TROY — Alexis Tippit has had her share of obstacles to overcome, including some broken bones each of the past two years. The biggest hurdle she is learning to clear, though, has nothing to do with the physical aspect of sports.
There have been times when Tippit could be her own worst enemy, allowing the pressure she puts on herself to impact her in such a way that any kind of mistake on the court or on the field would send her emotions swirling and clutter her mind.
It is that mental side of competition — her outlook, attitude and emotions — where the Troy junior has made her biggest strides.
“I expect so much of myself sometimes that I don’t let myself loose. So when I do bad, I really get into my head,” she said. “I’m getting a lot better about it, though.”
With a level of athleticism that has never been doubted and a growing understanding of how she needs to handle success and failure, Tippit is reaching new heights. Now she hopes to climb the medals podium Friday when she competes in the Class 3A girls long jump and triple jump at the UIL Track and Field State Championships.
A well-rounded athlete who also competes in volleyball, basketball and softball, Tippit didn’t jump last spring after breaking the tibia and fibula in her right leg during basketball season. She also missed some time during volleyball last fall because of a broken bone in her left foot.
Even while recovering from injury, she was never far from competition.
“At my house, everything is a competition,” said Tippit, who has six younger siblings. “I mean everything — folding clothes, racing up the stairs, who can shoot the most dove, everything you can think of. We’re super-competitive.”
It’s that type of environment that Tippit enjoys the most, which is why she is drawn to sports. She experienced success at every level while growing up but learned upon reaching high school that athleticism alone doesn’t equal victory.
“We always told her she could be a leader,” Troy volleyball and girls track coach Rachel Melancon said. “Even when she was a freshman, because of her talent, a lot of older girls could look to her. But she wasn’t able to lead, and that was confusing. Here was this girl who was so talented on the court but couldn’t lead through words or emotions or attitude.
“She understands now that she can have a really positive or negative effect on her teammates and her own performance through the way she feels and reacts to things.”
Over the course of time, Melancon and others on the coaching staff have learned how to draw the best from Tippit.
“A lot of people think she’s naturally good, and she is. But she has really worked on the mental side of it, while some athletes just work on the physicality,” Melancon said. “Her biggest competition is herself. She will get on herself enough that she doesn’t need us yelling at her. She needs us to say, ‘You messed up. I know it, and I know you’re upset. What can we do to fix it?’”
For her part, Tippit has taken her coaches’ teachings to heart and worked hard to harness her emotions. She knows how things used to be and likes where they are headed now.
“My freshman year was really bad. That was a big turning point for me,” she said. “I learned that I can’t get so down and show that side of me on the court or on the field. I have to keep my composure and stay grounded.
“During track, I really have to rely on myself to keep my head straight and keep it from becoming a mental thing. Track is more difficult for me because I’m a mental person.”
For someone who says track is more difficult, Tippit sure can make it look easy at times. Take for instance the season’s first meet, at which — without even one day of practice — she went 18 feet, 6 inches in the long jump.
More important than her mark that day was the lesson she learned.
“Just going out there and jumping, I had nothing to lose that day. I wasn’t really thinking about it,” she said. “Now I try not to let things get to my head because when they do, I start thinking about trying to do too many things. I have to clear my head and just jump.”
Everything she has learned was on full display at the 3A Region III meet two weeks ago when she won titles in the long jump and triple jump, the latter while being challenged to the end by the runner-up.
“She had fun with it that day. That was the first time I really saw complete positivity when someone was beating her,” Melancon said. “She had a good time with it and won.”
Now Tippit hopes the good times continue Friday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.
“I want a medal really bad,” she said. “That would be cool.”
NOTES: In the long jump, Tippit is seeded first after a regional jump of 18-4. In the triple jump, she’s seeded sixth in the nine-competitor field with a regional mark of 37-9½. . . . Also competing for Troy will be senior Rachel Ramirez in the pole vault.