Scholar Athlete: For Cooper Taylor it’s All About the Process

‘I have spent countless hours in the weight room, in the gym getting shots up, or watching films on how I can improve.’ – Cooper Taylor. Photo supplied

Senior Sleepy Hollow High School athlete Cooper Taylor has developed an edge to help him succeed on and off the field: He learned that “to be successful in life, you just have to fall in love with the grind.”  

Taylor first got involved in sports at age 5 when he joined the AYSO soccer league. Around the same time, he picked up his first basketball and participated in the Teaches Hoops clinic from kindergarten to third grade. When he entered high school, he joined the Tri-County Basketball League as a Sleepy Hollow Horseman, led by coach Kevin Brown. 

Despite years in athletics, Taylor doesn’t consider himself as “naturally gifted.” 

“I’ve had to work for every drop of athleticism I have. I have spent countless hours in the weight room, in the gym getting shots up, or watching films on how I can improve,”  Taylor said.  

His motivation comes from his eagerness to overcome failure, finding comradery through his teammates, and discovering inspiration through his biggest role model, his brother. 

“When I was in ninth grade, I tried out and was cut from our JV Basketball team, which was a crushing blow … [but] instead of pouting about it, something that my coach said really lit a flame under me: ‘Next year, make me say I have to take this kid. Don’t even leave it up to doubt,’ ” Taylor said. 

He made sure there was no debate. 

Taylor made the JV Basketball team the next year and excelled as the leading scorer and rebounder. After moving up to varsity his senior year, he became team captain.  

Cooper went from being cut from JV in ninth grade to caption of the varsity as a senior. Photo supplied

Overcoming this obstacle cultivated his strong work ethic and is a major testament to how he approaches the challenges of training. 

“Seeing such growth in that time is something I look back on anytime I’m feeling down … sometimes [you] just have to force yourself through things you find uncomfortable, or [feel] you just ‘can’t do.’ A thing that always pushes me forward is imaging my opponents or competition working while I’m resting … These thoughts and my mindset have allowed me to feel uncomfortable when I’m not trying my best or going the extra mile,” Taylor said. 

This drive to do better, even when feeling deterred, is a quality he learned from his older brother.  

“I remember one day he invited me to come workout with him … about an hour in, I was tired and missed a few saves and became extremely frustrated …  He told me to calm down and learn to love the struggle and the process of getting better.” 

Taylor added: “I truly took that to heart, and that idea of ‘loving the process’ is what motivates me.” 

This attitude extends to his teammates.  

“Every day you spend working in the gym, practices, or games, [and] twelve other guys are doing the exact same thing next [to] you…. sports have given me the opportunity to meet the most important people in my life, and that gift will go way beyond the last game I play,” Taylor said. 

Taylor’s accomplishments outside sports are just as impressive. 

He counts receiving an engineering scholarship and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Medal as his most satisfying achievement. “In my school, only one student per year receives the top engineering and science award,” Taylor said. 

Taylor earned the honor by receiving a five on the AP Physics Two exam, and conducting a two-and-a-half-year research project during which he designed an emitter to improve the efficiency of a drip irrigation system.  

As a student, athlete, teammate and younger brother, Cooper Taylor has found success through doing what he loves – living for “the grind.”

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About the Author: Abby Rose Notarnicola