Interview: Erica Grimaldi

Senior point guard Erica Grimaldi began her career at Vanderbilt as a walk-on. Now, three years later, she was elected a team co-captain along with juniors Dee Davis and Carla Thomas. Last month VandyMania talked with her about the summer and her thoughts on being a senior captain. Here's what she had to say.

VM: First, tell me about your summer, both from your own personal point of view and also the team. I understand you're a captain this year.

EG: Yeah. I'm excited about that. We choose our captains, and it is an honor to have the team choose you. I'm not a starter, but yet they still voted me a leader on the team, which I think is awesome, and something I don't take lightly. Dee and Carla are awesome to work with, and it's awesome to be on the other side, in terms of meetings with coaches about what can we do to bring this team to the next level, what is in our power, what can the coaches do, what can we all do to build it up.

VM: You have captains' meetings?

EG: Yeah. Sure. We have lots of those. We talk about how the week's going, what else can we do, and just being sure everybody is on the same page, like "This is where we've gotten to the past two years, we want to go further, How do we do that? How do we get there?" That's neat to see, because people are really putting everything they can into it.

VM: What else did you do over the summer?

EG: In May I did this internship with Athletes in Action. It was awesome. It was wonderful. I was there for 17 days.

VM: As an intern there, were you basically a counselor?

EG: No, basically, we're still learning, too. But we go five days early, and we get leadership training. Everybody went to the camp the year before as a camper. And it's all college athletes, 200 D1 college athletes, like Shanna Zolman from Tennessee, a girl from Rutgers, NC State, Arizona, Penn State. There's a ton of D1 basketball players.

We got to play pickup in the afternoons, which was awesome. You go through different principles, just basically how to worship God in your sport, and how to have that mindset of why are you doing what you're doing. Why are you putting all these hours in? So they go through different principles throughout the week, and then I'm learning, too. Like we're sitting there taking notes, but then we also have a small group that we lead of five or six girls in each group. And there are guys, too.

So there are five days of training. Then there's two full weeks of camp, so you're going through the camp with everybody. You're doing all the stuff, but you're also leading. You'll have small group breakdowns, and you'll lead those and the discussions. It's great because you're learning, but you're also learning by leading. It was just awesome. I learned a ton. It was just great.

So after that I came here, and we had summer school in June and July. It was good. I'm ready. I'm starting to get antsy. I'm getting tired of school a little bit, but-

VM: You'll finish up this year, right?

EG: Yep.

VM: I know you're an education major. Are you going to do student teaching this year?

EG: I'm going to student teach all spring. I don't know how yet, but it's going to work out.

VM: Do you know yet where you'll be placed?

EG: Yes. I'm doing seven and a half weeks at McGavock High School and seven and a half weeks at Woodlawn Middle. McGavock's a metro school, and Woodlawn is a Williamson County school. So that should be good.

VM: What subject will you be teaching?

EG: English. I'm teaching seniors and then seventh grade, so it's a big gap.

And then we had our car wash in June. It was a lot of fun, and we enjoyed it and it was a fun way to raise money, and it really was neat to have us bond in that way. The summer's a little more laid back than once fall starts in terms of workouts and in terms of classes. The coaches aren't as much here because they're recruiting, which is nice, too, because during the season you see them every day, so it is good to have a break.

VM: Did you get any time to spend with your family this summer?

EG: I did. Ten days at home before I went to Athletes in Action camp and then after summer ended, I got to go home for a week, which was awesome, just to be home. I got home like 11 o'clock Sunday night. I didn't know what I was going to do during break, but my mom woke me up at 6:30 Monday morning and said, "I'm going to work." She's a nurse at the school, and she had to be there that whole week getting ready so I was baby-sitting the whole week.

VM: Then you came back to school here in the fall. Tina Wirth arrived on campus and that made the team complete, which must be a good feeling.

EG: It's an awesome feeling.

VM: And you have a new strength and conditioning coach. How has that turned out?

EG: It's different. Lori is phenomenal at what she does. And Tasha (Weddle) is phenomenal at what she does, too. She really is great. She's coming in with very high expectations. She was a GA at Tennessee when they won national championships, and she's been at Purdue. It's the hardest workouts I've ever done in my life.

Like the last three running workouts are the three hardest workouts I've ever done in terms of just intensity. It's been good because it's going to take us to another level. So it's exciting. We're all exhausted. Nothing but positive things about her. She's great at what she does. She's positive. Like even today we had a 6:30 workout. We were all kind of down, just because it's been hard, and she was like, "I want you to know you guys are doing great. I'm very excited. Yes, I'm going to push you, but I do want you to know that your attitudes are awesome and you're working hard." So that was good to hear, that she sees both sides. She's not just pushing, pushing, pushing, but she also sees the positive. So that's been good.

VM: I understand that this year for the first time they've changed the rules on what you're allowed to do at this time of year before team practices really crank up. Can you talk about that?

EG: We get more time with the balls, and the coaches can watch pickup. Instead of two hours we have four hours a week that we can be doing workouts on the court. And the good thing about it though that I really respect the coaches for, we're not just doing a bunch of drills and plays right now so that when April comes, we won't be like, "Please shoot me, I'm so sick of basketball!" They understand that you can burn out real easily if you start in September running plays and doing drills that you're going to be doing for the next five months.

VM: For you, this is your senior year. Do you feel that?

EG: Yes, definitely. It is. This is the last year I'll be playing competitively, and just leaving it all out there. There's no doubt in my mind that we can win the national championship. It's totally something that we're believing in and going to strive for. And so it's pretty exciting because I think we're all getting on that page, we're all wanting it, and let's just see how much we can put into it. It's my last shot, enjoying it, not just working working working, but really enjoying my teammates and the camaraderie.

VM: I guess this is the last time you really have an experience that's like this.

EG: Yeah. Where you have that team bond and similar experiences like just eating together and sharing stories about how hard practice is or whatever, where you have those girls that you've bonded with in that way, in hard times and in good times. Yeah, I'm excited, and I think my attitude is more of just enjoying it, too. Yes, laying it all there, but just savoring each moment because it's the last. Not in a scary way, but in a good way.

VM: It's been a pretty incredible four years. I remember that first day when I saw you come in. It was like you were a high school girl who wandered into the weight room.

EG: I know. I'm so little. I feel like in pictures I look like a ball girl sometimes. But it's okay. It's funny though. This is who I am. I'm 5 foot 4. That's who I am, and I'm not going to try to change it.

Erica Grimaldi (VM/ Whitney D.)

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