Ball defining character, on and off the field

When one thinks of sports from a team perspective, the main goal is to win games.

However, sports, from a personal standpoint, should help reveal character that goes far beyond a win or a loss in an athletic event.

Through the game of soccer, and her work on and off of the field of play, in general, it’s clear that Olivia Ball gets what sports are supposed to provide as a whole.

On the soccer pitch, Ball has not only played in every single game of her college career, but has started in every one of those 50 available contests. Academically, Ball holds a 4.0 grade-point-average while majoring in business marketing — and is doing that, plus balancing a full-time soccer slate, while gaining valuable work experience as a marketing intern at Big Sandy Superstore.

Yes, Olivia Ball, both mentally and physically, is sharper than iron.

Now, as her final women’s soccer season approaches, the senior hopes to put the icing on the proverbial cake by leading the Shawnee State women to their best season in school history.

Sure, it’s a tough task.

But who would doubt the Greenup County High School graduate? After all, look at what she’s accomplished so far.

“It is very rewarding, especially to see how far our program has come and how much my fellow seniors, teammates, and I have grown over the years,” Ball said. “Being a Bear has been one of the highlights of my life, and it’s bittersweet to know that it’s coming to an end soon. To have been able to wear SSU on my chest with pride over the last four years has been an absolute privilege and a time that I will absolutely cherish.”

From the outset, the ball was literally laid at Olivia’s feet. Since she was three, she pursued her passions with the game of soccer, all while picking up tennis, cross country, and basketball along the way inside the Greenup County School System.

However, it was clear that from the start, soccer was Ball’s game.

Over her four seasons at Greenup County High School, Ball was a model of consistency as the four-year starter posted between 19 to 23 goals in each of her four seasons with Greenup County — including a school-record eight in one game against Sandy Hook (Ky.) Elliott County — en route to collecting 84 goals for her career, all while posting more than 40 assists during that same span. As a result, Ball was a four-year All-63rd District honoree and a three-time Ashland Daily Independent All-Area selection in the sport.

Most impressively, she accomplished those feats while essentially serving as a coach on the pitch.

“It was definitely a learning experience,” Ball said. “Being only one of two players to play club at Greenup, I had to step up and be a leader each year and help teach and guide my teammates. Over half of our team had never touched a soccer ball before, so it challenged me to be patient and encouraging at all times when playing. The competition in the 63rd District was pretty good, but I felt like we held our own each year. There were some Shawnee players that helped coach our team, and they really pushed me and helped me to prepare to play at the next level. I loved my time at Greenup as a Musketeer, and am thankful for my coaches and teammates that helped me to get to where I am today.”

As with sports, Ball remained a model of consistency off of the floor as well. She was the president of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) unit, and won a state championship in that realm while also serving on the Kentucky Youth Advisory Executive Committee. Not surprisingly, the straight-laced Ball ended up being the school’s valedictorian as a result.

Her relentless attitude, both academically and athletically, led to Ball obtaining a chance to play at Shawnee State, where she has since proven herself as one of the program’s most durable standouts on the pitch en route to not missing a single game with a year to play in her college career — all while adapting to three different head coaches during her time at Shawnee State. With Natasha Ademankinwa, Ball sees a coach that is relentless in her work ethic and desire to push the SSU women’s soccer program to the next level.

“Coach Ademakinwa has been one of the hardest-working and most caring coaches that we’ve had,” Ball said. “She is very passionate about what she’s doing, and puts all of her time and effort into the program. She sets very high expectations and pushes her players to be the best that they can be, both on and off of the field. She is taking our program to new heights and we will definitely succeed with her at the reigns.”

The same, however, can be said for her senior teammates. Like Ball, Jill Kelly holds a perfect 4.0 GPA and has been durable, playing in 49 games while starting 45 of them, while Destiny Chester has posted 13 goals and four assists over her career despite missing parts of two seasons due to injury. Then, there’s Clarissa McKinney, who has, like Kelly, proven to be versatile by playing in multiple areas on the pitch.

“I love my senior teammates dearly,” Ball said. “Playing with them has been so awesome because they each are so different and amazing in their own way. Each one of them always gives it their all on the field, and are always willing to put in 110 percent for our team. Not only do they work hard, but these seniors have also been the most encouraging group that I’ve ever played with. We all get along so well and are working hard to make our last season the best in SSU women’s soccer history.”

Professionally, Ball looks to be well on her way toward a promising career. She’s interned with Big Sandy’s corporate offices throughout her college career in addition to obtaining her perfect 4.0 GPA, and hopes to continue working with them upon her graduation from SSU in the fall.

“I feel like I have been prepared to enter my field of work,” Ball said. “After graduation, I hope to continue to work for Big Sandy Superstore in their marketing department, and possibly go on to get my MBA. (SSU Business Administration Assistant Professor) Jason Lovins has gone above and beyond to ensure that I am fully prepared before I graduate. Academically, I also feel like I have learned how to properly manage my time and responsibilities. I have nothing but great things to say about Shawnee State’s ability to prepare their students for the workforce.”

Still, it wouldn’t hurt to put icing on the cake that Ball has created — which would come if the Bears can accomplish the goals that have been set out in front of them.

“As a team, I hope that we can pull out the winningest season in program history and either win or rank top-three in our conference,” Ball said. “The ultimate goal is to win our conference this year and go on to nationals. I also hope to make my last season my best and crush my personal goals that I have set for myself. It will be my final season of soccer and my final semester of undergraduate school, so I want to go out with a bang.”