A Mental Edge

BYJess Caron

Interview and Story by Emma Breer


More often than not, we hear about dual sport athletes facing massive problems. How can you keep pace with the player whose pure focus is softball and only softball? Eliana Van Horn had some contradictions to that statement. Van Horn is a part of Shorewood High School’s 2026 graduation class and pitches for the KB Fastpitch 16u team. Recently, Van Horn had been selected as the NWFL Player of the Month in January, something chosen among numerous nominations based on leadership and statistics; she also earned a badge in the Alliance’s new trophy case. Van Horn enjoys going to Alliance tournaments because it’s a “great opportunity to showcase different people who are succeeding.” Since each team has to qualify to attend these tournaments, Van Horn knows she’ll get to play high-caliber talent and looks forward to “(grinding) out” each win.


Van Horn started playing softball because of her brother. She grew up going to his baseball games and enjoyed being on the sidelines. After watching for a while, Van Horn decided that she wanted to play too. She started out playing for a summer baseball team, then started playing softball when the opportunity was available. From there, she grew into a leader on and off the field. Coach Joe Hauck, the head coach of the KB Fastpitch team, says part of their team culture is to lead in “whatever field they choose,” and provide empathy for teammates. “(Van Horn) checks off” these boxes. After giving softball a shot, it just stuck for Van Horn, and she fell in love after that.


She finds joy in the game and the people around her within it. She remembers going to Alliance Nationals in Indianapolis, a weeklong tournament. She enjoyed the high-caliber competition, but the length of the tournament also provided opportunities for team bonding. Van Horn remembers going “for frozen yogurt millions of times” and doing karaoke when they weren’t playing. Everyone acknowledged they were getting obnoxious and noisy, but Van Horn says it was “fun because it was like they were in their own little world.”


Van Horn is passionate about softball, but what does she do outside of softball? Van Horn is a wrestler. Her brother also inspired her to wrestle. When she started in eighth grade, he had already been wrestling for three years (five years today). Van Horn went into eighth grade trying to think of something to do outside of softball, and that’s when her brother pressured her to try. When she started wrestling, she went into it with the mentality of “If I don’t like it, I don’t have to continue doing it.” After continuing to wrestle in ninth grade, though, these thoughts changed from a “we’ll see” attitude to enjoying the sport. Van Horn loves the girls she’s surrounded by and feels like she’s in a “tight-knit community.” Considering there aren’t many women in the sport, “It’s such an empowering atmosphere,” Van Horn said. “If you can survive on the mat, you can put up with anything put your way.”


She saw this empowerment in their regionals match last year and their district title match this year. Last year, they won the regional title, something her school had never done before, let alone the girl’s wrestling program. Van Horn thought it was “really cool to be a part of something” like that, especially since it was an achievement that increased the perspective that girls are capable of wrestling. This achievement pushed Van Horn and her teammates to continue taking steps forward, as seen in their district title match this season. It was a tough match and Van Horn thought it was “awesome to see everyone ban together…(to grind) out through tough matches.” After winning the match, Van Horn claimed it felt like a relief. They had worked extremely hard to reach that point and to “see their work was for something…was really cool.”


There’s plenty of conflict when it comes to dual sport athletes. As far as Van Horn’s case, there were plenty of time overlaps between softball practice and wrestling matches; they were fortunate that wrestling season didn’t conflict with tournaments. Van Horn is immensely grateful that Coach Hauck is very understanding. She did “have to miss days of wrestling for travel ball,” but she also had “to miss some days of (softball) practice for wrestling.” Van Horn appreciates that her coaches are accommodating and allow her to do both. Because of this, she feels she’s able to change priorities for what’s most important for her at that moment. Whether it’s softball, wrestling, or simply taking care of her physical health, Coach Hauck has been very understanding. Part of why they’re so understanding, though, is the competitive benefits they gain from her participation in wrestling.


“Every kid is on their own path.” Coach Hauck said. “The kid needs to determine what’s best for them.” He doesn’t get immensely strict with practice with his dual sport athletes, especially when he can notice the positives. Through wrestling, Van Horn works more on her strength and her endurance. Because of wrestling, she spends more time in the weight room. Coach Hauck has also noticed that, because of wrestling, she’s grown “into a better pitcher through velocity and endurance.” He’s also noticed a change in her mental edge. Outside of her physical improvements, wrestling has offered a one-on-one type of competition you can’t always get from team sports. The pressure of winning or losing has provided her with a different mental edge, something huge when she’s in the circle.


There are plenty of downsides to being a dual sport athlete, but the upsides can prove just as impactful, as seen through Van Horn and her journey as a wrestler.


Van Horn placed 1st in districts and 4th in regionals to make it to State during the 2024 season

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