I just wanted to play basketball. I wanted to play in college and had my sights on the Minnesota Gophers. I grew up watching Lindsay Whalen of the Minnesota Lynx and Carlie Wagner of the Minnesota Gophers. I wanted to do that.” – Alyssa Rostad, on her early years in basketball.
Alyssa Rostad graduated from Houston (Minnesota) High School in the spring of 2019 after setting many school basketball records. She was part of a team that won the conference championship in her junior year – the school’s first in girls basketball history. Rostad, who set the school’s career scoring record as a senior, wanted to play college ball, and she was determined early on to do just that.
Rostad started rising early every morning in seventh grade to do speed and agility workouts and to lift weights. With older football players at these workouts, Rostad was intimidated at first. However, as she continued to show up each day, she gained the respect of the older football players. Sometimes her friends would join her, and often she worked out with football players.
Rostad’s dad worked with her in the mornings as well. She began to incorporate basketball drills into the morning workouts as well. It was common to see Rostad in the gym by 6:30 in the morning doing either a basketball workout or lifting weights. She did this for six years in junior high school and high school.
Amazingly, Rostad was not a one-sport athlete. She played softball and volleyball, and was a manager in football, in addition to her favorite spot of basketball. She would often do basketball workouts during volleyball season, as an example. Rostad was focused and was willing to make sacrifices to achieve her goals.
Not surprisingly, Rostad missed some normal high school activities such as school dances, get-togethers or just hanging out because she had homework or needed sleep. She continued to keep her mind focused on her goal of playing college basketball.
Rostad was also involved in pep band, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was president of the Student Council. She found balance to do the things she wanted. She chose to be involved and to stay busy. Staying focused in activities allowed her to make good decisions when she was faced with choices that could have bad consequences.
As she got older and started driving, she would try to do things with friends. At one point, she went to a party and was offered a beer. There was a sense of pressure and also a sense of “I can’t do this.” She would respond with “no thanks,” knowing that becoming ineligible (according to the Minnesota State High School League eligibility bylaws) to play basketball would not allow her to reach her goals. She knew this was not the way she wanted to be with friends, and she did not want to give in to peer pressure.
Rostad began creating and organizing activities with her friends that did not involve alcohol. They watched movies on “Tuesday Student” nights during the summer. She hosted her own bonfires. They would go bowling, or just drive to the neighboring town for ice cream. Sometimes, they would just watch movies and “hang out.”
Rostad’s early years as an athlete had created a lot of pressure for her. She was asked to play junior varsity as a seventh grader. She always gave 100 percent but struggled when she missed shots as she felt she was letting her team down. She felt people had high expectations for her.
Rostad’s parents were supportive and would encourage her. She turned to her faith and wrote a Bible verse on her shoe as an encouragement to not get down on herself. It was not always easy playing with older girls, whose time was decreased as Rostad’s time increased. She started making good friends on the team and, by her sophomore year, had become a force to be reckoned with. She had become mentally stronger to handle the adversities.
Rostad’s confidence grew as her basketball coach pushed her. The harder Rostad worked, the more he would push. When she would get down or mad about a foul, he would wave it off. He worked her to become mentally tough and was getting her ready to play college ball. As a result, Rostad has the deepest respect for her high school coach. He is transformational in every sense of the word. As he pushed her on the court, he was preparing her for the future.
Rostad realized the Minnesota Gophers would not be calling – although they are still one of her favorite teams. She opened herself up to other colleges and tried to find a fit. Eventually, Rostad decided to attend Simpson College in Iowa, where she will play basketball in the 2019-20 season.
Sacrifices were definitely a part of Rostad’s high school days. She dated a few times but discovered trying to stay focused and making time with friends did not always fit with having a boyfriend. She liked going out with groups. She knows she missed some things, but by playing basketball, working out in the mornings and staying after practices, other opportunities and memories were created. She does not regret her high school life and the choices she made.
The fact is that Rostad made choices every day. She could have slept in instead of working out. She could have gone out with friends instead of doing her homework. She could have accepted that beer she was offered. Any of these simple decisions could have altered her life options. When she was feeling like she was missing time with friends, she created options for them, too. Although her classmates did not play basketball, they respected her decisions and ultimately joined her in the alcohol-free, creative activities they enjoyed together.
Lisa Myran-Schutte, CAA, is the athletic/activities director at Pine Island (Minnesota) High School after serving in a similar capacity at Houston (Minnesota) High School for several years. She is a member of the High School Today Publications Committee.