By Audrey Clark

Some people have a hard time defining what they want in life, but I was a bit of an outlier, I guess.

From an early age, I knew what I wanted – to play basketball at Liberty.

Basketball has always been my biggest passion, and Liberty has always been a place that I held close to my heart. Figuring out where I want my journey to take me wasn’t the hard part.

Getting there, however, was a whole different story.

You see, I come from a very large family. I have seven siblings.

I love the relationships with my entire family, but coming from a large family also meant that I had to take responsibility.

And in my world, amongst other things, this meant that I was responsible for figuring out my way to turn my dream of playing basketball at Liberty into a reality.

Earning My Way

When Liberty and I connected, they didn’t have a scholarship available, so I could only walk on. Obviously, with being a walk-on, I didn’t earn any financial aid for athletics, so I had to turn to academics.

I scored well on the SATs my first time around but knew I needed to earn a higher score if I wanted to qualify for scholarship money.

So, between my jobs, basketball, and school, I did as much SAT prep as I could. I researched testing strategies and ways to up my score as much as possible.

I was confident.

For as much time as I put into the SAT, though, I spent an equal amount of time working. Throughout high school, I knew I needed to earn money for books and tuition. I knew that an academic scholarship wouldn’t pay 100% of the bills.

So, I turned to hard work and creativity, and took on a bunch of jobs.

The most “normal” job I worked while in high school was as a babysitter.

This was a simple way to earn money, so I offered up my services to pretty much anyone I knew with kids.

Other than babysitting, I also worked for my dad’s landscaping business, took care of lawns and gardens, and sold firewood.

As you can imagine, working so many different jobs came with a few sacrifices. Sleep, for example, was a pretty rare element during that time.

As a firewood delivery person, for example, I delivered firewood in the wee hours of the morning. Even before the sun was up, I was pawning off firewood.

But, please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not talking about my busy schedule to ask for anyone’s sympathy. I’m beyond grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to work so many jobs.

The feeling of paying your own way to college is one of the most rewarding ones I’ve ever had.

Falling For Liberty

So, let me share a few words about Liberty, and why I wanted to play here so badly.

When I was ten years old, I sat in the car with my dad after basketball practice.

I remember looking at him and saying, “I want to play basketball in college. It’s so much fun, and I want to do it for as long as I can.”

Well, he told me how much work it’d be. He said I needed to put in at least three hours a day into basketball. It could be watching film, doing drills, or just shooting around.

The hard work didn’t scare me. I was ready to breathe basketball.

So, that’s what I did.

A year later, my dad started a home-school basketball team. And during that inaugaral year, I heard about Liberty for the first time.

They hosted (and still host) a national tournament for independent teams like us.

From the first time I had a chance to visit campus as an 11-year-old kid, I knew I wanted to come here. There was something special about the atmosphere here that was captivating.

Now, I’m going into my 11th straight start, and I’m thankful for every chance to compete with my team. Looking back, it was a completely unorthodox path to success. But it was all worth it. I’m at my dream school, playing my favorite sport, with some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

Betting On Myself

Liberty also hosted summer camps and before my sophomore and junior years of high school, I decided to attend these camps.

But unfortunately, I didn’t spark enough interest to get recruited.

And it stung. It was frustrating at the time, but I couldn’t give up. I had worked too hard.

I had to map out what my next move would be because I didn’t want to go anywhere else.

My parents tried to convince me to look at other schools. After all, they were concerned that I put all my eggs in one basket.

But, well, here I am.

I was a persistent one, and eventually, it’d pay off.

At first, I wasn’t seeing that much playing time. Granted, other girls were better and I didn’t have the level yet to be a constant on the floor.

But, from day one, I applied the same attitude towards making the starting five that I’ve shown in my pursuit of playing for Liberty.

I treated each moment I stepped onto the court, whether it was a game or practice, like there was no next time.

And eventually, once again, it’d pay off.

I ended up starting the last 12 games of the season before it came to an abrupt end due to the precautionary measures related to the coronavirus.

Still, I’m beyond thankful for every chance I got to compete with my team and can’t wait for next year.

Looking back, it was a completely unorthodox path to success. But it was all worth it.

I’m at my dream school, playing my favorite sport with some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

I’m blessed!

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