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Not even asthma can keep Thomas Walker’s Schwartz from game she loves

Kevin Mays • Apr 3, 2020 at 12:00 PM

EWING — Bella Schwartz has loved sports for about as long as she can remember.

The Thomas Walker senior has played basketball and softball since the third grade.

She added track in the sixth grade and started playing volleyball her freshman year.

“I just love sports. I love playing the games and I just want to be out there with teammates,” Schwartz said. “As soon as volleyball is over, I wanted to play basketball. And as soon as basketball is over, I wanted to play softball. I just wanted to play.”

FIGHTING ON

Schwartz is a competitor and goes full speed ahead regardless of the game she is playing.

Unfortunately, she ran across a foe in her varsity career that she had a difficult time beating.

“I have chronic asthma,” Schwartz said matter-of-factly this week in describing a situation that handicaps but does not stop her in the athletic arena. “It’s exercise-induced. So when I’m playing a game or running track, it brings it out.”

To make matters worse, the asthma seems to affect her more when she’s playing her favorite sport.

“Basketball is my favorite. I guess all of the constant running makes it tougher,” Schwartz said.

When she suffers an asthma attack, Schwartz said, she starts to lose her breath. Then she loses the feeling in her toes and legs. Then she passes out.

Second-year Thomas Walker girls basketball coach Jonathan Lovelace remembers the first time Schwartz passed out on the court when she was playing for him.

It happened during her junior season and his first year as the Lady Pioneers’ head coach.

“It scared us to death,” Lovelace recalled. “We didn’t know exactly what was the matter, and you know, there’s been a lot of scary things in basketball with players passing out.”

Lovelace said Schwartz’s parents took her to the doctor and it was confirmed that her fainting episodes were caused by her asthmatic condition.

However, the scrappy Schwartz refused to stop playing the game she loved.

“The doctor said as long as she controlled it and came out when she needed to come out, then she could play,” Lovelace said.

That was not always an easy thing for the coach to control.

Schwartz passed out and nearly passed out a few times on the basketball court during her junior year and then a few times this past season when she was a senior.

“Sometimes we’ve had to literally carry her off the court,” Lovelace said. “She just did not want to come out of the game. She’s so competitive and wanted to play so bad that sometimes she would just try to play through it. I’d ask her if she was OK and she would say yes. She’d try to hide it sometimes because she just didn’t want to come out.”

When she did come out of a contest, Lovelace said before he knew it she was at his side saying she wanted back in the game.

Schwartz said she was not interested in watching from the bench. She wanted to be on the court.

“When I had to come out, it usually takes me a while for me to get back to myself and ready to go, but then I’m ready,” Schwartz said. “Even if I couldn’t play, I wanted to be a part of the game as much as I could. I wanted to be out there as much as I could.”

Schwartz said she was usually emotional when she was on the bench, cheering on and encouraging her teammates.

That passion on the bench and on the court is one of her biggest assets to the program, Lovelace said.

“She has those intangibles that you just can’t coach or teach,” he said. “She has such a heart and passion for the game.

“We never knew how good she could be on the other end of the court because she was determined to use what breath she had to defend.”

Thomas Walker advanced to the Region 1D quarterfinals this past season.

With a healthy Schwartz all season, Lovelace is convinced that the team would have advanced further in the postseason.

THE RUN ENDS

Like seniors all over the country, Schwartz’s final high school year came to a premature end because of the coronavirus situation.

As a result, she didn’t get a chance to play her senior softball season or run track this spring.

“It’s tough, but at least I got to play basketball and that’s my favorite,” she said. “I hate it the most for the ones who had softball and track as their favorite sport and they didn’t get to play. That’s really sad.”

Always thinking of others, it comes as no surprise that Schwartz hopes to attend college next fall and begin working toward a career in nursing.

As far as sports, she realizes the challenges that collegiate athletics bring would probably be too much for her to overcome to play at the next level.

“The part of playing sports is over for me,” Schwartz said. “I thought about it and I wanted to play in college for a while. But it would just be a little too much.”

While her days of playing organized sports on the court or field may be over, the lessons she learned from her career will likely carry her far regardless of the path she follows.

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