Julie Brisbane’s dreams of playing collegiate basketball began early — she started playing in third grade and has been serious about it ever since.
“She did a bunch of stuff, soccer, lacrosse; I think she even did a little bit of gymnastics,” says Julie’s father, Keith. “But once she played basketball that’s all she wanted. In the summer she just wanted to go to basketball camps.”
Or as Julie puts it, “It just stuck with me and I kept playing.”
She “wasn’t very good at first,” at least in her own assessment, but with time Julie found she had a knack for the fine motor skills needed on the court.
“I am pretty coordinated, so I think the ball handling was something I was always really good at,” she says. “One of the things I really needed to work on as a I got older was my strength and my quickness — being able to have that explosiveness.”
And so, she trained to build strength work ethic has never been a problem for Julie, Keith notes, and, “she’s very competitive in almost everything she does.”
That’s what made what happened in practice at the end of 8th grade such a challenge for her.
“October of her 8th grade year, at the end of practice, she had a contact injury with another player. She tore her ACL,” Keith says. “Once the surgery was done, her mind was set, ‘I am going to do the recovery, I am going to start working out.’”
Julie did the physical therapy and worked with a trainer, but she was still out of the game for 10 months, and when she got back on the court, she had to catch up.
“We started playing but I wasn’t fully up to speed for about a year, but it was really hard to transition from that right into high school playing on varsity,” she says. “Everyone was bigger and faster, the speed of the game was faster, and I wasn’t even fully back and used to the speed of the game I had been playing at before.”
Julie did recover, and she did catch up, but she says there were those lingering wounds to her confidence and the knowledge that she would need to grow stronger still if she wanted to play collegiate basketball. So, in her Junior year, Julie walked into Players Fitness and Performance, in Frederick.
“It was overwhelming at first, because they are all very positive,” Julie says. “You just get used to it and you start to enjoy that feeling of walking in every day and brightening your mood right away.”
And positive attitudes aside, PFP got Julie moving weight.
“I do a lot of leg strength, like deadlifts,” she says. “A lot of push-ups. I do push-ups with weight on my back, which I’ve gotten really good at.”
“It's funny because you see the guys like look over like ‘whoa,’” says PFP Coach Travis Bewley. “She’s doing push-ups with 35-pound plates on her back and you have my big football guys even surprised by how strong she is.”
But with an intrinsically motivated, highly competitive athlete like Julie, a lot of the challenge in her training has been less about getting her to do the push-ups than getting her to back off when necessary.
“The biggest thing is making sure she’s not overdoing it,” Bewley says. “To make sure she recovers as hard as she works.”
Just a for instance: After coming back from the torn ACL, Julie didn’t just lift weights to ward off injury on the basketball court, she took up track and cross country at her school, St. John’s Catholic Prep— and excelled at those too.
“In 10th grade she started running cross country. She thought of it as staying in shape for basketball,” Keith says. “By her senior year she was All Conference.”
“I just really enjoy running races I think, because it’s really competitive,” Julie adds. “If I did well and got first place in a race, I felt really good afterwards.”
Another thing she competes in? Rock Paper Scissors.
“She’s the best Rock Paper Scissors player in the gym,” Bewley says. “I will randomly have her play anybody and I swear she beats everybody.”
“It started as a joke, but I think it made me confident and I just started winning a lot,” Julie explains.
And that was part of PFP’s approach with Julie, building her confidence along with her muscles, teaching her to harness her competitive spirit.
“The thing with PFP is they work on the mental aspect of it, they work on the eating aspect of it; it’s the whole thing,” Keith says. “It’s not just come work out here, we’ll get you faster. They talk about what you do on your off time, rest and recovery. I think she really bought into all that.”
As she moved through high school, Julie says she would worry about making mistakes. What would her coach think if she did? What would other people think?
“PFP helped me focus on not worrying about that and just focusing on playing,” she says. “I think overall if I am having a bad day, I just go to PFP just because I know I will feel better afterwards.”
Julie was recently given another reason to feel better after a session at PFP: She was named the facility’s Athlete of the Month for May.
“I was pretty excited,” she says.
“For her I think it was the culmination of all the work she has had to put in,” Keith adds. “All those Saturdays of the other kids sleeping in, and she’s getting up.”
But the thing about Julie is, she likes the work. Now as she nears completion of her senior year in high school, she’s got the next chapter planned out: She will be attending the United States Coast Guard Academy and playing basketball there.
“It fits with my personality and structure that I have in my life,” Julie says. “I felt like everyone there would be like me, like minded with trying to succeed. I liked that idea.”
It goes back to her work ethic, her competitive nature, her holding herself accountable in everything, from her performance at school, to on the court, to in the gym.
“When I am struggling with a set, I tell myself I will be mad at myself later if I don’t finish or work to my fullest,” she says. “My why is trying to be the best in whatever way I can.”
That’s Julie Brisbane’s why. What’s your why?