By Rick Assad
Katie Hooper not only played three sports, but was highly decorated while doing so.
On Hooper’s plate across four years at Burbank High between 2009 and 2013, she was a standout at softball, volleyball and soccer and found enough time to excel in the classroom.
“I remember having the privilege to play three sports during high school,” said the Cal State University Northridge graduate who received a bachelor of science degree in Kinesiology with a minor in Psychology. “This was such a great opportunity to allow myself to grow not only as an all-around athlete, but as an individual as well. I find a lot of coaches nowadays try and limit athletes to one specific sport thinking it will help them, but I truly believe the more sports you allow an athlete to play, the better athlete they will become.”
Selected Burbank’s Female Athlete of the Year, Scholar Athlete of the Year, All-CIF, All-Pacific League first team, All-Area and winner of the All-CIF Academic Award, Hooper said being a triple-threat in high school helped her adjust and perform at a peak level in college.
“Looking back at college, some of the most memorable times were traveling and creating memories with my teammates,” she said. “We traveled to Arizona, Washington, Hawaii, Nevada, Idaho, as well as many cities here in California. Along with the memories from high school and college, I was fortunate enough to play professionally overseas in Vienna, Austria, where I got to travel to eight different countries.”
Hooper spent a season with the Vienna Wanderers and learned about a new culture.
Several factors, including talent, assisted Hooper, who was the Regional Occupational Program Sports Medicine Award winner, to become an outstanding athlete.
“Some of the qualities that made me succeed in high school and college were hard work, dedication, confidence, time management and sacrifice,” Hooper said. “All of these qualities and more helped me reach my potential and shoot beyond satisfaction.”
As a four-year starter who played second base and the outfield for the Bulldogs, Hooper was grateful to absorb critical life lessons.
“Playing softball has taught me a tremendous amount of life skills,” she said. “Teamwork being the most important skill because it is very important to work well with others in real life and to accomplish any goal and understand how to collaboratively work together.”
Hooper, who was tabbed Big West Player of the Year and Big West Defensive Player of the Year, added: “Time management was another skill that I learned when having to handle the schedule of school classes as well as practice and games which directly translates to the work and social life balance,” she said. “Lastly, I learned a lot about leadership and how to lead and follow and understanding this ties directly with teamwork in order to have a successful group of colleagues.”
Onetime Bulldog teammate and Atlantic Coast Conference Most Valuable Player for the University of Notre Dame women’s softball team, Caitlyn Brooks offered what it was like playing with Hooper, who spent her fifth year at CSUN as an undergraduate assistant softball coach.
“Katie is as incredible a player as she is a teammate and leader,” she said. “She was always making sure to be the first one to the field and last one off. She put her teammates first and that carried through to her successful athletic and leadership career. As she moved forward in her education, there is no doubt that she will excel because she demands the highest standard of herself.”
The worldwide plague that is coronavirus has made Hooper’s post-graduate work even more demanding.
“Yes, COVID-19 has affected me. I started physical therapy school at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences at San Marcos [in California] in May of 2020, and I have been learning 95 percent virtually,” she noted. “It has definitely been challenging adjusting to learning tactile techniques through a webcam, but I am hopeful that we will be back on campus very soon.”
When there was doubt or a difficult stretch, Hooper had a mantra to lean on. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” she said. “Remember that saying because you will then be able to handle any situation thrown your way in softball or in life.”
For Hooper, another elixir was the soothing sounds of music which helped her prepare for matches.
“Before the games I would listen to my game-day playlist as I was getting ready,” she explained. “At game time I was completely locked in.”
Doing well was always important for Hooper, who made All-Region third team and All-Big West Conference as a Matador.
“Yes, I have felt pressure to win, but the way I handled it was to channel that pressure into positive intensity to fuel my drive to perform the best that I can for my team,” she said.
Working in unison with others has allowed Hooper to expand her wings. “Some of my best mentors came in college where I played for some of the greatest softball players like Tairia Flowers, Lovie Jung and Caitlin Benyi. Tairia and Lovie were a part of the United States Olympic Softball Team that won gold at the 2004 Olympics and silver at the 2008 Olympics,” she said. “Caitlin Benyi played for UCLA and was an amazing player. Tairia Flowers was my head coach at CSUN. Caitlin Benyi was one of the assistant coaches at CSUN and Lovie Jung was a volunteer coach at CSUN my first two years.”
Hooper went on: “They all made a huge impact on the player I became. Their wisdom and knowledge for the game was astronomical so that I wanted to learn all that I could from them,” she pointed out. “They would come early or stay after to provide input on what I needed to work on and really taught me more than I could’ve ever imagined.”
At all three levels of softball, Hooper managed to be noticed.
“My high school athletic highlight would have to be winning the Pacific League in both volleyball and softball my senior year,” she said. “With all the hard work and dedication our teams put into the season, it was a great way to end my senior athletic career on a high note.”
Hooper continued: “My college athletic highlight is without a doubt winning the Big West Conference and making it to regionals,” she said. “This is by far my all-time favorite memory. We had a special group of girls who were dedicated with the same goal in mind. During this same year I also broke the doubles record at CSUN and received Big West Player of the Year honors.”