Softball star gives back full scholarship in order to focus on her well being and her studies
A standout athlete for years, Mikelle Anthony and her family could pretty much bank on her earning a full-ride scholarship.
In November, she made it official. A senior at Skyview, Anthony signed with the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Her mother, Kim, also played softball there. Her father, Charles, played football there. They met there. And the plan was for their youngest daughter to excel there, as well.
This was the perfect story.
Or so it seemed.
Mikelle Anthony, though, was consumed with the pressures of being a Division-I athlete. Those thoughts, late at night, put her into a panic.
Earlier this spring, Mikelle gave up that scholarship.
“As soon as I made the decision, there was a huge ‘let-go’ of anxiety,” she said. “I felt so much better. I haven’t really looked back. I haven’t felt my decision was wrong. I feel good about it.”
Medical experts say experiencing anxiety is a normal part of life. For some, though, it can become abnormal, when people can be overcome with a persistent fear.
“Overarching doom,” Anthony described.
That can lead to what some call panic attacks. Or, as her mom called it, a “full-blown anxiety crisis.”
For Mikelle, it starts with a numbness in her arms or the back of her legs. During one event this spring, she fell to the ground. She was breathing heavy. Crying. She said she was not able to think clearly.
“My whole body aches, almost like a cramp, but in every part of my body,” Anthony said.
She had made up her mind.
Instead of softball, Mikelle wants to focus on her studies. She plans on being a college student, still. But not an athlete. She doesn’t mind going away from home. In fact, she intends to go to Washington State University in Pullman where she will be roommates with a close friend.
“I’m here for education, and I can focus on this,” Anthony said. “In my mind, that’s less anxiety.”
Mikelle started having reservations about being a college athlete soon after she decided to go to UNLV. Her parents wondered if Mikelle was developing typical pre-college nerves.
Kim Anthony also admitted she initially worried about the costs, how she did not want her daughter to incur debt to attend college. Four years of out-of-state tuition at UNLV adds up to close to $100,000.
“I would say, ‘Mikelle … we’re going to figure this out,’” Kim Anthony said.
Her parents also got Mikelle some counseling.
“It didn’t help,” Kim said. “I thought I was helping, getting her counseling and letting her work it out.”
It turns out, Kim and Charles had already helped their daughter — with the love they always gave her.
Mikelle never felt the pressure from her parents to play. Oh, it was talked about, how the scholarship would benefit any bank account. But Mikelle never felt forced into keeping the scholarship.
“I knew they’d end up being OK with it. I knew it was going to be hard to make the decision. I always knew, at the end, everything was going to be OK with them,” Mikelle said.
“Mikelle is a very independent spirit,” Kim said. “She’s always been mature beyond her years.”
Other softball coaches used to ask her to specialize in that sport. No way. Mikelle played basketball, tried soccer and gymnastics, and even was a cheerleader for a time at Skyview.
What is the point of being a kid if she can’t do all the fun things, she asked her mom once.
“Just being in one lane is not Mikelle’s deal,” Kim said.
Her parents always had her back, Mikelle said.
Even after Mikelle told her immediate family about her decision, she still had a phone call to make. And until that phone call was made to UNLV coach Kristie Fox, Mikelle still had that scholarship.
“Up until then, I think my parents never thought I would ever have the courage to call her,” Mikelle said with a laugh.
Fox and Mikelle did speak.
“She said, ‘I would never have an athlete come who is going to put her mental health at risk,” Mikelle said. “I was very grateful. She was very understanding.”
Mikelle Anthony was released from her scholarship.
The most difficult part of this process, Mikelle said, has been telling other people.
She has had friends and extended family ask her how excited she is to be going to UNLV.
“Well, let me tell you …” Mikelle would begin, preparing to try to explain that she gave up that opportunity.
The plan now is WSU as a student only. Mikelle said she will leave her options open. One day, maybe, she will return to the game. She is, after all, bummed that her senior season at Skyview got wiped away by the pandemic.
As far as her immediate future, without the game, she is at peace.
Mikelle Anthony also has advice to any other athlete with doubts. Don’t listen to the folks who think you are crazy and question your motives.
“You’re the only person who knows your heart and how you feel,” she said. “Not to ignore everybody, but ignore everybody’s opinions. It’s how you feel at the end of the day. They’re not the ones who are going to be playing or go to that college for you.”