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  • Writer's pictureEmma Hurley

Kylie Wroblewski is a Supported Supporter at St. Ambrose

Good luck texts before games from her sister, homemade posters waving in the stands from her mom, hours of training sessions in the driveway with her dad, Harry Potter movie marathons during stressful weeks with her friends; the list extends further than Kylie Wroblewski can believe.

Wroblewski always knew basketball was her sport. However, she did not initially know the amount of support she would receive. She faced struggles along the way, and the bumps in the road made it difficult to achieve the high expectations she set for herself as a basketball player.

She soon knew one thing for sure: she could always count on her supporters.

But sometimes support does not create success. Sometimes it actually creates over-reliance. And sometimes it can even create self-centeredness.

Then again, sometimes it creates a Kylie Wroblewski.

Family Support Since the Start

Wroblewski developed her love for sports at a young age. Growing up in the small town of Bettendorf, Iowa, she was a natural and dedicated athlete.

She fondly remembers playing Wiffle ball in the backyard or HORSE in the driveway with her mom, dad and older sister. “I was definitely home all the time just playing games,” she says with a smile.

Both she and her sister, Alli, played softball throughout elementary and high school. The multitalented Kylie, however, found an even greater passion for a different sport.

“For me, my first interest was basketball,” she recalls.

She started at her community’s park district league. And, in fifth grade, she actually helped form a local travel team. (The squad dubbed themselves “The Force.”)

Wroblewski, however, needed to find the courage to actually put up a shot. Yes, you read that correctly— a basketball player who avoided shooting the ball.

Her shy personality made her very nervous and afraid to take risks. She feared embarrassing herself in front of others and found herself thinking, “I don’t want to shoot. What if I miss?”

Despite her apprehension, Wroblewski gained confidence and learned to trust herself with the support of her family. Her dad taught her to change her perspective.

“One of the things that I think has helped Kylie throughout the years is realizing that not every shot is going to go in, mistakes will happen, and things may not go your way,” he says. “But it’s how you deal with adversity that separates good players from great players.”

He helped shift Kylie’s timid mentality of “What if I miss?” to a much more confident one of “But what if it goes in?!”

His support did not stop there. Though he never actually coached any of her teams, Kylie always considered him her personal trainer… her free personal trainer.

They enjoyed shooting hoops in the driveway every day, and, as Wroblewski grew taller (to 6’2” to be precise), they developed the footwork and close-up shots she needed to become a talented post player. Her dad mastered the perfect balance between hard work and fun, keeping their practice sessions lighthearted yet challenging.

“We would do a lot of skill work, but then he would be like, ‘Let’s play HORSE!’”

On top of numerous games of one-on-one, her dad threw a handful of unique drills at Wroblewski. He’d have her run a sprint and then shoot a free throw, then a sprint, then a free throw, then another, then another, then another.

He pushed her to train when she wasn’t on the court too. “Even if I was inside the house, my dad would be like, ‘You can lay on the ground and work on your form,’ or, ‘You could be in the garage and we could do ball handling.’”

Eager to build her skills, he taught her yet another important lesson. “I think that he’s helped me realize how I can push my game further and further… You feel stuck at times, but there’s always more you can do to get better.”

Bettendorf - Just the Beginning

By the time she became a Bulldog at Bettendorf High School, Wroblewski thought for the first time, “I can actually be really good at this.” As her doubts faded, she saw a future of basketball, and even dreamed of playing in college.

As she began to take the game more seriously, Wroblewski encountered a new and unexpected roadblock: her desire to improve. She confesses she has always struggled with being too hard on herself.

“A bunch of things could have gone right in a game, but sometimes I’m going to remember the one thing that I did wrong,” she says, then adds with a chuckle, “or multiple things I did wrong.”

She puts so much pressure on herself because she sets high goals— she wants to get better with every practice, and she beats herself up over hard games. “That’s part of being an athlete; you’re always wanting to be the best that you can, and sometimes it’s not going to go right.”

Her mom played a fundamental role in shifting Kylie’s outlook. Kylie describes her mom as her “emotional coach.” She always knows how to cheer her up when Kylie feels defeated.

“I remember one time, there was a game where I was down on myself, and she sent me an article . . .and she was like, ‘You should read an article about this really awesome basketball player. Oh wait, this is you.’”

Wroblewski could always count on her mom to help her deal with an integral aspect of her basketball game: her positive mentality.

She used this optimistic outlook to find the best of all situations. As the only sophomore on varsity, Wroblewski watched and learned from the more seasoned athletes. She faced familiar nerves at first, but she received comfort and support from the juniors with whom she had played the year prior.

Coach Brian Tritt became the head coach when Wroblewski joined varsity, and he grew alongside his players. He organized team dinners and sometimes brought his French bulldog, Bean, to practice. (Everyone loved Bean.) The two were both newcomers at first, but Coach Tritt showed Wroblewski how to bring a team together and cultivate a sense of community.

Wroblewski recalled a very tough game from her senior year:

After a close four quarters, it went to overtime.

And then a second overtime.

And then a third overtime.

And then a fourth overtime.

And then Wroblewski tallied her astounding 28th point.

And then the buzzer sounded with the Bulldogs exhausted.

And victorious!

Her supporters had helped her reach the confidence needed to become a leader, motivate the team, and carry them to a win.

Wroblewski’s high school career went by quickly, but not without countless accolades. She was a three time team MVP and won 2019 Female Athlete of the Year at Bettendorf High School. On top of that, she made first team all-conference, first team all-metro, and all-state teams junior and senior year. She played in four all star games, was the MVP of the Iowa/Illinois Senior All Star Game, and made the IBCA (Illinois Basketball Coaches Association) all tournament team. Her senior year, she also led the entire conference in rebounds and placed second in scoring.

St. Ambrose - The Next Chapter

With her exceptional stats and strong work ethic, Wroblewski knew that she had achieved her goal of reaching the college level and was ready for the next step.

Initially, Wroblewski thought that staying close to home would be a bad thing. But after touring a nearby campus, a mere fifteen minute drive from her parents' house, she fell in love.

“You just get this feeling when you’re on a campus when you know it’s the right spot.”

She made her final decision in April: St. Ambrose, home of the Fighting Bees.

Wroblewski‘s new goal was clear: make her mark.

Being a freshman scared her at first. College seemed like an entirely different world, despite her home being so close. Still, she experienced a drastic change; she would play with brand new teammates, be trained by a brand new coach, and live on a brand new campus.

The other girls and her coach welcomed her immediately. Wroblewski’s worries washed away; in fact, it felt very natural.

Wroblewski describes Coach Van Hauen as especially encouraging. “She always says her office door is open, and she loves when we come in and chat with her.” She supports the team as players and also as people.

According to Wroblewski, Coach Van Hauen knows exactly when and how much to push her. And, although she enjoys having fun, Van Hauen takes the game seriously and always looks for new ways to refine the team’s skills.

Wroblewski did not shy away as a freshman, averaging 16 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Additionally, the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference named her Women’s Basketball Freshman of the Year.

That season she also made first team all-conference and then third team All-American. Of course, the first thing she did was run to tell her family, her biggest fans, who promptly ordered her a giant cookie cake to celebrate (which Wroblewski likely found more exciting than the actual achievement).

Her teammates and friends were just as thrilled, bombarding her with endless messages of congratulations. “I think just being a freshman, you know, you don’t necessarily expect that to happen!”

Support When Needed Most

Wroblewski’s world turned upside down when a serious injury in the beginning of her sophomore season made what was also the Covid year even worse. After being secluded from her family for months, she badly hurt her finger during a game. She later learned that it was broken and needed surgery.

“You think, for a pinky, you’re like, ‘We’ll tape it up, we’ll get back in there, it’s fine.’” She never thought that her entire season could be over in the blink of an eye. “I’ve always known basketball, and I’d never gone through an injury before like that, where I’d be out for that long.”

Coach Van Hauen instantly helped her find ways to use the negative circumstances to their advantage. She made Wroblewski her assistant, keeping stats and carefully studying plays. Wroblewski saw the game fully from the sideline perspective for the first time, and she used the time she normally spent training to watch film in Coach Van Hauen’s office. She was disappointed to miss out but eager to motivate her teammates from the bench and give out many high-fives (with her good hand).

Wroblewski felt better than ever by junior year. She helped the team to a 16-game winning streak with a final record of 24-6. She made first team all conference (again) and was an honorable mention All-American. The NAIA also named her National Player of the Week in January.

One particular moment from her career stood out.

Halfway through the third quarter, she took a pass, went up for the layup . . .


1,000 points. Her 1,000th point in a SAU uniform.

. . . and she got fouled.

Coach Van Hauen called a timeout as Wroblewski’s teammates swarmed her with hugs. Wroblewski remembers looking up into the stands at someone amidst the commotion of the crowd. She saw her mom, holding up a homemade poster just for her.

The incredible milestone made her only the 34th player in program history to score 1,000 points. But the number barely mattered to her. “It wasn’t even just getting the thousand points, it was seeing how excited everyone, like all my teammates, were for me. I think that just shows the kind of people they are.”

Oh, and also, she nailed the free throw.

Seems like her dad’s crazy drills paid off after all.

Continuing the Support

Thanks to all of this support, Wroblewski keeps achieving her goals. So what’s next? Becoming a full time supporter herself.

Wroblewski now feels inspired to return the encouragement she has received. “Having those role models before me, I want to be there to support other people.”

She has some plans for this season: continue to cultivate a close community within her team, be the friend to whom her fellow players look for reassurance, and empathize with the incoming freshmen. She and the other rising seniors say it is coming full circle. “We want to do the same thing that the girls did for us because we know what that feels like.”

Wroblewski says all of her teammates are there for each other and, even during stressful times, are able to let loose. Over the course of junior year, for example, a group of them watched all seven Harry Potter movies and rated each one. (Goblet of Fire took home first place.) Also, whenever someone feels overwhelmed, Wroblewski suggests frozen yogurt. Oh, and don’t forget team Starbucks runs.

Wroblewski’s mom describes her as empathetic. “She is very aware of people’s feelings and wants to have everybody comfortable in their surroundings.” Channelling the support she received during her own injury-plagued season, Wroblewski helped a teammate through a similar situation. Her mom says Kylie always lends a listening ear and wants to make everyone around her feel included and safe.

These characteristics are ideal for the elementary education major. “I want to help kids realize their dreams. As cheesy as it may sound, it’s definitely true… I just want to help the next generation as much as I can and in any way that I can.”

Basketball is still in Wroblewski’s future, as she hopes to coach down the road. She certainly will have no trouble motivating her players.

As for her family, Wroblewski finds it difficult to match the unlimited support from her parents and sister. She does everything she can though, like trekking to watch her older sister, Ali, run track at University of South Dakota. When they are not able to attend each other’s events in person, they never forget to text “Good luck.”

Additionally, when home, Wroblewski uses cooking skills she mastered after watching hours of Food Network as a child to make her parents dinner. Though it may seem simple, little things go a long way with her, and she strives to spread as much positivity as possible. She just wants to return the support.

“I’m a girl who loves to play basketball, who loves to help people and support people… I just want to be authentic, you know, being who I am, being genuine… doing the small things right, I think those are things I try to live by.”

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