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Queen of the court

Freshman Emma Koch has had prolific amounts of success in basketball and tennis, and she hopes to continue her illustrious prep career at West.

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Every athlete has a goal whether it be to make varsity, to become a top regional player or even to find success at the national level. Emma Koch ’19 has achieved all of this — in two sports — and she’s only a freshman.

Koch started playing basketball and tennis when she was seven years old, and she says her parents have always been the driving factor behind her triumphs.

“My mom has spent countless hours hitting tennis balls with me, shooting with me, driving me to practices, and watching my games,” Koch said. “My dad is my AAU (Amateur Athletic Union)  basketball coach and has been working with me on basketball almost everyday this summer and fall.”

Koch has already made an immediate impact to West High’s varsity basketball program, averaging about seven points per game, and she hopes to do the same for tennis. Even though as a freshman she lacks experience, she more than makes up for it with her talent.

“[My basketball team] won a United States Junior Nationals tournament in Chicago, and I played three years for the Iowa Barnstormers,” Koch said. “[For tennis] I won three matches at nationals, and I became eighth ranked in the Missouri Valley.”

Being a newcomer on a team is never an easy to position to be in, but Koch believes her transition onto the basketball team has been relatively smooth.
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“It was a little intimidating at first, but I have been playing with all of the girls for a while, and they are all very accepting,” Koch said. “I like that they don’t treat me any differently than any other player, but they are always very helpful when I need it.” 

To achieve what she has, Koch has put in countless hours of training for both sports.

“During basketball season, I practice basketball almost everyday. During tennis season, I practice tennis almost everyday,” Koch said. “Basketball and tennis are both big time commitments. You can’t just randomly take some time off or not go 100 percent and expect that you’ll magically continue to get better.”

Koch’s coaches speak highly of her work ethic and attitude.

“She continues to work hard in practice and out of practice to improve in all areas,” basketball coach BJ Mayer said. “With her work ethic and drive, she could become a very good basketball player.”

“She shows superior sportsmanship and does her talking with her ball skills and racket skills.””

— Amie Villarini, girls tennis coach

“[Koch] is a natural athlete but also works hard putting in the required hours to become not just a good player in both basketball and tennis but a great person,” said Amie Villarini, girls tennis coach. “She shows superior sportsmanship and does her talking with her ball skills and racket skills.”

Villarini just recently started working with Koch outside of high school tennis; however, Koch has played on the United States Tennis Association tournament circuit for many years.

“Tennis has taught me so many life lessons,” Koch said. “I’ve learned how to deal with cheaters, how to pick myself up, and how to compose myself when something might not be going my way.”

Although Koch enjoys both sports, she slightly prefers basketball over tennis.

“I just have a lot of fun playing basketball, and I love the intensity and playing with a team in a competitive environment,” Koch said.

All of Koch’s efforts ultimately are aimed towards one goal: college basketball.

“I think it would be really cool to play at [the University of] Iowa because I’ve grown up watching them,” Koch said. “I’ll have worked really hard to get to that point, and I’ll be able to do what I love with people who love it just as much.”

WSS: Do you prefer tennis or basketball? Why?

Basketball. I just have a lot of fun playing basketball and I love the intensity and playing with a team in a competitive environment.

WSS: What aspects of tennis do you prefer over basketball?

Tennis has taught me so many life lessons. I’ve learned how to deal with cheaters, how to pick myself up, and how to compose myself when something might not be going my way.

WSS:What aspects of basketball do you prefer over tennis?

I love the team aspect. All of my AAU and high school teammates are great. They all share my love of basketball and I know they always have my back on and off the court. I also love the intensity of basketball. You always have your teammates cheering you on and basketball is so fast paced that you don’t really have time to feel bad for yourself when you make a mistake, you just have to work hard the next play.

WSS: Whom do you give credit to for all of your success? Why?

There definitely isn’t just one person I give credit to for my success. My parents have played a huge roll in my success. My mom has spent countless hours hitting tennis balls with me, shooting with me, driving me to practices, and watching my games. My dad is my AAU basketball coach and has been working with me on basketball almost everyday this summer and fall. All of my coaches have also played a huge role in my success. Michele Conlon has been my tennis coach since I was 7 years old and she has really helped me develop as a player. Amie Villarini, the West High coach, has also started working with me which has helped. Again, my dad has been a great AAU coach and has helped me grow as a basketball player. Coach Mayer has also played a huge part in my basketball development. He has been coaching me since 7th grade when I started going to team camps and open gyms. He knows so much about basketball and has helped me to become a much stronger player.
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WSS: What do you expect in the upcoming basketball season?

We are a pretty young team, but I think we will be able to do really well this year. There has already been a lot of improvement and I think everyone is having a lot of fun.

WSS: What do you expect in the upcoming tennis season?

I think we will have a good team this year. I have been playing with a lot of the girls on the team through club tennis and they are all very talented.

WSS: How often do you practice basketball and tennis?

It depends on the season. During basketball season, I practice basketball almost everyday. During tennis season I practice tennis almost everyday. In the summer I also practice basketball almost every day and I do a lot of tennis camps and clinics.

WSS: What are your plans for the future?

My goal is to play basketball in college. I hope that if I keep working hard I will be able to achieve that goal.

WSS: How do you manage to juggle all your activities plus school at the same time? How big of a time commitment are the activities?

Basketball and tennis are both big time commitments. You can’t just randomly take some time off or not go 100% and expect that you’ll magically continue to get better.

I have to be really organized. My mom plays a huge part in the organization of tennis and basketball. She always knows when and where practices and games are.

In terms of juggling school, I try to do my homework or study whenever I can. In the car, between practices, and when I get home. I end up staying up pretty late most nights but I try to avoid that as much as I can.
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WSS: What are your biggest achievements in both sports?

Tennis-reached #8 in Missouri Valley

Finished 5th at a sweet 16

Won 3 matches at nationals

Basketball-

Varsity as a freshman

Played three years with Iowa Barnstormers

Won a United States Junior Nationals tournament in Chicago

WSS: What is it like being on varsity as a freshman?

It’s really fun. It was a little intimidating at first, but I have been playing with all of the girls for a while and they are all very accepting. I like that they don’t treat me any differently than any other player but they are always very helpful when I need it. Coach Mayer has also helped me get used to high school basketball and always give great advice.

Cover photo by Meg Moreland. 

Photos by Sarah Longmire.

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Queen of the court