Burbank High's Katie Hooper multitasks to success in two sports

When she arrived at Burbank High as a freshman, Katie Hooper was determined to play multiple sports.

Along with softball, Hooper competed in girls' volleyball and girls' soccer. However, after enjoying a successful sophomore season on the diamond for the Bulldogs, Hooper said she began to hear rumblings that she should specialize in one sport and not divert her efforts among multiple endeavors.

"There were some people who did tell me that," said Hooper, who earned All-CIF Southern Section Division II honors after batting .539 with 48 hits, 45 runs batted in, 32 runs scored and nine home runs as a sophomore in 2010. "People said I should just concentrate on softball and that way I would have a better chance at getting a college scholarship."

Although an accomplished goalkeeper, Hooper did give up soccer after two years after helping Burbank to two postseason appearances and a second-place finish in the Pacific League in 2010.

However, she just couldn't stop playing volleyball.

"I have to admit I did think of giving up volleyball a little bit," Hooper said. "But playing volleyball kind of took my eye off of softball for a little bit and it helped give myself a little break from softball.

"But I've always wanted to play whatever sport is out there. Even when I was little, I liked to play all kinds of sports."

While some coaches might frown on an athlete from their team competing in another sport, Burbank softball Coach Nicole Drabecki had no problem with Hooper's choice.

"I think it was great that Katie was able to play multiple sports," Drabecki said. "Playing different sports lets you use different muscle groups and gives you a different perspective of what you need to do to be successful in that particular sport. It was very good for her because it also gave her a little break from playing softball all the time."

Even when she signed a softball scholarship with Cal State Northridge, Hooper said the program's coaches encouraged her to keep playing volleyball.

"They were really on board with me playing multiple sports and they even came out and watched a few of my volleyball games," Hooper said. "They were really supportive of me."

Hooper's dedication came to fruition in her senior campaign during the past school year. She helped both the volleyball and softball teams win Pacific League championships, as well as snap long-standing title droughts in the process. In addition, she proved to be a leader for her Bulldogs teams and enjoyed success in both sports.

It is because of those accomplishments that Hooper has been named the 2012-13 Burbank Leader Female Athlete of the Year.

Hooper's senior season began with a daunting task as a member of the Bulldogs' volleyball team. The team was attempting to win the program's first Pacific League championship in 37 years.

The Bulldogs came into the season after losing just one senior to graduation. That experience paid dividends, as Burbank rattled off a string of victories and showed that it was going to be a force in league.

Hooper said that experience, coupled with fluid team chemistry and a group of players who were focused on winning a title, contributed to the Bulldogs' early success.

"We were just all really focused on winning a league title, that was on all of our minds," said Hooper, an outside hitter. "We worked really well together and we knew how important it was for us to finally get the title."

The Bulldogs (18-4) went on to share the league crown with Arcadia after the teams split their two league contests.

Intense and focused on the court, Hooper emerged as a leader for the Bulldogs.

"With the way she can be intense, everyone understands that she is aggressive because she wants the best for the team," teammate Stephanie Eskander said. "That's the way she is because she cares."

For her contributions, Hooper was named an All-Pacific League first-team selection after tallying 94 kills, 220 digs and 18 aces.

Hooper was able to make a seamless transition from one winning program to another when she joined the softball team after succeeding in volleyball. However, she and her teammates were focused on breaking another extended league-title futility streak, as the Bulldogs were attempting to win a championship for the first time in 26 years.

Hooper was coming off a junior season in which she had to battle back after having shoulder surgery the summer after her sophomore campaign. After a lot of work and a great deal of effort, she was able to rehab and enjoyed a wildly successful junior softball season, batting .467 with 42 hits, 39 runs batted in, 11 home runs and 45 runs scored.

"When I had the injury and I had to have surgery, it was really mentally tough," said Hooper, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in her right throwing shoulder. "I had played sports all my life and having to take a break and not being able to play because of an injury was really tough.

"But I just told myself that I'm going to work my butt off to come back from this surgery and it's not going to stop me from reaching my goals."

Drabecki said it was Hooper's dedication and her desire to come back from the surgery that helped her through rehab.

"She is just a very hard worker," Drabecki said. "Sometimes she would just be exhausted after practices because she worked so hard. But that's just the kind of player she is.

"You know, when you have a kid who is as competitive as Katie is, it's hard to sit out and work your way back after an injury like that. But she did an amazing job with her physical therapy and she worked very hard to be able to play like she did."

With Hooper and standout sophomore pitcher Caitlyn Brooks leading the way, the Bulldogs steamrolled through the Pacific League, going 14-0 and securing the undisputed title.

Although Burbank (25-3) captured its first league championship since 1987 and was seeded No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, it lost in the second round to Sunny Hills, 8-7, in eight innings.

Hooper did her part to contribute to the team's success, earning first-team all-league and All-Area accolades after hitting .526 with 40 hits, 21 RBI, 25 runs scored and five home runs.

With her high school career now over, Hooper said she can reflect back on her senior year with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

"It was just amazing being able to win the two league titles," Hooper said. "That was my goal with both teams. We just wanted to do it for the seniors and finally win the league championships that we hadn't won in a very long time. It was just great that we were able to do that."

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