Thu, Apr. 12, 2012 - [Softball]
Over the course of Division III Week, we will look at specific examples of how the three tenets of the NCAA's largest Division are alive and well on the Loras College campus with our student-athletes. Today, we take a closer look at two-sport athlete Niki Rivera and how she thrives during her time at Loras – in the classroom, on the basketball court, and on the softball field.
The list of three-sport athletes (in some cases four) in high school is long. They were ‘the jocks' in high school. They were easy to pick out because they would always be wearing a uniform on game day – all year long. Their parents knew the fastest routes to every school in the conference. They got out of gym class sometimes. When they didn't, they dominated it.
Then those athletes went to college, usually in whichever single sport was their strongest. But very few made the leap to the next level in more than one sport. Especially more than one traditional team sport. Even fewer go their full college careers without drifting towards just one while stepping away from another.
But it has been done. And it is being done right now by Loras' Niki Rivera.
When it is all said and done for the Duhawk junior, she will have played in over 100 softball games and 100 basketball games.
"The fact that I can do both here is a major part of why I chose Loras," Rivera said last week. "All of the coaches are supportive."
Her teammates are as well. They can often be seen in the bleachers during the opposite season supporting her and the rest of the team(s).
"I get along with both groups," Rivera said. "The switch isn't difficult."
She does, however, notice the difference between the two teams when it comes each one's personality and chemistry.
"The softball team has some more Iowa roots and the basketball girls have more of a Chicago influence," she points out, "so that can keep things interesting."
Rivera has scored nearly 300 points in her three-year basketball career from her point guard position. She has logged 59 steals, over 100 rebounds, and 60% of her made field goals are from 3-point range.
On the softball field, she has been a mainstay at shortstop. She has already played in 93 games there and has a habit of taking away hits from opposing batters. She will also mix in a timely hit, steal a base, and lay down a key bunt.
If there's one thing she is dedicated to in both sports, it is defense.
"Defense is a big part of what I do in both. I enjoy the challenge and keeping the other team from scoring in both," she said with a half-smile only someone truly committed to defense is capable of producing.
Niki takes some of the same intensity and preparation into her pursuit of an Elementary Education degree.
The Sterling, Illinois native fills up her calendar with preseason workouts, in-season practices and games, and observation hours in the Dubuque schools.
She has executed lesson plans during the day and executed game plans at night.
"I love working with kids and do it in the summers, with camps, too."
"I am out anywhere from four to five times per week for anywhere from an hour to two-and-a-half hours," she recalled. "Balancing my time with practice and school was big from the get-go."
"The dedication comes from wanting to be here and put in the hours," Rivera says.
So where does she turn when the calendar fills up, there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day, or life throws her a change-up?
"My teammates," she said without hesitation.
"They keep me going through whatever stresses come with doing both sports. There's support from a lot of places – coaches, professors – for what we do."