Inner Strength

“I like the rush,” says Hurricane High School Varsity basketball player Morgan Huntsman. “I like going hard, and I feel I can do that in basketball.” Going all out seems to be Morgan’s internal mantra. With her year round athletic schedule, which also includes volleyball and softball, this senior excels in sports and upholds a high academic standard.

Hurricane High Class of 2016 Basketball, Volleyball & Softball 3.5GPA

Her father, Brian Huntsman, finds Morgan’s ability to keep on top of her non-stop schedule impressive. “She is able to carry such a full load, and she has an internal drive to maintain the highest level with her schooling,” he says.

Morgan does not feel sports distract her from her studies. Instead she attributes athletics to strengthening her academically. Part of this is through her teammates sharing their talents with her. “There are so many girls on my team that have talents that I don’t, such as math,” she says. “They know what they are doing in school and they know how to organize me to get me ready for school.”

The school’s academic requirements for athletes are also a motivating factor. “I think also the standard that they have for us helps me be like, well I love doing [basketball] so much that I have to keep that standard at school as well as when I play.”

Morgan plans to continue both her education and her athletics after high school, hoping to be able to play basketball and softball at the college level. Her future college and career interests include studying psychology and possibly beginning her professional life as a clinical therapist; and then working her way toward becoming a forensic phycologist. When asked why she wants to pursue this field, she notes her interest in understanding other people. “I want to know what I can learn from them.”

“She’s always been a really deep thinker,” Brian says, “She’s always seen the person who is struggling; she’ll befriend them . . . and that’s kind of always how she’s been.”

Teammate Carrie Marshall attests to Morgan’s ability to care for others. “She is always so kind spirited on and off the court, she’s just a great person,” she says. Carrie adds that Morgan uses her understanding of others to help motivate her teammates. “She always just has to find the right ways to push people. She knows how to work people. I really like that about Morgan.”

Morgan believes this approach is one of the secrets to success in life. “When you]genuinely care about others and take time helping others, then you grow and they grow as well. If everyone can just be kind and help others grow, then the world would work a lot better.”

In addition to her caring nature, Morgan also wants to be remembered as a hard worker. Carrie says Morgan’s work ethic is one of her greatest strengths. “I will always remember Morgan as someone who works hard all the time, win or lose. Even if we are getting killed, she is always going to be working her butt off.”

Seeing her on the court, it would be hard to imagine that this caring, hardworking young woman has experienced deep struggles in her life. Morgan was diagnosed with depression around the age of 12, reaching her darkest days at age 14 during her parent’s divorce. She uses medication to treat her depression, but also notes that sports have helped her through some of the difficulties she faces with the disease. “Sports have really helped me be positive.” She says, and she wants to share that positivity with others.

“I just love how much of a team sport it is. I love how I really have to rely on that screen or that pass or that rebound from another teammate to get me through the game.“

“It’s not something that I’m like, ‘hey guys, I feel like crap all the time!’” she says, but she is comfortable sharing her experiences, especially if they can lift another person who is struggling. When asked what she would tell other teenagers with depression, she said she would urge them to be proactive. “Go get help. Tell someone. Don’t just sit there and dwell on everything that’s going wrong. Be active and go get help. Work for it.”

Morgan also encourages them to look outside themselves. “You just have to be like, ‘I’m just going to help other people feel better, and then you start feeling better’.” She says doing something they enjoy can also help kids cope with depression. “If you find something you love, let it build and build.”

Morgan exhibits this inner strength in the way she mentally prepares herself for games. During her junior year Morgan developed a pregame ritual of knocking on a door before heading onto the court. She says she would tell herself, “I’m going to knock on the door three times and that means that I’m going to do good.” But it didn’t always work. “I would do horrible! It would be so bad. It didn’t even matter if I knocked on the door or if I didn’t.” So she changed her ritual, leaving behind superstitious actions and relying on her self-confidence instead. “I’ve learned that my ritual is just to think to myself, ‘I have control of how I take this game, and what I’m doing’.”

And when things go poorly, Morgan has developed a unique way of brushing it off and moving on. “I flip my hair a lot,” she says, referring to swiping her hand beneath her long ponytail and flicking it to the side. “All my coaches tease me about it. Everybody says something about it because I’m always doing it.” But for Morgan this simple action brings her focus. “That’s like taking a deep breath. If I’m in a stressful situation I’ll flip my hair.” Brian adds that flipping her hair is like pressing reset. Morgan agrees. “It’s kind of weird, but it helps a lot.” Morgan feels she has been lucky to have had older athletes support her as she built her skills in basketball as well as other sports. As a sophomore some of the senior girls in both volleyball and basketball would send her texts, remind her how great she is, and encouraged her to keep trying.

That kind of team spirit plays into why Morgan loves basketball. “I just love how much of a team sport it is. I love how I really have to rely on that screen or that pass or that rebound from another teammate to get me through the game. It’s just such a good feeling to have four other girls behind your back the whole way.”

Morgan shares her enthusiasm, drive, and caring nature with the younger athletes she coaches in both basketball and volleyball. With her example, the Tigers should have a solid future long after Morgan graduates. If there is one thing for certain, it is that Morgan will make the world a brighter place wherever her journey takes her. • HSSI