BC's Makayla Dickens - Learning While Balling
Italy, Spain, Greece—just a few places where Makayla Dickens has hoop dreams. Dickens, a senior communications major at Boston College, has helped to lead the 2021-22 Eagles to a great start, all while making strides on and off the court.
Dickens has consistently led the team in three-pointers and has proven her reliability when it comes to assists. Last season, Dickens had 54 three-pointers—the highest on the team—and was second on the team in assists with 44. To round out the 2020-21 season, Dickens averaged at least three three-pointers made in eight of the nine games in the season’s second half. Based on her past performance, fans should have had high hopes for the 2021-2022 season.
From a very young age, Dickens had always imagined a future with basketball. Around the age of four, Makayla was introduced to the game by her parents who gifted her a children’s mini basketball hoop for Christmas. She recounted this moment as when her love for the game began: “It was set up in the garage and after that, I shot on it almost every day after and it was one of my favorite things to do.” Her parents nurtured her love for the sport and constantly encouraged her to take it further—taking her to practices and supporting her during her games.
From four years old into her early 20s, Dickens has never gotten bored of basketball. Basketball became her first love as well as her life teacher. She noted how the “game has simply prepared [her] for the real world” while discussing how it has aided her in interacting with new people and being open to discussion and experiences with people who are not like her.
She added that her experiences with basketball, such as the outcomes of games, the coaches she has had and the skills she has had to learn have helped her in understanding that not everything is going to go exactly how she would like it and that outcome is perfectly fine. She said she has simply had to learn to change her perspective and roll with the punches.
Throughout her youth, Dickens grew more and more in love with the game. Around the age of 12, she knew she wanted to play basketball at a collegiate level. She was confident in her skills and knew that an opportunity to play at the collegiate level was an opportunity she did not want to miss. She actively began to work towards that goal as she started to play on AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) teams which allowed her the exposure to play against some of the top youth in the country. The AAU is the largest non-profit organization dedicated to developing athletes of all ages into elite athletes through sports development and physical fitness programs.
She began to set her eyes on a Division I college career for many of the same reasons that other athletes are drawn to this level of college play. Division I sports grant student athletes the unique opportunity to compete in their sport at an intense level, pursue academic passions and also earn a scholarship. While not all Division I athletes are granted an athletic scholarship, Makayla was able to earn one. One of her main reasons for choosing a Division I school was because she wanted to alleviate financial stress on her parents. While searching for schools that fit this criteria, she landed on Boston College.
“I chose Boston College,” Dickens began, “because [a] degree from Boston College holds so much weight and being a student athlete [within] the ACC, which is one of the best conferences for women's basketball, made it the best of both worlds for me."
Boston College is a top-ranked liberal arts university in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. By choosing to commit to BC, Dickens has been able to pursue both academic and athletic goals which points to her commitment and focus on and off the court. A testament to her dedication off the court is her work interning for College Basketball Times running the website’s social media pages. She is given the space and encouragement to grow CBT’s social media platforms and says that this hands-off approach has allowed her to “truly learn” while working for the website.
“Interning has been super comfortable and I was able to really enjoy it,” Dickens described. “I am able to suggest ideas to help more followers become engaged on each social media website.”
In addition, Dickens has also worked for Make A Play Foundation where she has helped in fundraising and implementing the organization’s mission of connecting underrepresented athletes to “executive” careers. With all of these exciting commitments, Makayla, like many other athletes, has inevitably had to find a balance.
“There really is no time to yourself or time to really enjoy the social life of college,” Dickens described. “A normal day for us could look something like having class in the morning, practice from 11-3:30, then maybe class after, then training table, then after that homework and time for yourself. Then it repeats all over again."
Unique to other divisions, Division I almost inevitably comes with extreme pressures. These challenges require athletes to perform at their highest level mentally, physically and emotionally. For Dickens, the hardest part about juggling Division I and Boston College academics has been the mental toll. Specifically, she said that Boston College athletes often feel mentally “drained” because the academics are very rigorous alongside their athletic commitment.
The average student-athlete’s schedule is very hectic. The balance that they must create is a requirement, especially at the Division I level where peak performance is not only expected but necessary for the competition players face on the court.
“As time has gone on, time management has been a big thing that I have learned that was hard for me in the beginning,” Dickens admitted, touching on her growth throughout her nearly four years at Boston College.
Alongside their academic and athletic commitments, student-athletes must also find ways to unwind in order to create a balance of work and play. For Dickens, decompressing looks like hanging out with her teammates, watching movies and spending time downtown in Chestnut Hill.
The Eagles are a close knit team, so relaxing with one another helps them to alleviate stress. They even bond over bad memories and find ways to cheer each other up. Makayla recalls an incident from her sophomore year where her teammates had just lost a game and on the ride back their bus driver hit a gate. She said although it should not have been funny, they made a bad situation good and could not help but laugh. To this day, they remember that bus ride and still laugh about it.
Dickens is an athlete with innate skills according to her teammates. One teammate, Taylor Soule, noted Makayla’s technical ability when asked about what assets she brings to the team.
“Her ability to see the floor, see one pass ahead, and her three point shooting…she is a baller at heart and whether we need a bucket, a pass or help on defense, she’ll bring it when we need her.” Soule relays that last statement as a fact the whole team can agree upon.
Makayla has grown in many ways since her freshman year. She highlighted her mental growth above all else.
“I feel as if I have grown more mentally than basketball-wise,” Dickens stated. “When I first got to Boston College, I was kind of a hot-head. My attitude wasn’t the greatest and I had a hard time accepting criticism from my coaches. I had to learn how to be a good teammate more than anything. Throughout my four years here I have become much more level headed when it comes to basketball and just life in general. I have become more patient as a person on and off the court and learned how to not always provide reactions that aren't needed.” These emotional and mental changes are exactly what is needed to achieve her goal of playing professionally overseas.
With her senior year coming to an end, Makayla plans on playing a 5th year and completing a master’s degree. Once her collegiate career is over, she hopes to play professionally in Europe, noting that she would love to not only be able to play at a top level, but also travel and continue experience basketball's impact on her life.
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