Cassie Mullen

S: Do you have any questions before we start?
C: I was just wondering if you played any sports yourself.
S: Yeah, yeah I play basketball and ultimate frisbee. I’ve played like soccer and tennis before in grade school but I only do basketball and ultimate for high school.
S: So can you kinda just like describe your athletic resume like what sports you did or do and how long?
C: Sure, I guess my mom would be disappointed if i didn’t give her credit for dragging me to my first soccer practice when I was 6 or something. I was a very shy kid so I didn’t want to go and I was begging her to not make me go and after the practice I trodded back to the car happily and had a fantastic time. Um, and I played soccer ever since. I picked up basketball in middle school and then I picked up tennis in high school. At Bush I played four years soccer basketball and tennis. All four years I was on the varsity teams. Won tennis state my sophomore year – I had a very good partner, I think that’s why I won. Got second in State my junior year, but senior year dropped down to sixth. Nonetheless… Soccer I was good enough to be captani as a sophomore, junior, and senior. Basketball played a lot throughout my life and was one of the highest scorers in Bush’s history. Scored over 1000 points.
S: Oh wow!
C: Yeah! Seattle Times keeps leaderboards of who scores the most points um in any high school division West of the Cascades. In my sophomore, junior, and senior year I was first or second on that list, boys and girls. But the statistic that I’m most proud of from high school is that in my junior year I averaged 1 charge a game.
S: Hahaha nice.
C: It was an undervalued statistic *laughs*. But yeah, I played basketball in college, Carleton College, a D3 school. um, my claim to fame or my one fun statistic from that is in games I made 100% of the free throws I took which sounds cool but probably means I Didn’t shoot enough free throws. Graduating, I still played a lot of soccer. Currently two but sometimes three soccer teams, we play on weekends. I sometimes play pickup basketball. And I just joined an ultimate frisbee team in the Spring that actually one of my soccer teammates put together.
S: That’s a lot!
C: I tried to summarize!
S: That’s cool. Yeah my ultimate coach started playing ultimate because one of her soccer teammates joined an ultimate team and got her to join.
C: Yeah! It’s a ton of fun.
S: Yeah I enjoy it. So my next question – I know you touched on this earlier – but what got you into each of the sports you did, like what drew you in?
C: Um, I, *laughs*, that’s a very interesting question. Uh, I was – and still am, though people don’t believe it anymore – a pretty shy kid and so I wasn’t inclined to be very outgoing or talkative or make different friends. But I was always naturally good at different sports I played and sports for me were a way to make friends and be accepted and excel without having to like, um, put myself out there, talk to people or like in an uncomfortable sort of way. That’s what always kept me going to them. I like team sports more um, because of the camaraderie that you get ehnw the team comes together and melds well – it’s much more benefactory (?). I guess I like – compared to my sister who likes dabbling in all sports – I like getting really good at the sports I do play. Which is why when you start playing soccer or basketball or whatever, you start getting better and it’s more fun because you’re doing well and winning and feeling good about yourself and that just makes it more fun so you want to play more so you continue those sports.
S: Awesome. Yeah, did you have any athletic role models?
C: Hmm. Um, that’s an interesting question. I had a lot of great coaches throughout my careers in sports. I think I always really looked up to them. The fact that they’re taking time out of their lives to teach me not only the skills that are involved in sports but also like sportsmanship, how to lose, and any time a coach would get on the field or on the court and prove just how good they were it always made me wanna fight a little bit harder, take the ball away from them, or work a bit more because I just wanna get better.
S: Yeah I agree. Um, next question. What were some like – if any – obstacles growing up through your sports.
C: Um, kind of ironically, my dad was less excited about em playing sports than my mom. I think because my mom’s more athletic than my dad is. I remember once my dad was talking to my mom and didn’t realize I was in the other room and I could hear and he was frustrated because I wasn’t doing very well at my piano lessons. And he was like, “if she spent as much time on piano as she does playing soccer she’d be really good at piano,” and my mom replied like, “well she doesn’t like playing piano and she likes playing soccer.” So sometimes people aren’t always supportive with what you wanna do and occasionally you get a really non great coach. My college basketball coach, er, so I went to Carleton and there was a really respected coach who retired after my freshman year. We got a new coach my sophomore and junior and senior year and she uh, was not the best coach to put it mildly. She kinda took all the joy away from the game for me, at least. Any my dedication to my teammates is what made me come back year after year but it really took the love of the game away from me. It was a couple years after college when I started playing basketball again because the love was gone, but once I started again with friends and other people, the joy of the game came back. I also had injuries along the way. MY knee still bothers me sometimes. Um, but, you always do the physical therapy and make it back and hope you don’t have too many traumatic memories from it.
S: Yeah, injuries are so tough, I’m familiar. I tore my ACL in a basketball game and, oh my gosh, my friend, she tore three ligaments in her knee and dislocated her kneecap in basketball too. Getting back is rough but it’s so worth it after.
C: Oh wow, yeah definitely it’s worth it. But even if you want to move the same, after you always have that little bit of hesitation.
S: Yeah.
C: So intellectually, don’t be afraid even if it’s hard.
S: Yeah, I remember –
C: When did you tear your ACL?
S: At the end of my basketball season last year – so my junior year.
C: Ah, okay.
S: Yeah, so I was cleared in the middle of December of this school year. So I was able to play most of my basketball season.
C: Oh good!
S: Yeah! But it was interesting because I had that mindset of like, “Ooh, I don’t want to hurt it again,” so I played really cautiously.
C: Yeah. And then at least for me, when you’re worried about being injured again you don’t play as well and you get frustrated about not being as good as you should be.
S: Yeah I had the same thing. My old coach told me lots that if I just didn’t get injured I would be so much better.
C: Yeah.
S: But I’ll keep playing so I’ll get better!
C: Haha yeah exactly!
S: Yeah! So my next question: did you face any obstacles specifically from being a woman in athletics?
C: Um, I think I realized recently that I benefited a lot from Title IX. Mostly growing up it was acceptable and understandable that I played a lot of sports and I never got any pushback. I noticed that most when I’m travelling – and I still love to play so I try to play pickup soccer – and when I try to play most people are like, “Oh, really… what are you tryna do there…” But my favorite thing is – I’ve actually come to really enjoy that. Because people underestimate me that means 1. I can only do better than their expectations and 2. when they underestimate you it’s really easy to embarrass people. Boys jump wildly for pump fakes! It’s ridiculous. You pump fake a shot and you have an easy layup while they’re in the air, because they jump really high. Or, um, in like Latin American countries, you can have a ton of fun playing soccer once you prove a little bit that you can play, everyone’s super amazed at how well you do. Anytime you juke anyone out or do anything good, everyone’s always like, “oooooohhhhh!” It turns into a good thing. Mostly I love being underestimated – I’ve play a lot of coed sports and I’ve scored a lot because people assume that I couldn’t shoot and much to their chagrin…
S: Yeah that’s interesting. I definitely get that too. Did you ever feel like your sport was prioritized less than the boys teams?
C: Sometimes I feel like inherently the boys teams got the better spots like homecoming game was a soccer game and it was always the boys soccer game that got the coveted second position in the game order, even when the girls team had a stellar record and was probably gonna win and the boys team had a less-than-stellar record and was probably going to lose. But I don’t feel like it too much, at least when I was playing basketball, the girls games were more fun to watch – we always drew more fans.
S: That’s interesting! Now we’re pretty even in records but the boys definitely get a lot more fans. It’s interesting because their games are always last-
C: Hold on one sec Sophie…
*she left to go pay a guy who fixed her A/C*
S: So I just have a couple more questions. I wanted to know what playing D3 basketball was like and how the transition was from playing Bush to playing D3?
C: It was an interesting transition for me. I was very good at Bush and kind of a big athletic fish in a small athletic pond. Anyone who was really serious about basketball didn’t go to a small school like Bush. It was great experience for me, though. In college, everyone is much better at basketball naturally. I had to adjust from being clearly one of the best to fighting to um, be in the middle of the pack. It was also complicated because I dislocated my kneecap my senior year of high school so I was coming back off of that injury into college sports and playing with bettereope and feeling a little bit hesitant. It was like a slower transition then I ended up getting knee surgery my sophomore year. I had a new coach but I feel like my junior year was kind of like my freshman year and I had to prove myself to my coach who had never seen me play. She would only give me a couple of minutes of playing time i’m in the game. Fortunately one of my assistant coaches saw that I deserved more playing time and he vouched for me. By working hard i started proving myself more and even if I’m not the person scoring all the points in the game doesn’t mean I’m not a valuable asset on the court. MY head coach couldn’t see that because she’s not smart enough to realize, but the assistant coach was good at realizing who was affecting the game in ways that you can’t measure very easily in statistics.
S: How do you have so much time to play on so many teams?
C: I think – because I’m in medical school now, I’m actually about to graduate on Sunday!
S: Oh that’s so exciting! Congrats!
C: Thank you! Um, but I have at points in med school I‘ve been busier than I’ve ever been in my life. I did a surgical rotation for 12 weeks where I would be in the hospital from 4:30am and I would leave at 6:30pm 6 days a week. And it makes you go a little bit crazy and when you’re working and you have so little free time it really made me realize why it’s important and where I want to spend my time. So it sounds a little bit harsh but I wouldn’t hang out with people I didn’t really like. I was like, “Yeah I have a little bit of free time and I’m not wasting it on you.” And you realize what makes you happy and what keeps you sane and I like exercising and I like playing soccer and I like playing basketball so I prioritize those in my life and that’s not everyone’s priority and that’s totally fine but that’s what makes me happiest. For instance, my graduation on Sunday and I play on a Sunday night soccer team so my graduation diner I’m having my family come watch my soccer game and then my family and my soccer team are gonna go to the same bar that we always go to and eat the same grilled cheese we always eat after every soccer game because there’s no better way to celebrate in my mind than soccer and grilled cheese.
S: That sounds so nice.
C: Yeah! It should be fun.
S: Last question, at the end of my project I’m going to be presenting to young students about everything I’ve learned and my goal is to educate them on what it’s like growing up as a woman in athletics but also empower the young girls to play sports. So is there anything you’d like to tell them?
C: Um, I would say to them that: Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Some people think you shouldn’t or can’t be strong and be athletic because you’re a girl or a woman and that’s just plain false. And, it’s sometimes people will think less of you or automatically assume you’re not gonna be good at soccer or basketball because you’re a woman for for that matter, or for other things that there is this idea that women are worse at. And that’s only true if we let it be true. You can – I am better than most of the guys I play with ans they’re not bad at all. It’s really just about having fun.