part of it.
Bailey suspects her twin isn’t impressed with her limp. Last season, Brooke gutted out the conference tournament with torn ankle ligaments. “She hasn’t really said anything, but I think she’s like, ‘Eh, mine was worse. You’re fine,’ ” Bailey says.
The noon tipoff is good and bad. Bailey must miss three classes — just as if it were a road game — so there’s makeup work, but she’ll have a rare afternoon to chill, do homework, and hang out with her friends.
Friday, February 23
Being an athlete has its perks, and one of them is a break when it comes to class scheduling. Bailey has no classes on Friday. Today’s practice is an 11 a.m. “walk-through,” which is less about physical preparation and more about going over plays that should be effective, opponents’ tendencies, and awareness of where to be on the court.
When the practice is finished, it’s time for lunch and then more homework. Tonight, the Texas State baseball team opens a three-game series against McNeese State. Jonathan Ortega, the Bobcats’ starting second baseman, is Bailey’s boyfriend. It’s a chance to hang out with friends, relax, and watch other people play under pressure.
Saturday, February 24
It’s game day again, and Bailey isn’t in uniform. Her ankle isn’t ready, and with a 20-point win over foe Georgia Southern a month ago, there’s no need to rush. This time the Bobcats struggle to pull away, and win 60-51.
Tomorrow starts a new week, and Bailey and her teammates have some time to recharge Sunday before tackling the most important week of the season. The only game is Saturday against UT-Arlington, with the second seed in the conference tournament at stake.
With Bailey cleared to play, the Bobcats win 75-58 and cruise to the conference tournament finals. There they find heartbreak. Little Rock takes a 21-point lead early in the second half, but the Bobcats come back to take a 53-52 lead with under three minutes left. A game-winning shot rolls off the rim in the final seconds and Little Rock escapes.
The Sun Belt gets only one automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament, and Texas State hasn’t built the résumé to earn an at-large bid. A trip to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament ends with a first-round loss to Rice.
The season over, the team bids farewell to the senior class. There are big holes to fill and little time to rest. Offseason conditioning and limited basketball skills work fill the rest of the spring semester, and early morning strength and conditioning workouts, classes, and pick-up games fill the summer, before the program starts again in September.
For Bailey, it’s a new challenge. Antoine tells her she expects her to help take up the leadership void left by the departing seniors, and she’ll also try to replace point guard Taeler Deer, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, on the court.
“Bailey’s really intuitive,” Antoine says. “She really is able to look at a situation and have a deeper understanding. She doesn’t need you to go behind her and verify, or as kids say, cosign. She does it once and gets it right.”
The work for 2018-2019 starts now — although really, it never ends. ✪