Mendoza shares culture, builds team

Ana Mendoza, or Sofia as she is better known, has not only united two cultures through basketball but has also united her team through leadership.

Mendoza is a Colombian student at John Brown University who plays for the University’s Golden Eagles women’s basketball team. Her passion for basketball began in Colombia after a coach at her school invited her to play for him. Despite refusing to play at first, she ended up going to basketball practices, growing her passion for the game.

“I had no idea how to play basketball, but I’ve always been super competitive, and that made me want to play more,” she said. “I hate losing, so I understood that I had to practice a lot to be better than the other girls. In that moment, I decided to start playing basketball.”

Even though language was a barrier for Mendoza, she knew the University was a good place.

“I couldn’t communicate with anybody because I did not speak English very well, but I had the feeling that this was the place I wanted to be,” she said. “My coaches, teammates and everybody were so kind. The Christian environment was incredible. I knew it would be good for me.”

Despite the challenges of being a full-time student, being part of a team and holding a workstudy position,  Mendoza expressed that she would never change her life.

“I like what I do, so I don’t care if I don’t have time to do anything else,” she said. “The best part of [playing basketball] is the team. We are a family. We spend most of our time together. We laugh, we cry, we support each other and we annoy each other. But the most important thing is that we love each other as we are. That is my favorite part—my team.”

Forward, Brooke Barker, said that Mendoza wants her team to be better, making her a great teammate. Despite her current knee injury, Mendoza has proved to be an excellent leader.

“She has been an encourager to everyone in the team, and she is a good leader even though she is not playing with us right now,” Barker said. “She wants the team to win.”

Barker also said that Mendoza’s determination is something she admires.

“I really admire her will to come to a place completely new so far from home and to be able to balance school and basketball,” she said. “I know that it’s tough for her at times, but she focuses on her end goal.”

Guard, Lauren Pelegreen, expressed that Mendoza not only focuses on basketball, but also on each member of the team.

“She is always caring about how everyone is doing, not just on the court but also mentally and emotionally,” Pelegreen said. “She is a good leader.”