Loyalty, Hard Work and Love of the Game:
An Interview with Sierra Campisano

Coach Cleveland and Coach Allen went to watch a former San Diego Sol player play in a recent college basketball game. Sitting with them watching the game was a former European professional basketball player who is familiar with the club basketball scene in Southern California. The former professional player asked about Sierra Campisano and remarked how impressed she was that Campisano remained loyal to the Sol program, noting that staying with one program is rare for talented high school players.

What follows is an interview with Sierra Campisano, as she discussed the keys to her success as a player. Sierra’s answers follow questions indicated by bold-faced type.

The Interview:
When did you first start playing basketball?

I’ve always had a hoop in my backyard. I played rec leagues starting in first grade, and started playing at Sol in fifth grade.

Have you participated in other organized sports? Why did you choose basketball as your primary sport?

I played soccer until the end of sixth grade, and I played club volleyball for a few years as well. I chose basketball as my primary sport because I loved the physical contact of the sport, the tradition it upheld in my family, and my love for the sport and competition. Unlike volleyball and more than soccer, basketball had a physical aspect that they did not; I loved being physical and being able to compete with contact with my opponents. Basketball has been a huge tradition in my family, and I fell in love with it at a young age.

Why did you initially choose San Diego Sol as your club team?

I had done summer camps with Sol at the boys and girls club with [Coach] Jennie Harris a few times and I really loved her, so I decided to come and tryout!

We’ve seen you get better and better each year. You’ve been ranked as one of the best players in the nation and you have a Division I scholarship to the University of Oregon. With all of your success and the attention you’ve received, you have remained loyal to San Diego Sol. Tell us why?

I chose to remain loyal to San Diego Sol because of Coach Spatticus Harris. He started coaching me in the seventh grade when I made the eighth grade fire team. We had an instant connection; I remember during my first game playing for him he couldn’t believe how fiery I was when I played, and he loved it. Soon after that, he started training me as well. I was working out with him everyday, sometimes more than once. … there is no way I would be where I am without him… As a person or a basketball player. As I got better and better and my success became apparent to colleges and ESPN, Coach Harris stayed by my side and continued to get me better. I was grateful to play in tournaments around the country to get college attention and to play in a club that felt like family. I’ve known a lot of the girls since I was 10 years old, and I loved playing with them again. I chose to stay at Sol because I wanted to stay with Coach Harris until the end.

We’ve seen you working-out in our gym with Coach Harris or with your mother or with other Sol players or by yourself. Most players don’t understand that success comes from consistent hard work. What motivates you and when did you realize that success is achieved through consistent effort?

There are a couple of reasons. One reason that motivated me to work hard was that I wanted to be the best- I didn’t like getting beat by other players. I realized that me continuously working hard made me better and it let me compete with and beat players that were more athletic than I was; from a young age, my dream in life was to play Division One basketball, and I knew that I couldn’t achieve that goal without working as hard as I possibly could. My mother used to tell me that less than one percent of high school athletes play division one sports, and she asked me daily if I thought that I was in the top one percent. Working hard was a way for me to make sure I was the best that I could be to try to achieve that goal.

Another reason when I first started training hard was to compete for playing time. When I was in eighth grade, I was bumped up to the elite team, and my playing time was something I really had to fight for. I was fourteen years old trying to compete for playing time with seventeen and eighteen year olds. The more time I put in the gym, the more time I got on the court.

The skills and conditioning that Sol offered twice a week really taught me the central skills early on. I got really familiar with great footwork and the fundamentals of basketball. I did the youth skills every Tuesday and Thursday, and when I got in high school, I did the older skills as well. Sometimes I would double up and do both on the same day, and after high school skills ended, I went back to the younger skills and conditioning to keep my ball handling and footwork up. That really helped.

I also just love the game of basketball. I love playing and I love working on my game. That was a huge motivator for me- I wanted to get better because I just loved the game.

How is your high school season going this year?

We’re doing really well. We graduated 8 out of our 13 last year, and the younger girls have really stepped up!! I’m really proud of all the girls and how we’ve all stepped up and come together as a team. We’re playing really well together. Our team chemistry is amazing- we all get along really well and it shows on the court.

Excellent! It leads us to a two-part question. You’re looking forward to playing at Oregon next year. Some high school players lose focus during their senior years, once they have a college scholarship. How do you feel about playing at Oregon next year and how do you feel about your last year of playing at Torrey Pines?

I’m not worried at all about losing focus this year- I have too many goals set to do that. My last season playing for Torrey is bittersweet. Playing in a Falcon uniform is my absolute favorite thing, and the fact that it’s coming to a close is really sad for me; but before my TP career is over, the team is going to accomplish a lot! We’re working towards winning league, and after that, our goal is to make a run in the playoffs to get to CIF. I love playing for Torrey, so I’m enjoying my last year as much as I can, and putting in as much extra work as I can to make sure that I can do every possible thing that I’m able to so I can help my team. I’ll be really sad when that chapter of my life closes because it’s been some of the best memories of my life so far. I’m just focusing on Torrey right now and improving my game so I can help my team as much as I can. Once season is over, I’ll start working with a mentality focused on Oregon and improving my game so I can fight for playing time and helping the team there when I’m in Eugene. I’m really excited to be a Duck, but I’m first focusing on winning as much as I can as a Falcon:)

You’ve mentioned great coaches, team travel, training programs, working hard in the gym and playing in a club that feels like family. You’ve been with San Diego Sol, going on eight years. How has it been playing at Sol?

It’s been a great experience. I have built lasting relationships with Sol coaches and my teammates that I know will last. My fundamental skills have been developed and sharpened, which are a major reason for my success today … I loved the team camps and traveling with my team and just having fun. It’s been a wonderful experience, from basketball to relationships, mostly in thanks to [Coach Harris] – he is always working extremely hard for our performance on the court and relationships off. Some of my best memories have happened at Sol, they made my childhood and growing up an amazing experience.

What advice would you give to younger players?

If I had any advice for younger players would be to work. If they have a goal, a vision and they really want it, if they really are hungry for it, it’s possible if they work as hard as they can to get it. I was never the most athletically gifted kid, but as long as I can remember, my dream was to play division one basketball. And I worked and I worked and I worked to achieve that, and it paid off. I’m still working as hard as I can so I can achieve my goals; … all of the decisions I have made to put basketball first have put me where I am today.

I would also say to surround yourself with people who really believe in you and will support you; don’t listen to the outside sources telling you you’re making the wrong decisions and trying to bring you down. As long as you are determined, work, and surround yourself with the right people, your goals can be achieved.

And most of all – don’t forget to have fun. So many people forget that they started this game because they love it; once they get to the elite level, they let the pressure get to them and basketball becomes a job more than anything. I never stressed out while playing in front of college coaches; I just continued to play to win. I played because I loved the game and wanted to win. That’s the most important- don’t forget to have fun and don’t forget that you love the game.

Sierra’s Stats for the 2015 – 16 Season:

29.6 Points per game
15.8 Rebounds per game
2.2 Assists per game
5.5 Blocks per game
2.8 Steals per game

Editor’s note:
Since this interview was conducted, Sierra’s Campisano’s Torrey Pines High School team, coached by San Diego Sol coaches, Denise Bennett (head coach) and Jullian Ota (assistant coach), has clinched the Palomar League title. Campisano has reached yet another one of her many personal and team goals, proving that consistent hard work does pay off. Congratulations Sierra and congrats to your Torrey Pines team!

San Diego Sol