Juggling academics and athletics can be a challenge for any student, but adding a strong community presence takes a degree of dedication that is rare. However, dedication and motivation are two characteristics that Skylar Holliday has demonstrated from a young age. As a junior at Sleepy Hollow High School, Skylar is a three-season athlete: she serves as the captain of the Varsity Ski Team, the Varsity Tennis Team, and Junior Varsity Lacrosse. On top of all that, Skylar has worked over 200 hours of community service in the last year.
Skylar notes that while she loves all the sports she plays, skiing is different because it is also one of her hobbies. As a seventh grader, Skylar was able to “play up” to make the team. However, first, due to state regulations, she had to pass medical, physical, and sport skills assessments. As one of the smaller students in her grade, passing the physical exams was a challenge. However, with commitment to training, she made the team, and the following year she was the first girl to represent the Sleepy Hollow Ski Team at the New York State Sectionals. Skylar says, “I am proud that I’ve been on the team since seventh grade, made it to Sectionals for four straight years, and improved each season.”
Now, as a senior member, Skylar often leads her team in on–mountain drills, since they lack a professional coach. In fact, the Sleepy Hollow Ski Team was at risk of collapsing because its previous coach was no longer available and Skylar was one of the driving forces in trying to find someone who could lead it. She even tried applying for the position herself, but the requirement was for someone over eighteen. A month before the start of the season, her tennis coach, Ms Persad, stepped up for the role. “I am so grateful to Coach Persad for saving the Sleepy Hollow Ski Team and helping each of us improve,” Skylar commented. “We had three team members make it to Sectionals this season and three more freshmen joined the team.”
When Skylar is not on the mountain, she often spends her time working in the community. Starting as a graduation requirement, Skylar began volunteering to meet the 60-hour minimum. However, she quickly realized how much she enjoyed helping others: “I realized it wasn’t that difficult to make time for school and sports and still find time to help my community, if I stayed organized.” One of the most valuable experiences she has had so far was volunteering in a rural area of Ecuador last summer. Skylar spent three weeks on a medical service trip, where she gained hands-on experience working in various medical fields. This trip helped to solidify her desire to persue a career in medical science. Additionally, the trip served as a way to practice Spanish, which she has been studying since seventh grade. Skylar’s passion for languages has helped her realize that they are “a great way to connect with the rest of the world”.
Whether Skylar is at practice, a competition, or donating her time, her aspiration is to better serve her teammates and her community. With over a year to go until she moves on to college, she says, “I hope I can still maintain my high honors average and hopefully I can get good grades on my APs, but more than that I’m really excited about the experiences in the upcoming school year”.
Q & A with Skylar Holliday
How do you balance community involvement, as well as academic achievement, with the commitment of athletics?
I started volunteering to get the 60 hours that are required for graduation and by the middle of sophomore year completed another 60 hours to earn an additional course credit. I realized it wasn’t that difficult to make time for school and sports and still find time to help my community if I stayed organized. I decided to continue volunteering – completing over 200 additional service hours since January 2019. I also discovered that one of my true passions is helping others and I prioritize school to eventually go into a profession where I can do that.
Since 7th grade, I have also worked on Tuesdays after school for a local art studio and I am a member of my school’s marching, pep and concert bands and serve as Captain of the marching band – so it’s sometimes hard to juggle everything. I do allow myself time to relax, so I don’t burn out.
To balance community involvement, academic achievements and sports, I make sure that I focus on academic and sports during the week and on weekends I spend most of my free time volunteering. I also devoted over 50 hours of my summer vacation to community service.
I try to get as much homework done going to and from practices and competitions – especially during ski season when we travel back and forth to the mountain and often get home late. And I attempt to get a jumpstart on assignments when possible.
Being a 3-season athlete and serving as Captain of the Varsity Ski Team (4 years), the Varsity Tennis Team (2 years) and the Junior Varsity Lacrosse Team (1 year) is extremely important to me. However, academics are my top priority. School always comes first, and I make sure to complete my assignments and maintain an academic record that allows me to participate in sports and pursue a career in medicine.
What motivates you most on the field, court, etc.?
My drive to get better and to set a good example for the rest of my teammates. It doesn’t matter what position I play. It matters that I try my hardest.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment (could be academic, athletic, community-related)?
My best accomplishment was in 8th grade when I was the first girl to go to New York State Sectionals to represent the Sleepy Hollow Ski Team. I am proud that I’ve been on the team since 7th grade, made it to Sectionals for 4 straight years and improved each season.
To make the team in middle school, I had to apply to “play up”. Under New York State regulations, I had to pass medical, physical fitness and sports skills assessments. As one of the smallest people in my grade, it was hard for me to pass some of the tests. I kept training until I could. Making the team was also tough as I am a self-taught skier racer. I had my first racing lesson in December when I got to train with the Hunter Mountain racing team for 3 days during the holiday vacation.
What is the most rewarding part of achieving feats for your team?
The most rewarding thing that I have done for my team is helping to find a new coach when our previous one was no longer able to lead the team. We were at risk of not being able to have a Ski team up until the month before the season started. I asked every teacher I could think of to coach. Finally, at the last match of our Tennis season, the team’s Coach, Ms. Persad, said she could help the Ski team. I am so grateful to Coach Persad for saving the Sleepy Hollow Ski Team and helping each of us improve. We had three team members made it to Sectionals this season and three more freshmen joined the team.
Our team doesn’t really have a professional coach to teach us how to race, so it was up to me to lead on-mountain drills. I’m really happy to say that all of our freshmen improved this year, and it’s extremely motivating for me to set good examples and try my best.
Is there someone who has inspired you, or helped you meet your achievements?
One of my main inspirations is my mom’s friend Britt who went blind in her 30s. She continues to work as a scientist and never stopped skiing. Whenever I think I can’t get down a challenging mountain, I know that she wouldn’t give up and that’s what drives me.
How do you involve yourself in the community?
I try very hard to involve myself in the community. I have been a member of the Tarrytown Fire Department Venture Crew since 9th grade and last year I began volunteering at Phelps Hospital for 4 hours on Sundays. I have also helped the Yoga Shivaya studio in Tarrytown as a social media coordinator – using Facebook and Instagram to inform the community about events. For the past 2 years I have volunteered to be the record keeper for my school’s Varsity Lacrosse team. To help people beyond our immediate community, I worked at a rural medical clinic in Ecuador last summer.
Another way I serve my community is by donating as much as I can. For example, I collected over 150 pairs of glasses for the Lions Club “Recycle for Sight” program to help people with vision impairments and earned an “Ambassador of Sight Award”. I gave my hair to Wigs for Kids to help children who had lost their hair due to cancer. When 27 people lost their homes in an apartment fire on Barnhart Avenue in Sleepy Hollow last year, I collected clothes to help them and I provided party clothes and jewelry to The Mann Center in Hawthorne so that boys and girls at the residential treatment center could dress up for their Prom. I regularly donate books to the Warner Library in Tarrytown and give the used balls from my Tennis team to the Paws Crossed Animal Shelter in Elmsford.
If you could describe your experience as a student-athlete in three words, what would they be?
Determination. Loyalty. Rewarding.