Commentary

Cullum finds success on the field and in the classroom

Updated: April 6, 2009, 6:10 PM ET
By Garland Cooper | ESPNRISE.com

Playing a sport in high school makes for a busy year. Even during the offseason, there are practices, possibly club play and schoolwork.

[+] EnlargeKendra Cullum
Courtesy Cullum FamilyKendra Cullum has defied the odds by excelling in school and in sports.

Imagine the challenge of playing three sports and taking the toughest classes the school offers. That is the challenge that Kendra Cullum, a junior at Conroe (Texas) High School, faces every day.

Cullum is not only a stud softball player but also has been a starter on the varsity volleyball and varsity basketball squads since beginning high school. On top of that, she has a schedule full of Advanced Placement and pre-AP classes. It doesn't seem to be a problem for her, as Cullum maintains a 4.5 grade point average.

How on Earth is it feasible for one high school student to conquer the toughest academics possible, along with three sports?

"People ask me that a lot, but there is no perfect answer," Cullum said. "I just get it done. Sometimes it means staying up late, sometimes it means waking up early. I just do what it takes to get it done."

With that kind of attitude, it is no wonder the Kansas commit has had no problem overcoming challenges that have come her way. Luckily, she always has been self-motivated with strong support at home.

"My parents have always told me that everything was up to me. Whatever makes me happy is what they want me to do," Cullum said. "They have helped me through it all."

With the support of her parents, she has taken on a heavy workload, all at her own discretion.

"My parents have been there for me, but they don't push; I push myself," she said. "I'm a perfectionist, so when I don't do as well as I would like, I punish myself so my parents never have to."

Yet some have doubted Cullum's ability to multitask on such a great scale.

"People try to discourage me all the time," she said. "Going into my freshman year, a lot of people said I wouldn't make it and that I wouldn't be able to do it. When people say things like that, it just fuels the fire and pushes me even more. It just makes me want to prove them wrong."

Even when she was being recruited, she faced some negative feedback from college coaches, who wanted to her focus on softball.

"My sophomore year, when I started going on visits, some of the coaches told me they wouldn't want me playing other sports because they didn't want me to get hurt," Cullum said. "That just made me realize I didn't want to go to those schools."

Her love for all three sports kept her in the game.

"I started playing softball when I was 4, and I played basketball around that time, too. I have an older brother, and we used to play basketball together. I started volleyball a little bit later, but I still was only 9 or 10," she said.

Looking ahead to college, Cullum realizes softball will be her focus. She always has played three sports, and even though she will miss playing two of them, she looks forward to concentrating on one activity.

"I am looking forward to just playing softball in college. I am excited to see if I can take my own game to a new level by just concentrating on one sport," she said. "By concentrating on just softball, I not only want to become the best player I can, but I want to grow and help others love the game as much as I do."

Cullum said she will continue to enjoy playing the other sports. "Basketball and volleyball will always be a part of my life," she said. "I don't just love to play them, I love to watch them. Volleyball is a lifetime sport, and I will be at one of the best schools to watch some of the best basketball."

Although deciding to focus on one sport was tough, Cullum never doubted that softball would be the sport she would take to the next level.

"I had some schools let my basketball coach know that they were interested in talking to me about playing basketball, but there is no doubt in my mind that I am a softball player first," she said.

After playing in college, Cullum will have played softball for almost 20 years. She wants to stay connected to the sport as long as she can.

"My goal and dream is to be a Division I college softball coach," Cullum said. "I'll major in sports management at Kansas. I don't ever want to be away from the sport."

Garland Cooper covers high school softball for ESPN RISE.