“Determination” is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end.” In the case of brother-sister duo, Dustin and KC McConnell, women’s basketball coach Helen Higgs and men’s tennis coach Mike Shanks, as well as teammate Drew Adams, said the McConnells are the living definition of determination and work ethic. Dustin, a junior, is a starter on the men’s basketball team and was named First Team All-Northwest Conference. Dustin plays tennis at No. 5 singles.
KC, a freshman this year, made a name for herself by playing in all 28 basketball games last season, as well as playing No. 3 doubles and No. 6 singles for tennis. KC earned honorable mention for the All-NWC team after this basketball season.
Dustin and KC grew up in Clarkston, Wash., and have been playing sports for as long as they can remember. The McConnells’ parents are physical education teachers in Clarkston. Sports became a central activity around which many family outings revolved, Dustin said.
“We used to go hit as a family so I’ve had a racket in my hand for quite a while,” KC said. “We’ve always done a million sports; basketball and tennis just kind of stuck.”
When KC began looking at various universities, ultimately her decision was made independently of Dustin, he said.
“I wasn’t going to try to influence her one way or the other,” Dustin said. “I knew how I felt about Whitworth and felt like it would’ve been a great fit for her as well. I wanted it to be her decision.”
The challenge of balancing two collegiate sports is inevitable, but the way the two sports complement each other provides knowledge and skills beyond what one game can teach, both McConnells said.
“Basketball is such a team-oriented sport,” Dustin said. “Tennis has a little more of an individual aspect. I kind of like that, how they complement each other and can help you in both situations.”
Playing two sports keeps things interesting and varied, KC said.
While both McConnells have been successful in basketball and tennis this year, they said there is no competition between them. The siblings are simply proud of each other’s accomplishments, they said.
“She’s done an unbelievable job,” Dustin said. “I think it just has to do with her unbelievable work ethic. She is definitely very deserving of all the success she’s had and I think she’ll continue to do very well.”
The good example that Dustin has always set for KC challenges her to get better and better, she said.
“It doesn’t really surprise me that he’s done that well because I see how hard he works,” KC said. “He deserves every bit of it. I’ve never seen somebody work that hard.”
The work ethic that Dustin and KC spoke of about each other was echoed and expanded upon by coaches as well as a teammate and friend. Since coaches are unable to officially orchestrate conditioning workouts, KC has taken it upon herself to make them happen, women’s head basketball coach Helen Higgs said.
“She’s a leader,” Higgs said. “They call her ‘Captain Conditioning’. She’s very focused, very driven.”
Although the extended basketball season interfered with the tennis season and took away from Dustin’s time on the team, his work ethic quickly became obvious, Shanks said.
“He beats some of the guys that have been playing longer just because of his determination,” Shanks said. “His speed around the court and his good determination is what makes [his opponents] press harder than they normally would and then make mistakes.”
Drew Adams, a freshman who also plays both basketball and tennis, grew up in Clarkston and has known the McConnells since birth, he said.
“[The McConnells] are always working,” Adams said. “They’re both really humble; they don’t try to bring themselves any attention which is really cool for how good of athletes they are.”
While both sports’ seasons have come to an end, the McConnells will spend the off-season staying in shape and preparing for next year’s seasons.
Contact Miranda Cloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org