How to juggle academics and athletics


Kevin Perez/ The Skyline View

Ariana Sheehy (left) taking a shot at the basket during practice.

Skyline College women’s basketball player Ariana Sheehy, for her whole life, has never had a right hand. But it never seemed to faze her. The absence of Ariana Sheehy’s right hand has become a part of her identity rather than a hindrance, proving that anything is possible.

“Give it your all every game, because you never know when your last game could be,” Ariana Sheehy says, on her ethos going into a basketball game.

That ethos also persists off the court, as Sheehy juggles academics and athletics. Hailing from a very athletic family, Sheehy has always had some sort of athletic drive behind her.

Her brother got into boxing in his early school years, while her sister also took up basketball. Her sister never stuck with basketball, but Sheehy considers her sister to be a key role model.

Her mother has always been supportive of her as well, cheering her on in her athletics. Sheehy took up several different sports in her earlier years, such as swimming and soccer.

While she was relatively successful in both, the recommendation of her third grade soccer coach to try basketball stuck with her.

“My [soccer] coach said to try to see if it works,” Sheehy says.

Sure enough, the decision proved to be a good one, even with her disability. Basketball has remained Sheehy’s main sport of choice ever since.

Named as the Peninsula Athletic League’s Most Valuable Player (PAL MVP) for 2015, Sheehy is also no stranger to victory.

“I didn’t think I was going to get it,” Sheehy says on receiving the title of PAL MVP. “My coaches at Terra Nova were cheering, and they told me I could get it if I just worked hard.”

However, getting the PAL MVP is far from her most significant victory. That honor goes to her acceptance on Terra Nova High School’s basketball team.

Sheehy recalls her mother’s concern over her acceptance due to her lack of right hand. But her mother knew it would work when Sheehy came home with Terra Nova basketball gear. Even then, her mother wasn’t the only one relishing in the good news.

“I brought home my practice jerseys,” Sheehy says. “But I think I was the happier one.”

On first impressions, Skyline College’s head women’s basketball coach Chris Watters had his doubts about her play.

“I was nervous at first,” Watters says. “I thought that teams would plan their games based around her only having a left hand.” But Watters’ fear was quickly dashed after he saw her performance on the court when she made the all-tournament team on the first weekend.

From there, Watters has been impressed with her play. “She plays to her strengths,” Watters says. “She’s a good player all around.”

Sheehy also seemed to think of her hand as a non-issue. “I don’t think coaches have really underestimated me, but other players have,” Sheehy says.

Teammate and long-time friend Juliet Courtney echoed many of the same sentiments. “Her decision-making is easily the best part of her play,” Courtney says.

While Watters sees that Sheehy is already a good player, he sees that Sheehy could also take a next step in her play.

“The next step is to be an outside threat,” Watters says. “I also think that she could step in and take jump shots as well.”

On the court, Sheehy’s positive demeanor seems to be in full swing. Even in heated practice sessions and drills, Sheehy always seems to keep on a smile. Complimenting other players as they practice together, she never loses confidence.

Even though she already came onto the team with some of her friends, the rest of the team appears to be close with her. Her teammates don’t seem to think much of her lack of right hand.

“I’ve known her since seventh grade,” Juliet Courtney says. “She’s very close and gets along with everyone.”

Some of her teammates also seemed to take their own roles when talking about Ariana; there were some that jokingly said that she was a “blood”. Others shouted out a variety of slightly absurd nicknames.

“She makes new players to the team feel welcome,” Watters says. Another main characteristic about Sheehy was the idea of work ethic.

Sheehy, on top of her obligations with the Skyline College women’s basketball team, also manages to keep a 3.75 GPA with five classes under her belt.

Sheehy explains how she is able to juggle both the responsibilities of athletics and academics. “Schoolwork always is supposed to come first,” Sheehy says. “I try to do all of my homework so I can go to my practices.”

But there are also times when Sheehy does see practice as more important than schoolwork, especially for more important games. “Sometimes I really want to practice, or really want to go to my game, so I’ll sometimes finish my homework as fast I could,” Sheehy says.

Watters then commented further on her work ethic. “She’s a tireless worker, even when it comes to games, or sprints, or conditioning,” Watters says. “She’s also on the honor roll.”

At this point in time, the fact that she doesn’t have a right hand never feels like it hampers her. It’s now become a part of her identity she’s come to accept. “I’ve just adapted to it, and I still use it.” Sheehy says. “I’ll use it to cross over, but I’ll usually just bring it back to my left hand.”

Sheehy now looks to play for a team in Southern California when she transfers out of Skyline, looking either to Cal State LA or UC Irvine. When asked how she makes athletics possible, even with the rigors of school and her other responsibilities as well, Sheehy says, “Give 100 percent no matter what.”