For years, Erin Scholz spent much time looking back and reminiscing.
She would think about her days as a basketball player, leading Doherty High School to its first state high school championship in 1992, then later playing at the University of Colorado as that program reached its zenith of national prominence.
But Scholz, now 32, would rather not relive the past anymore for two reasons, one that will be a surprise for those who haven't been around her for 15 years.
First, she's far too busy enjoying the present, working as an assistant women's coach at Utah State.
"Our program has grown by leaps and bounds," Scholz says as she heads into her third year on the staff of head coach and former CU teammate Raegan (Scott) Pebley. "It's a really great situation here."
Second, she finally has moved beyond many tormented years of psychologically beating herself up.
Stuck in a moment
Despite all of her personal achievements, Scholz couldn't stop herself from focusing on the shortcomings. Instead of that state title at Doherty and high school All-American honors, she might think about not winning state as a senior in 1993. Instead of a college career good enough to keep her a fixture in CU's record book, she would dwell on the defeats, or how each season ended with a tough NCAA loss (to national powers Stanford, Auburn, Georgia and finally Tennessee).
"I finally got to the point where I just couldn't look back, because I'd get stuck there," Scholz says. "I carried a sense of failure and falling short in my playing career with me for a very long time. It always seemed like there was such a high standard, and I was trying to reach it, but it was elusive. I really struggled with a lot of shame and feeling that I was a failure."
After her years at Colorado, Scholz was set to tackle the pro level then backed away. She tried going back to school, but couldn't make herself even go to class.
"Looking back, I know that I was so ashamed and so angry that I was shutting down," she says, referring to the years between 1997 and 2001 as a time when "a paralysis of fear and depression" left her "withdrawn, relatively lifeless."
At one point, spending time with her father David living in Nashville, Tenn., Scholz decided to take up women's boxing. At 6-foot-3, with agility and toughness from basketball, Scholz felt she could go far. She trained extensively, and was ready for her first amateur fight ... until the same dark fears pulled her away again.
After seven years removed from basketball, including time living in Denver near her mother, Jill, Scholz made a comeback with the Colorado Chill of the National Women's Basketball League. She helped her teams win two NWBL titles before the league folded after the 2006 season.
Then came a phone call from her former teammate, Pebley, saying she had an opening on her staff. The Utah State program, dormant until Pebley took over in 2002, has progressed in many ways. It's sort of like what Scholz has gone through in her own life.
"It's been a big transition, and I still need to have a lot more personal growth," Scholz says. "But what has made being here now turn out so well is working for someone like Raegan, who has known me so well for so long."
Now, at last, Scholz feels good about herself. Part of that is being at Utah State, where she is both happy and challenged. An even bigger part is her religion; she credits her relationship with God for helping her through the worst of times.
"It's still a day-by-day journey," Scholz says, but she appreciates working with young athletes "and helping them see some things I never saw at their age."
One can only hope that someday, Scholz will feel better about all she achieved, especially at CU. She helped the Buffaloes win the final two Big Eight women's titles, then the first Big 12 title in her senior season. She won all-conference honors on the court as well as academically. As for that CU record book, here's a sampling of where Scholz stands today:
1. Games played, 132. Games started, 127. Most free throws in a game, 12. Most rebounds, NCAA game, 19.
2. Career rebounds, 1,067.
4. Career points, 1,621.
5. Career free throws, 396.
9. Career assists, 344.
13. Career steals, 145.
During Scholz's years, Colorado went 27-5, 30-3, 26-9 and 23-9, a cumulative 106-26. As a junior, she became the first CU player to qualify for what the school calls its 500-200-50 club, totaling 544 points, 279 rebounds and 80 assists while earning All-Big Eight first-team and honorable mention All-America honors. After that season, CU head coach Ceal Barry gave Scholz the program's Ultimate Team Award.
That doesn't even count all that Scholz did in high school at Doherty, when the Spartans finally dethroned three-time defending champion Boulder in the 1992 Class 6A state final at Denver's old McNichols Arena.
"No one ever knew what was going on inside of me as an athlete," she says. "I have experienced being the star and being the role player ... and the intense battle with fear of failure that has been with me most of my life."
Then one day, looking through old scrapbooks, she started to cry. She also noticed some articles that talked about her off the court, such as when a Doherty teammate called Scholz "the most unselfish person in the world." Finally, she realized that "I was enjoyed and respected aside from my ability."
And now, at long last, Erin Scholz has a firm grip on her life. She loves coaching, enjoys speaking to groups and feels strong about her religion.
"I'm ready to make new memories," she says, "and achieve greater things."
Not just in sports, but in life.
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