CHURCH HILL, Tenn. (WJHL)- In our new digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Tinsley Whalen, a golfer, swimmer, and basketball player at Volunteer High School.
It’s hard enough to make a high school sports team. We’ve seen some high school standouts as two-sport athletes, like Marion High School’s Will Moss, a wrestler and football player.
But three sports? That’s a little intense.
“Man, I couldn’t do it, and then be a good student at that in the classroom,” Volunteer High girls basketball coach Tyrone Smith said.
Senior Tinsley Whalen makes it all happen at Volunteer High School.
“It’s a bit hard when you take a couple months off for golf and get right back into the swing for basketball,” Whalen said.
She starts off playing golf in the fall, and then gets right into basketball season.
“Just the environment, like even if you mess up it’s OK, even the pros still mess up,” Whalen said.
But her third sport is the one she calls her favorite.
“Swim, yeah,” Whalen said. “I think because personally I’m better at it I’d say.”
Basketball and swimming are both winter sports, meaning Tinsley balances them both at the same time.
“I get done with basketball practice and I live like two minutes away from the school so I go straight home, grab a bite to eat an apple or something and then head to swim for an hour and a half, then get home at around 9 o’clock every night and my Mom always has dinner ready for me,” Whalen said.
She might have to wait a minute for Mom; she’s finishing up at swim practice too.
“It has been truly amazing, I have been lucky that I’ve been able to coach her through middle school and high school,” Volunteer swim coach Riley Whalen said. “They’ve got my husband, their dad who also is in this. It’s a family thing and I couldn’t ask for anything better, I’m probably getting just as much if not more than she is getting out of this.”
Dad, Jim Whalen, is in the middle of it too; he’s the athletic director at Volunteer High
“That’s just the way it’s always been, from one sport to the other really really quick and she’s never complaining about it either, she just knows that’s what she enjoys doing,” Jim Whalen said.
The obvious question: does she ever get tired?
“It’s not really that much because I’ve been doing it since 7th grade, basketball practice to swim,” Tinsley Whalen said.
“If she does I wouldn’t know, she sure doesn’t show it, I know when she goes home she is tired and especially with basketball and swim she’ll go straight home, she’ll get something to eat and shes right into bed,” Riley Whalen said.
Tinsley credits her patient coaches, like Tyrone Smith, head coach of the Lady Falcons basketball team.
“She never complains, she leaves us and goes to swim practice,” Smith said, who is in his second year coaching the team. “I remember there was one scrimmage she didn’t get to make it to and she qualified for states, and as soon as we got done with our scrimmage we got a text message from there saying how it went, and she told us how it went.”
“It helps that he’s understanding about me missing for other sports and being understanding and all that,” Tinsley Whalen said.
It seems like they have this all figured out.
“In our kitchen there’s a calendar and it’s color coded so she knows each day where she’s got to be at for swim or basketball and what times she’s supposed to be,” Jim Whalen said.
After all these years, they should; Dad got a nostalgic reminder of that.
“Today on Facebook I had a memory come up and it said seven years ago today, in this pool and in this gym, she played basketball in the morning time in a travel league game and then she came down here and came in 2nd place in her age division in USA swimming, and that was seven years ago to the day,” Jim Whalen said. “She was just a tiny little girl and her picture came up and I thought well how odd and how unique that is.”
But it’s what she’s doing right now that is pretty remarkable.
“Like I tell all my girls, they’re like my daughters and I’m very proud of her, she comes from a great family, and she never complains like ‘I’m too tired or coach can I do this,’ she never complains,” Smith said. “I’m proud of her, I wish I had more years with her, I’m sad it’s one last year with her but we’re going to have a good year for her and I’m just proud of her.”
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.