To train with one of the leaders of the CSU women's basketball team, you have to be tough. Even if you can make it through the intense weight lifting and conditioning sessions, you are only half way there. You may have to jump in the ring.
"My grandpa, uncle and dad are all ex-professional fighters, so I have always been into boxing," said Vanessa Espinoza, the Lady Rams starting point guard in her senior season. "In the off-season, I go in and hit the heavy bag with my dad and spar with my uncle. It keeps you in great shape. I think boxing is the toughest sport, mentally and physically."
In addition to her unique off-season training regimen, Espinoza's most noticeable trait is her non-stop work ethic. All someone has to do is watch a few minutes of practice, and it is easy to see who the hardest working member of the team is.
"She really adds passion, and brings the most to the floor; she is definitely the hardest worker on the team," said junior guard and forward Molly Nohr, Espinoza's close friend. "Everyone, from seniors to freshmen, look up to her. She is always working and yelling and screaming to get us going on the floor."
Not only does Espinoza work hard at practice, the intensity doesn't go away when she leaves the gym. This week, Espinoza went through an intense weight lifting workout on the team's day off. Add that to her hard work on the court, and it is easy to see why Nohr calls her "an inspiration to us all."
Espinoza is not just a leader in the world of women's basketball, but also in the community of Fort Collins. A health and exercise sciences major, Espinoza is committed to getting the word out about nutrition and healthy living to children in the community. She is putting together a five-week program to get kids to work out and get healthy, a program that will culminate with a race around CSU's campus. The program will help Espinoza serve her second passion outside of basketball – health and nutrition.
"It's just a grassroots program I am starting, to help kids get healthy," Espinoza said. "It will all be based off my number five: five days a week for five weeks to get healthy."
As point guard this season, Espinoza will play the role of "court general" every game and practice, a role it seems she was made for. Along with her Energizer Bunny work ethic, Espinoza boasts an arching jumper as consistent as ice in Antarctica, and great court vision. It is obvious to see that Espinoza is ready to be the leader for the Lady Rams this season, on the floor and the scoreboard.
"I want to do whatever the team needs me to do to get a win," Espinoza said. "It takes different things every night to win, and I am willing to do whatever it takes."