Liberty’s Sydney Hopper excels on and off the field

April 30, 2015

By Sandy Ringer

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By Greg Farrar Sydney Hopper, Liberty High School senior, has taken no prisoners while on the fastpitch mound during her prep career, but as a giving youth volunteer is as kind off the field as she is aggressive on.

By Greg Farrar
Sydney Hopper, Liberty High School senior, has taken no prisoners while on the fastpitch mound during her prep career, but as a giving youth volunteer is as kind off the field as she is aggressive on.

Sydney Hopper has enjoyed heroic moments in softball.

Winning hits at the plate, game-saving strikeouts in the pitching circle.

She is a key reason Liberty High School started the season 7-0 before recent back-to-back losses to Lake Washington.

But it’s the way Hopper conducts herself off the field that causes others to look up to her.

She believes in giving back. So, in addition to playing softball and carrying a rigorous academic schedule (with a 3.99 grade point average), the 18-year-old senior volunteers to help others in a variety of programs, including two dealing with special-needs youths — Camp Casey and Athletes for Kids.

Freshman Jessie Tappan, who has ADHD and is developmentally delayed, is in her second year as Hopper’s “buddy” through Athletes for Kids, and the two share a tight bond. Tappan’s smile in a photo with Hopper taken before a Liberty football game last fall tells you how much her mentor means to her. And Hopper’s smile is even bigger.

“They’re relationship is awesome,” said Lori Tappan, Jessie’s mother. “Jessie doesn’t do things with her peers, so Sydney gives her that bonding relationship that she lacks … Sydney has taken her to school sporting events, which Jessie would normally not have the opportunity to do.

“I’m impressed that Sydney does these things with Jessie. Many kids her age wouldn’t even think of helping or hanging out with special-needs children.”

Hopper considers herself fortunate to have many role models in her life, so this is a way to pay it forward.

“I’ve had a lot of people in my life that have really helped me out, that have been mentors for me,” she said. “I really do think I have the best parents in the world. They have supported everything I’ve done, and coaches I’ve had, teachers, friends — I’ve just had so many supportive people around me, and I’m really grateful for that. So, I wanted to be that for other people.

“I think community service has been a way for me to help out people and to hope I’m having a positive impact on other people’s lives, just like people have had a positive impact on me.”

Hopper, the youngest of two children, began volunteering as early as sixth grade.

“She’s just always been a very kind kid,” said her mom Mindy, who keeps the scorebook and compiles stats for Liberty. “It’s a joy to be her mother.”

And to be her coach, according to Jon Kinsley, a longtime assistant who took over the softball program this season as the Patriots faced their third head coach in four years.

“I’ve been coaching high-school kids for a total of 26 years now, and I’ve never seen a better leader,” said Kinsley, who is also the boys golf coach and had an earlier stint as head boys basketball coach at Liberty. “First she walks it, and then she talks it, all through positivity … She’s just a very bright, unassuming, kind kid.”

Hopper, a three-year captain who also ran cross country, plays clarinet in the school band (and guitar on her own) and is past president of Liberty’s honor society. As a Relay for Life captain earlier this school year, she raised nearly $2,000 on her own for the American Cancer Society. She helped organize the offseason softball workouts and will run Liberty’s kids’ camp.

Oh, she was Liberty’s Homecoming queen as well.

“She’s pretty much involved in everything,” teammate Maddy O’Connor said. “She’s a great leader and just really a well-rounded kid.”

Lake Washington coach Traci Tawney said Hopper is always complimentary to opposing players, win or lose.

“She just really seems to enjoy the game,” Tawney said.

And she’s good at it, too. At 7-2, Hopper has 64 strikeouts in 46 innings with a 2.50 ERA while batting .464. She plans to play at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, but first hopes to lead Liberty back to the state softball tournament and improve on last year’s 0-2 finish.

“We set a goal to finish in the top eight, and I think we could do even better than that,” Hopper said. “This team has a lot of potential.”

And the perfect leader to help them reach it.

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