Up and coming basketball star and BSM sophomore Olivia Olson was almost a competitive dancer.
Olson told her mom she wanted to get serious about competitive dance, but her mom recommended she try basketball first. Meanwhile she had been playing competitive soccer, as the goalie for the top team a year older than her. But by the time she was 14, she was standing at 5’11 and knew basketball was the right sport for her. “I realized it was a sport for me in seventh grade…that’s when I started getting noticed by coaches more,” Olson said.
In August, Olson tried out for the U16 USA Women’s Basketball team. 34 girls from across the country were asked to try out based on recommendations, film and skill level. Of the 34 trying out, they eventually cut it down to 12. A few weeks after Olivia made the team, she headed to Washington D.C. for training and stayed there for eight days. The practices and drills were intense and constant; the Olympic committee came to watch. “It was probably the hardest basketball I’ve ever played. It was just always constant…everyone was so good,” Olson said.
After a week of training, Olson was off to Mexico. Following days of quarantining, the team finally got to play their first game. Olson was forced to stay in her hotel room by herself when not practicing or playing. The team was allowed one hour at the pool per day, but Olson and her teammates had to have masks on the entire time. Olson felt as though she had to miss out on a lot of team bonding that would have come with spending more time with her teammates outside of playing basketball. “We were quarantined in our rooms because of Covid-19, we had to sit in our bed all day, and we could only leave for practices and games,” Olson said.
In their first game, the USA U16 team dominated Chile with a 117-23 win. They went on to defeat Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, and finally advanced to the championship against Canada. Canada and the United States have a history of facing each other in the final, and it is usually a close game. This year that was not the case. Team USA won 118-45 in the gold medal game, and Olson scored 61 points throughout the entire tournament. “At the U16 level the US always usually dominates, but we thought that Canada would be a good competition for us,” Olson said.
After winning the gold medal, Olivia returned home and resumed her regular high school experience. She missed sleeping in her own bed and spending time with her family; she also missed practices on BSM’s girls’ soccer team. Since her return, Olson has started in the last four out of five soccer games and made essential saves as the team’s goalie. “Basketball was way more fun, but I didn’t want to get burnt out and still love soccer, so high school soccer is perfect for me,” Olson said.
In the future, Olson plans on playing Division 1 basketball. She has already caught the attention of coaches and visited schools such as Notre Dame, University of Michigan, University of Iowa, and others. The head basketball coach of Maryland even came to watch Olson in a soccer game she didn’t start in, an effort to gain Olson’s attention. “I don’t know what school I want to go to yet. I still have a lot to figure out, but it is nice to know I have options,” Olson said.