While the selection for Male Athlete of the Year was a tough one
to make, one female athlete stood out above the rest even without
the many nominations she received.
Gina Sanders played both soccer and field hockey for the Acorns all four years. She has taken her game of field hockey to new levels and has shown the determination and desire that is not evidenced by most field hockey players on the west coast.
“The way I play when I go out there is with the attitude that nothing is going to hurt me,” Sanders said. “I play hard. My mental picture is the game isn’t over until the last whistle blows. We could be leading 3-1. If they get a goal in the last minute, that would still bother me.”
Many hours of practice has given Sanders the competitive edge to rise to the next level.
“If I know my hits are wrong, I go out there and practice it,” Sanders said. “The mental part is the key thing. You have to have it mentally before you can do it physically.”
Her dedication has earned her a scholarship to play Division 1 field hockey for the University of Massachusetts in the fall.
“I am really excited to go,” Sanders said. “I think it is going to be such a great experience to not only play field hockey but live on the east coast. The east coast is a whole different world than the west coast.”
Sanders is one of the few Live Oak athletes that has competed in sports over seas.
She has participated in numerous field hockey tournaments and has been selected as a Futures Elite athlete the past two years, playing on the east coast as well as in Australia.
“Playing for Live Oak has been a great experience,” Sanders said. “You meet so many people, and you form a bond and bond with them. You get used to different coaches. And you adapt to different coaches like you would with a new job. Sports helps you throughout life and not just in your athletic ability.”
Sanders was introduced to the sport when she was 10 years old by her mom, a former Live Oak field hockey player, who wanted her to try out the Live Oak sports camps.
“When we got the flyers, she encouraged me to attend,” Sanders said. “I was like ‘what the heck is field hockey.’ I was the youngest one there. One of the girls went to Berkeley. She was like our mentor. I went to the high school games and kept picking it up. By my freshman year, I was amazed that I could actually play.”
Sanders got her first taste of sports in Tae Kwon Do when she was young.
“Everyone on the soccer team would make fun of me when I came to practice in the uniform,” Sanders said.
Sanders started off playing soccer when she was 5 years old, and she said it was her favorite sport until her sophomore year when she determined to devote most of her time to field hockey.
“I love playing field hockey,” Sanders said. “It is so different. When you tell people you play field hockey, they are like ‘that is lacrosse, right.’ I love switching it up. There are not as many opportunities to go pro. It is interesting for people to know that you play a different sport that the spots are filled up more quickly in. Field hockey is more of a learning sport.”
In soccer, Sanders primarily played as a defender for Live Oak. Sanders received second team all league selection for the last two years and last year was selected as the league’s defensive MVP.
She was nominated to the 2002 High School All-American Team and was selected to the High School West Region first Team All American.
In field hockey, Sanders has been all over the place on the field. She played primarily as a midfielder for Live Oak. But she has also played defender and forward, where she plans on playing in college.
Sanders was selected to the first team All-TCAL team and the first team All-County CCS team the past two years. As the team captain and leader of the field hockey team the past two seasons, Sanders was voted the most valuable player of the team last year.
“In soccer, since I play defense I have to train for anticipating situations coming to me,” Sanders said. “In field hockey, I have to anticipate situations that I am making. I have to make the play then anticipate off of it. The mentally is different, but the training is still the same. There is still the short sprints, the long sprints, the cone jump and the dribbling in and out of cones. It is all the same, just that one is with the feet and one is with the stick.”
In addition to the many field hockey teams and camps she has attended and competed for, Sanders has participated in many extra extracurricular activities.
She was a member of the Associated Student Body Office from 1999-2003 and was involved with Future Farmers of America. Sanders also was the homecoming float chairperson.
In addition to her school activities, Sanders has helped tutor younger kids in not only field hockey but in academics at P.A. Walsh Elementary School as well.
“It is all about time management and getting your priorities straight,” Sanders said. “You have to do things like eat and study at the same time. If you don’t get the grades you can’t play. So it is also a motivation.”