Burbank High’s Shelby Cribbs, Tough As Nails

A miracle baby, the Burbank High senior basketball and softball player doesn't let a congenital heart condition get in her way.


By Rick Assad

Shelby Cribbs plays two demanding sports at a high level and that’s truly impressive.

To know the backstory and how she’s managed to do both is amazing and also inspiring.

“I was born with a congenital heart defect. Every year I do have to go to a cardiologist to make sure every part of my body (especially my heart) is working and functioning properly,” said Cribbs, who is the catcher on the Burbank High softball team and a small forward on the basketball squad. “But in all honesty, my heart defect hasn’t slowed me down at all. I am a multisport athlete who is getting ready for the next chapter of my life, college. I truly am doing amazing and pushing myself to get better. (Knowing how far my body can go).”

For sure, playing two sports and maintaining excellent grades has made Cribbs even stronger and more determined.

“It’s difficult for different reasons. For starters, on a personal level, I am terrible with time management, so when it comes down to being efficient with my schoolwork and getting enough sleep every night, keeping the same schedule is very difficult,” she admitted. “I feel like doing multiple sports while being a student can help work not only my body but my brain.”

Cribbs added: “It also depends on the time of the year,” she pointed out. “You have easier schoolwork at the beginning of the school year, but when it comes down to season, the challenges of schoolwork and studying grow as you start playing more games and practice.”

Keeping track of what she puts into her body is important.

“I don’t particularly have a diet, but I do watch what I eat because if I have multiple games or hard practices. I make sure I get a good diet beforehand because that’s the only way I will be able to work hard and play at my best. I think that at the young age I am at, I already have a balance between the food I eat and the exercise I do,” Cribbs said. “I love junk food so much that I can’t limit myself because I work hard to take it off. For game days especially, I have to make sure I drink a lot of water and eat the proper amount of food to give me the nutrition I need.”

Like a parent choosing their favorite child, Cribbs finds it difficult to pick between softball and hoops. They are both special.

Shelby Cribbs catching during a recent BHS versus JBHS softball game. (Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

“I play both basketball and softball. Both sports have different meanings to me. Basketball is about mentality and being physical. I am a very strong athlete who loves to be physical and use that to my advantage,” she offered. “Softball, on the other hand, has always been my favorite sport because of how challenging it is. There are so many levels you have to achieve and ways of staying strong. Just like any sport, practice makes perfect. I work on my hitting and mechanics along with my mentality that comes with being a catcher.”

Cribbs continued: “I just have a way with softball that’s helped me in so many ways,” she said. “I know I am better at softball because even though I have been playing each sport for practically the same amount of time, softball is my second home, and I always love being on the field.”

Melissa Sanchez, the Burbank softball coach, and the former player, has seen Cribbs blossom into the player she is today.

“I have seen Shelby grow into an amazing student-athlete. Shelby is a four-year varsity starting catcher. Shelby understands her role behind the plate. Because we are now entering our fourth season together, she knows my expectations and pitch calling,” she said. “I trust Shelby, and Shelby trusts me. Adding [pitcher] Maddison Kellogg to the mix just makes everything easier for us.”

Sanchez went on: “I have witnessed Shelby’s self-esteem build over the years. That is going to be dangerous for our opponents,” she said. “Every coach loves an intimidating player, and that is Shelby. She is exactly where she needs to be to have an explosive senior year.”

Even with the softball season months away, Sanchez can’t wait, knowing Cribbs will be a leader.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

“This year, Shelby is going to stand out in the infield. The strong veteran will take a leadership role on the team,” she said. “She is confident and vocal, and that is what we need. Shelby has tremendous power at the plate, and I know she will have her best offensive year this year.”

Kris Jabourian is the Burbank girls’ basketball coach and echoes a similar sentiment as Sanchez.

“Shelby is someone you can count on, on and off the court,” he said. “She gives her 100 percent at all times. She’s a fearless leader. It comes naturally to her.”

Beyond the skills and determination to play two sports, it’s also about being ready and available.

“I believe it’s about not giving up and just showing up. I heard a quote one time (I can’t remember the source or the person), but it goes, “90 percent of it is just showing up.” When you put in the work and stay consistent, your hard work will pay off,” Cribbs said. “I have always made sure I keep a balance between my own life and my life on the court and the field.”

Nothing is going to slow down Cribbs.

“I have always been an independent person, even though I play a team sport, I am the leader and am in charge,” she said. “I have always loved being in charge and making sure things go properly. I am a leader on and off the field. I firmly believe that, yes, I am physically strong, but it’s my mental game that has proven why I am the person who can take charge of that position.”

Being able to think and think quickly is a trait all successful athletes and people possess.

“Before each game, I think of all the ways I can help. For me, it’s a personal thing. I don’t think of how my teammates are going to be successful but rather what I am going to contribute to making the team successful,” Cribbs said. “I make sure I give it my all even when my all is 50 percent of what I usually can give. Especially being the catcher. I am the captain of the field, meaning I am the leader no matter what.”

When Burbank takes on Burroughs, there is always added excitement and drama for Cribbs.

“It’s such a highlight of my year and life because playing a rival team (especially taking the dub) is such a heartwarming moment for not just my team but for my school,” she said of beating the Bears. “To prepare for the Burroughs game I take the time to work on specific plays, my hitting, and especially my mentality. I keep this private, but I pray a lot for guidance and strength through the weeks leading up to the big moment.”

Though the Bulldogs haven’t beaten the Bears in every game, it’s still fun to play the game and even more satisfying to walk away the winner.

(Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

“For basketball, it was last year. My high school team and I made it all the way to the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals which was the first time in about ten years the girls’ basketball team has been able to accomplish this,” Cribbs said. “For softball, it definitely has to be last year when we beat Burroughs [4-2]. That night was different from any other game because they were our rivals and won every year. It definitely was a game changer and should show people Burbank High is making its way back to the top.”

Through hard work and sweat, Cribbs has learned much from toiling at two sports.

“Playing two different sports can help me in many ways. Each sport I play has different ways of pushing me to new limits. Basketball is a physical game with mentality being the main factor,” she said. “You face challenges in each sport that you play, and that is what can create a strong mindset. You will have future events that will make you think outside of the box and use your imagination, so by starting with sports, I know I will be off to a good start in life.”