Payton Cooley, Elkhorn Athletic Association
2020 Scholarship Award Recipient
Elkhorn Athletic Association (EAA) 2020 scholarship winner Payton Cooley gains strength from her family. “My family is my rock,” she said. “I don’t think there is anything like seeing my great-grandparents or parents in the stands.” She stays motivated to be a good athlete and all around good person not only for herself, but also for them. “They have sacrificed a lot of their own time to help me and my two sisters find success in school, on the courts, and on the fields.”
Cooley started out playing tee-ball at age four and fell in love with it. She’s been playing softball with EAA for almost twelve years, playing with some of the same girls since she was nine. “We are a close-knit group that wants each other to find success! I love the sense of family within this team.” She believes being on a team has helped her learn how to love, care, and stay positive for others in the face of adversity.
This was never more important than when one of her teammates had a flare-up of health issues at the end of Cooley’s sophomore year and later passed away. “We had to really come together as a team to handle the loss of our old teammate. Before every game, we would huddle together and holler ‘FTG.’ This is an acronym for Fire Tests Gold, a phrase used by the ancient philosopher, Seneca. This phrase means that in the face of adversity and conflict, a person’s true character can be refined and bettered.” This became the team motto that they have continued to use ever since then.
In addition to playing EAA softball, Cooley also played basketball and soccer. She was senior class president at Elkhorn High School as well as on National Honor Society, student council, and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions). She will continue to be busy as she attends Doane University in the fall, playing soccer and softball as well as pursuing a major in education and a minor in Spanish. In the future, she hopes to one day become a teacher and a coach, but she also hopes to pay forward all the sacrifices her family has made by raising her own kids to love sports as much as she does.