Flashback: The Energetic Jessie Hirsch



Written in December of 2005...

Jessie Hirsch plays basketball like a three year old on a sugar high. She is always in the middle of the action and if she can’t make a play she’ll die trying. Calling her “active” is like saying Michael Jordan was a “good” player.

But when you consider where she came from perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising.

“I grew up on a 300 acre farm about six miles from Fults, Missouri,” she said. “It’s about an hour south of St. Louis, in the middle of nowhere.

“There are a total of about five houses in Fults. The closest high school is in Valmeyer, which is about 15 miles away and is also very small. It doesn’t have any stoplights and they just got a gas station two years ago.”

Like most kids who grow up on a farm Hirsch learned how to work at an early age. And she embraced the rural lifestyle.

“I grew up throwing bales of hay and driving a tractor. Everyone lived on a farm. We got out of school for deer season. I rode in rodeos and the county fair was like the World Series. Up until my freshman year in high school I showed both horses and sheep. I’d ride in the horse show and then I’d race across the fairgrounds to show my sheep. Then I’d rush back to the horse show.

“When I was about 11 I had a big ram that I was showing. He was trying to get away so I grabbed him and I ended up underneath him and got stomped and walked on. I had a huge outline of sheep’s hoof on my face. But I just went and changed clothes and finished. They asked me why I didn’t let go and I said: ‘I’m not going to let a sheep beat me up!’”

Hirsch started playing volleyball when she was in the fifth grade and the next year she helped a couple of older girls start a basketball team.

“We wore the boys’ old jerseys and we practiced outside on the concrete,” she recalled. “We were awful. Oh my, we were just awful.”

“By the time I got to high school we were okay. We were so excited the first time we won a game you would have thought we had won the state tournament. I played shooting guard as a freshman and sophomore, and I was the point guard as a junior and senior.”

Even then she went all-out, all the time.

“Other teams didn’t like playing against me,” she said with a chuckle. “I don’t know how many games I had to have an escort to leave. With my aggressiveness and the whole in-your-face thing, I was not very well liked. One game my dad sat right behind the bench just to make sure nothing happened.

“I was so passionate about the sport that I was called into the principal’s office. They told me if I didn’t tone down my intensity they were going to have to ask me to leave the team.

“I didn’t yell or anything, I just did what I do here. If the other team had a fast break and I couldn’t quite get in position to cut them off I'd dive and try to knock the ball out of bounds.”