When one versatile, all-around diversified female athlete comes from a town, it’s noteworthy. Two or three, it becomes a trend. When you get to four, it’s a dynasty. Five? It’s almost unfathomable and certainly beyond remarkable.
But watching Shannon Waters develop into the next of the long line of well rounded, three-sport female athletes to come from Secaucus wasn’t the least bit surprising. Waters wasn’t the first and she won’t be the last. She’s just the latest of the great.
Waters matured into a sensational volleyball player, a terrific basketball player and a dominant softball pitcher/slugger. There wasn’t much that Waters couldn’t do in any of the three sports she participated in.
Waters first started playing basketball when she was just a 5-year-old kindergarten student.
“I liked the physical side of basketball right away,” said Waters, starting a trend that she carried throughout high school. “I liked that part the most.”
Waters then became a softball player in third grade.
“I didn’t play Little League with the boys or anything,” Waters said. “I went right to softball. I pretty much picked it up right away. It was an easy thing for me to do.”
Waters never played volleyball until she entered eighth grade.
“It came last for me, but I also picked it up pretty quickly,” Waters said.
By the time she entered Secaucus High School, Waters knew of the school’s tradition of developing versatile athletes. She knew of Nicole Degenhardt (2006) and Cory Roesing (2007), two former Patriots who earned Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year honors. Waters was good friends with another former Patriot standout, Jenna Totaro, who earned the 2008 award for the top female athlete in Hudson County.
“I’m really close with Jenna,” Waters said. “She’s always been like a role model to me. I always looked up to her. I knew that Secaucus always had good female athletes. I wanted to be the next one. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I made it my goal.”
Incredibly, Waters’ volleyball coach at Secaucus was Tiffany Meyer, who during her high school days as Tiffany Aciz was the 2000-2001 Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Year, at a time when the only one award was presented by the newspaper chain among males and females. Meyer was the trendsetter who set the tone for the rest of the athletes to follow.
“It’s such a tough thing to think about, yet an amazing thing, that we’ve had so many kids who have done this,” Meyer said. “I think Secaucus is the type of town that is really dedicated to sports. We’ve all been playing sports since we can walk and we all stuck with it. It’s amazing that we’ve all come from the same town.”
Meyer was asked about Waters’ propensity to pick up volleyball so quickly.
“She really did become so good so fast,” Meyer said. “She fell in love with the sport and once she learned how to play, she was always the first one at practices, always asking questions, always wanting to learn more about the game.”
Waters said that she had to work the hardest in volleyball.
“I had to get all the techniques down and learn the rules,” Waters said. “Everything else came naturally.”
For her talents as a volleyball, basketball, and softball player, Waters has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year for the 2010-11 scholastic sports year, becoming the fifth Secaucus girl out of 11 honorees to receive the year-end honor.
Waters received her award last week from Hudson Reporter Editor-in-Chief Caren Matzner.
What makes Waters’ achievements this year even more astounding is the way she rebounded after suffering a serious injury in her very last high school basketball game.
“I was going up for a rebound and when I came down, I got hit from a different angle and my shoulder popped out,” Waters said. “I knew right away it was bad.”
Waters suffered a dislocated shoulder, an injury that might have sidelined a lot of athletes for the entire spring season.
“I went to the doctor and he initially said that it would take a couple of months,” Waters said. “It was the worst experience of my life. It was kind of upsetting, thinking I wouldn’t be able to play softball, but it was my senior year and I was determined to play. I knew I wasn’t going to be as strong as I always was, but I was going to play. I definitely didn’t have the mindset of not playing. I was going to play no matter what. I just loved being out there, the feeling of playing. I wanted to play all the time.”
All of her coaches agreed on one thing: There was no tougher athlete than Waters.
“Shannon would get bulldozed over and get up and laugh,” said Meyer, who announced her resignation as volleyball coach as she is pregnant with her second child. “That’s the type of kid Shannon is. She wanted to go faster and harder. That’s how tough of an athlete she was.”
“I noticed right from the start that she went hard in everything,” said girls’ basketball coach John Sterling. “She won every sprint in practice. She pushed herself to the limit. She had the mindset that she was going to play with the utmost intensity. I watched her fall, dive, crash into someone, then get up and laugh. Her toughness had no comparison. She’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached.”
Waters ended her career as the school’s No. 3 all-time leading scorer.
“After she got hurt, she could have easily not played softball, but she wanted to come back,” softball coach Cherryl Bott said. “She’s just a tough kid. I think we all agree about that.”
Bott, who was a three-sport herself in high school at Rutherford, likes the fact that Secaucus promotes versatility.
“In a small Group I school, it’s something we have to promote,” said Bott, who also once coached basketball at Secaucus. “I think we encourage our athletes to play three sports. We encourage versatility. It makes them better all-around athletes and people. If it’s a trend that we keep producing [Athletes of the Year], then it’s a trend we want. We all preach and believe in the same thing.”
Bott was asked what she’ll miss most about Waters.
“Her sense of humor,” Bott said. “She’s definitely a special kid. We developed a strong relationship over the last four years and when everything was said and done, she always smiled and laughed. Just walking into a room, Shannon had the ability to make me laugh.”
Meyer said the same thing.
“She always had that same smile on her face, no matter what she did,” Meyer said. “She was just happy to play.”
Waters is headed to Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Del. in the fall, where she will major in sports management.
“It’s an amazing feeling to have accomplished all I have,” Waters said. “When I think of all I’ve done and to get this award, it’s the best feeling. I knew the others who got it from Secaucus. I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. I think it’s just a credit to all the hard work everyone puts in this town. We play to win in Secaucus. We want to win and it comes with hard work and dedication.”
It’s definitely no longer just a trend. Chances are that another Secaucus female athlete will receive the Female Athlete of the Year award in the future. It’s almost become commonplace, as incredible as that may seem.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.
You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.
HUDSON REPORTER FEMALE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
1994-1995-Cheri Selby, St. Dominic Academy
2000-2001-Tiffany Aciz, Secaucus
2003-2004-Mercedes Nunez, Memorial
2004-2005-Christine Capetola, St. Dominic Academy
2005-2006-Nicole Degenhardt, Secaucus
2006-2007-Leslie Njoku, McNair Academic & Cory Roesing, Secaucus
2007-2008-Jenna Totaro, Secaucus
2008-2009-Jennifer Mateo, Union City
2009-2010-Ashley Barron, Hoboken
2010-2011-Shannon Waters, Secaucus