Scholar Athlete of the Month: Fiona McGovern

McGovern says lacrosse has taught her the “value of grit and determination.”

Fiona McGovern, senior at Hendrick Hudson High School, has starred as a two-sport athlete throughout her four years at the school. In the fall and winter, she’s a member of the cheerleading team. In the spring, she’s an attack on the lacrosse team. McGovern will continue her lacrosse journey at the collegiate level next year.  

But in her time at Hendrick Hudson, sports have been just one aspect of her high school journey. She is a dedicated student and remains active in her local community as well.  

Balancing all three aspects of high school life comes with its own share of difficulties. But on the field, McGovern has succeeded by staying game-ready at all times — after all, her two sports require unique skill sets.  

“Keeping up with my skills and staying in shape for whichever sport wasn’t in season at the time,” she says of managing the challenges of balancing cheerleading and lacrosse.  

Although McGovern is a self-motivator, she is also inspired by her teammates who count on her on the field. Whether it’s in practice, a game, or just in school, her teammates’ passion for the sport pushes McGovern to be her best.  

Her hard work and dedication to her craft has not gone unnoticed. In McGovern’s freshman year, she received her first All-American recognition in cheerleading.  

“I remember looking at my coach smiling at me and knowing that I wanted to continue to work hard in this sport,” she says about earning the honor.   

Fiona earned her first All-American recognition in cheerleading as a Hen Hud freshman.

McGovern was also named to the NCAA Cheerleading National Competition in Dallas.  

As a lacrosse player, she has supplemented her time playing for Hendrick Hudson with playing on travel teams during the summer. The sport has taught her the “value of grit and determination.”  

Her experience in sports has played a major role in her community activism. In McGovern’s free time, she is a volunteer coach at youth lacrosse clinics and cheerleading practices. In helping the next generation of student-athletes, she hopes to provide these kids the same opportunities that she had while growing up.  

In the classroom, her love for sports piqued her interest in orthopedic surgery. Starting this fall, McGovern will begin attending St. Bonaventure University. The future Bonnie was accepted in the university’s Dual Admit BS/MD program with George Washington University, so she will attend medical school after graduation from SBU. 

As much as McGovern has achieved throughout her high school career, she modestly deflects the attention to her father, Gerard.  

“My dad has worked so hard to provide me and my siblings with everything we have now. I have so much respect for him because of it.”  

McGovern’s own experiences have taught her the importance of making small steps toward achieving a goal. She aims to reiterate this sentiment to subsequent generations of student-athletes.  

“It’s more important to strive for progress, not perfection,” she says.  

“If you are doing things you love to do, you’ll find yourself wanting to progress in those areas even more.”  

Q&A with Fiona McGovern

How do you balance community involvement, academics (including being a National Merit Finalist), and athletics (as a two-sport athlete)?

Balancing community involvement, academics, and athletics has not been easy but I’ve been able to do it through strategic time management. Whether it was doing my homework on the bus to an away game (or even a flight to Dallas for cheerleading nationals), getting my tutoring hours in by helping my teammates during downtime at practice or at pasta dinners, or staying at school before practice to have the most time possible to get my assignments done, I’ve had to come up with some creative solutions to make sure I get everything done. As for community service, a lot of my community service has been through helping younger kids with athletics. I have been a volunteer cheerleading coach for my town, and we normally have practice for the younger girls in the same gym right after my team practices, and we actually have attended a lot of the same competitions (in different divisions, of course). Because of this I’ve been able to be very involved in my community through athletics.

What is the most challenging aspect of balancing cheerleading and lacrosse?

I would say that the most challenging aspect of balancing cheerleading and lacrosse would be trying to make sure I’m keeping up my skills and staying in shape for whichever sport wasn’t in season at the time. I remember many cheerleading open gyms where I would walk up from lacrosse practice with my stick and lacrosse gear still with me. On the other hand, there have been times where I’ve gone to lacrosse straight after cheering at a basketball game, because I didn’t want to miss any off season practices. Despite this being challenging at times, I’m still grateful to have had the opportunities I had to continue both sports, even while they weren’t in season.

What motivates you to be your best on the athletic field?

Aside from my own competitive nature, I would say the biggest thought that motivates me to work hard during practice and perform my best is knowing that my other teammates are counting on me, just like I count on them. Both sports that I have participated in have gifted me with lifelong friendships and a group of girls that I know I can depend on for anything. Being surrounded by people who are just as passionate about a sport as I am is something I’m incredibly grateful for, and is definitely one of the biggest motivators for me when it comes to being the best player I can possibly be.

What do you consider to be your proudest achievement, whether as a student, student-athlete, or otherwise, during your high school years?

I would say that as a student-athlete, my proudest moment was finally committing to play lacrosse in college at Saint Bonaventure University. I felt as though all my hard work had paid off, and I am extremely excited to be a part of such an amazing program and community as a whole. Despite starting lacrosse later than most of my peers, I knew from the first time I picked up a stick that I wanted to play at the collegiate level, and I set a goal for myself to play at a Division 1 school. As a student, my proudest academic achievement was getting accepted into the Dual Admit BS/MD program that Saint Bonaventure University has with The George Washington University School of Medicine. After a long application and interview process, I was granted a provisional acceptance into this medical school, which is something I am thrilled about. I knew this was something I wanted to try to get into when I committed to play lacrosse at Bonaventure, so finally getting in was a very proud moment for me.

Describe the feeling of being named an All-American cheerleader?
The first time I was named an All-American cheerleader was at the beginning of my freshman year, which was also my first year on varsity. My coach convinced me to try out, and I was so nervous because I had to try out in front of a panel of judges, along with cheerleaders from other schools that I didn’t know. I wasn’t expecting to receive this accolade at all, so at the end of cheer camp when they started naming the recipients I was kind of tuned out. When they called my name I was caught off guard, but I remember looking over at my coach smiling at me and knowing that I wanted to continue to work hard in this sport, in order to get even better and become the best version of myself as a cheerleader.

Are there aspects of cheerleading that have directly translated to your success in lacrosse, or vice versa? What does it mean to you to be a star two-sport athlete?

Cheerleading and lacrosse are very different from each other, but there are definitely aspects of cheer that have made me a better lacrosse player, and vice versa. I would say that the biggest impact that cheerleading has had on me as a lacrosse player would be building up my confidence. While performing and being in the air in front of a crowd is nerve racking, it develops your confidence immensely, which has helped me to be a better lacrosse player by making plays I may be hesitant to do otherwise. On the other hand, playing travel lacrosse all summer definitely gave me an advantage when it came time for cheer season in the fall, as I was already in shape and ready to go. Being a two-sport athlete has allowed me to develop different skills, which I may not have the opportunity to do if I only played one sport. As a cheerleader, I represent our school district both while cheering at games and while competing, which has taught me how to be a role model. Lacrosse has taught me the value of grit and determination. The things I have learned in lacrosse and cheer separately have helped me become a better athlete overall, in both sports.

Who has served as your biggest inspiration throughout your high school career?

The person who has served as my biggest inspiration throughout my high school career is my dad. My dad has worked so hard to provide me and my siblings with everything we have now, and I have so much respect for him because of it. Additionally, my dad was also an athlete growing up in Ireland, and he gives me the best pep talks. I like to joke around with him and tell him that I’m a better athlete than he was, but he knows that he is the main reason why I am as successful as I am in athletics.

What ways have you contributed to impacting the local Westchester community, and what does community service mean to you?

Giving back to my community has always been extremely important to me. I was given so many opportunities as a child, and now as a varsity athlete I want to give back to the generations to come after me. Going to youth lacrosse clinics to help the younger players and also volunteering as a cheerleading coach has allowed me to give back to the community that helped raise me and turn me into the student-athlete I am today. Additionally, I also volunteer at my local hospital and do volunteer tutoring. I think that taking time to give back to your community is vital for the continued support and resources that said community offers to the younger generations, particularly in school and sports.

What has been your most meaningful academic experience at Hendrick Hudson High School?
I don’t know if I have one experience that I can specifically point out as my most meaningful, but I can say for sure that throughout my academic career, the support from my teachers at Hendrick Hudson High School has been a huge contributor to my success. I always felt comfortable asking questions and asking for help when I needed it, and I was also always able to communicate openly with them when I had a lot going on with athletics. For example, going to Dallas, Texas, for NCA cheerleading nationals caused me to miss a few days of school each year, but my teachers were always very supportive and would let me know way in advance of the work I would have to make up so that I wasn’t behind when I got back. Additionally sometimes I would have to leave school early to set up for pep rallies or to go to the Westchester County Center Competition, and as long as I communicated with them my teachers each year were always extremely understanding and would wish me luck.

What are your goals for attending college at St. Bonaventure University? What do you hope to pursue within the pre-med track?

I’m super excited to attend St. Bonaventure University this fall, and have some things in mind in terms of personal goals. During my time there playing on the women’s lacrosse team I hope to become the best player I possibly can be with the support of my teammates and the coaching staff, and hopefully help contribute to the team’s future success. Additionally, I hope to get involved in the community and take advantage of the opportunities they have to offer, such as

Alex Horowitz, of Briarcliff Manor, began his journalism career over five years ago as a sportswriter for the campus newspaper at Muhlenberg College, where he graduated in 2019 with a B.A. in Media & Communication. Since then, his work has been featured in The New York Post and Joker Mag.

 

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