In fourth grade, Helen Reynolds got her first taste of Ocean View High when she joined a club basketball team.
Paul Johnson’s Orange County Rebels youth basketball team held its practices in the campus’ gym now known as Jim Harris Gymnasium.
When Reynolds joined the student body years later, she thought of herself as a pretty good basketball player, but not a great athlete. She would make the girls’ volleyball varsity team before basketball came in the winter.
The senior class on the volleyball team that year possessed big personalities. Reynolds recalled their presence making her younger self feel small.
That feeling of insignificance was short-lived, in part, because Reynolds had grown to be a copycat in her youth.
“When I was younger, it was just kind of, ‘Whatever Drew does, I want to do that too,’ ” Reynolds said of her desire to follow her brother, Andrew.
“It was annoying to him, but this wasn’t a bad thing. He joined rec basketball and did it for two years. I was like, ‘I’m going to do that too.’ I joined, so that’s where I got my love for basketball.”
Her older brother had also tried out volleyball as a freshman, so naturally Reynolds wound up there as well.
Like her propensity for following in her brother’s footsteps, Reynolds picked up other traits as the year went on. She earned her place on the volleyball team, receiving most-improved honors among the entire team.
To look at Reynolds now, it is hard to imagine that she ever played second fiddle to any of her teammates. Not only is she a physical presence at 6 feet 1, but she is a loud and vibrant personality who commands the spotlight.
More than that, Reynolds has shown that she will not leave a teammate behind. She does not believe that there is a weak link to be found in the chain that is the Seahawks.
“We share the same vision [of winning] now, and she has taken a leadership role into that with the other girls and pushed them to be a part of the team,” Seahawks girls’ volleyball coach Joshua Nehls said.
“Before, we would see her get down on herself. She was come-and-go. Sometimes she was here mentally. Sometimes she wasn’t. Now, it’s like, ‘I don’t care what’s going on in my life, I’m going to be there because it’s bigger than me.’ ”
Reynolds has evolved into the ultimate team player. When she received Most Valuable Player honors after the Seahawks won the Garden Grove Santiago Tournament, her reaction was one of surprise.
She went so far as to say that she finds awarding an MVP, at least among her team, improper because everyone makes their own contributions.
“Some players have more stats than others, some people are louder, some people have more presence on the court, but it’s so weird to narrow it down to one MVP because it’s like the whole team together,” Reynolds explained.
Ocean View is 13-3 overall, 2-1 in the Golden West League going into Wednesday’s match against Westminster. Reynolds, a junior middle blocker, is first on the team in total blocks. She is also second in kills and service aces.
The maturity of Reynolds has made her invaluable to the team. Nehls said that anyone can talk to her, helping bridge the gap between the different grade levels.
“Even though she is not the senior, I still think that most of these girls look at her as the big sister,” Nehls said. “She is there for everyone. They know that they can talk to her. She is open. She is not going to think that she is better than you. She is always going to want to be better. She is vulnerable.”
“That’s why I think she is approachable to talk to. She is an all-around good person, and I think that vibe is given out to the rest of the girls. She would be the piece that brings it all together.”
Family influence was key in getting Reynolds into sports. That facet of her life has also played a major role in her exploring additional opportunities.
Her mom, Dina, could be found at all of the Seahawks’ varsity basketball games last year. She kept score for the team then. This year, she was asked to coach at the lower levels for Ocean View.
Digging deeper into the relationship between mother and daughter, it is clear to see why Reynolds stands out in big groups. She has been encouraged to become a well-rounded individual now before the time constraints of adult life become a factor.
“My mom is always like, ‘If you can do another thing, do it,’ ” Reynolds said. “ ‘Why not? This is your time to shine right now.’ ”
Reynolds is part of multiple student organizations on campus. She is involved with People Help People. Among its missions, the club will participate in an Alzheimer’s walk Saturday.
She is also in Worth, a club devoted to women’s empowerment.
Away from campus, Reynolds works for Fountain Valley’s Parks and Rec. It saw her referee her first youth basketball game. Despite the fact that the game was played between 8- and 9-year-olds, Reynolds had to fight through some nerves.
“I felt so stressed out,” she said. “I was literally reffing 8- and 9-year-olds, but I was like, ‘I’m going to mess it up,’ and I felt so bad because it was not a good game.”
Asked if she would be more understanding the next time a would-be block was called as a foul against her on the basketball court, Reynolds did not immediately know the answer.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s different when you’re in the ref’s shoes.”
Born: February 7, 2001
Hometown: Fountain Valley
Height: 6 feet 1
Weight: 160 pounds
Coach: Joshua Nehls/Kim Morris
Favorite food: Butternut Squash Soup
Favorite movie: “Head Over Heels”
Favorite athletic moment: Reynolds is most proud of making the varsity team in both of her sports as a freshman at Ocean View High.