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  • Writer's pictureMatt Wynn

Springfield College's Grace Dzindolet Is Love

Grace Dzindolet’s career at Springfield College created an open love letter to her teammates, her coaches, the students of Springfield, and LGBTQIA+ communities far and wide.

Anyone who knows Dzindolet will tell you about how happy she makes everyone through her infectious sense of humor.

Her competitive spirit on the court rivals her desire to create a lasting, meaningful legacy of love off the court and make her voice heard doing so.

In her quest to spread love to every aspect of her life, Dzindolet works tirelessly to find new leadership positions and opportunities, advancing her journey in trying to bring happiness to everyone she knows.

Dzindolet faces one, clear question: how far can she make her love go?

Finding Love for Competition

Dzindolet’s drive to become a fierce competitor started early on in life, since sports led to family bonding. All of the fun and shared experiences through sports not only became the talk at the dinner table, but they helped strengthen the family’s relationships.

When Dzindolet was younger, she played baseball with her younger (and sillier) brother, Anthony. Their father helped coach them, fostering her talent for the sport.

She always thought her dad coaching her and her brother was an amusing dynamic, saying, “It made things very interesting, like the car rides home, we’re always either really happy and good or miserable,” she said with a chuckle.

Eventually, the league informed Dzindolet that being a girl she could no longer play baseball. In order to find higher level opportunities for girls, she had no choice but to switch to softball.

Although she found great success playing softball and had college level talent, Grace Dzindolet had found another love.

One day Aunt Stacy came to Dzindolet’s home in Holliston, Massachusetts and decided to show her niece how to play basketball.

But instead of starting with shooting, passing or rebounding, Aunt Stacy went with something Dzindolet did not expect - dribbling between her legs.

Witnessing her aunt’s trick, Dzindolet started having Globetrotter aspirations.

Amazingly, Dzindolet mastered the trick within 20 minutes.

This brief experience ignited Dzindolet’s desire to begin playing basketball in recreational leagues and then AAU.

This led to a spot on Holliston’s high school team, where Dzindolet grew as a player and her ambitions turned into something greater.

While Dzindolet downplays how well she played in high school, video highlights show her draining three point shots like Steph Curry.

Her performance made her a captain for 2 years, earned her the title of team MVP, and allotted her a spot on the all-star team for her high school league.

Loving Team

Beginning her freshman year at Springfield College, she embraced her identity in basketball, entered desiring to “be the best in the program,” and focused immense effort on becoming a better player defensively.

While working to excel on the court, Dzindolet started building a reputation of being the caring and loving teammate.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 cut her time short her sophomore year of college.

The step back from basketball opened up pathways to building new relationships and strengthening the ones she already made. Dzindolet built an extremely helpful support network with her roommates.

Dzindolet returned to Springfield her junior year after no formal basketball play from 2020-2021, and fell under restrictions from the school, limiting how she and her teammates could operate.

Despite how much COVID-19 hurt the ability to practice and attend school normally, Dzindolet still attributes the building of the team’s chemistry to the time that they spent together over the challenging period.

She became the teammate that made others on the team feel like part of a true family.

“Relationships we have on the team are way more important than just the games,” Dzindolet remarked.

According to teammate Sidney Wentland, “Grace is someone I can turn to for advice on or off the court, and she is someone that is there for me no matter what. I think Grace brought a life and light to the team this year, that even during COVID, she was there to pick the team up.”

In her senior year as captain, Dzindolet determined they needed a new tradition. She came up with something she knew would lead to more than a few awkward laughs. Perfect. She decided that after every team huddle she say four words: “I love you guys.”

Being the funny teammate, as many attest to, she made it her duty to bring love in a humorous way since she thought that the team lacked “a little bit of love.”

Self-dubbed “The POSSE,” the team achieved a close relationship matched by few others.

“Playing with her there was never a dull moment, she brought happiness and laughter to each practice, all while making her teammates better,” Wentland said.

Grace attributes her sense of humor and ability to brighten everyone’s day to her mom.

Her mom, along with the mom of her roommate/teammate Amanda Carr, would make sure to bring cowbells to every game - home or away. And no matter how intense the opposing crowd, they would hold up their giant “POSSE” signs.

When now asked about a trait that she believes that the Springfield Women's Basketball Team possesses, Dzindolet smiles and answers, “love.”

Dzindolet, however, recalled how her coach did not say “I love you” to the team like she would.

On Springfield’s senior night, Grace gave her team one of her most heartfelt “I love you guys!”

After a brief silence, Coach Graves looked at her captain. Then it happened.

“I love you too, Grace.”

Dzindolet and her teammates laughed until their sides hurt; they finally got their love reciprocated and everything looked up from there.

“That was kind of the turning point… we’re up there in the rankings and we were undefeated at home,” Dzindolet said. “We were like, all right, we’re going to be really good, and my coach loves us now.”

Dzindolet achieved her best numbers and most playing time out of any of the 3 seasons with the Springfield team, averaging 10.5 points per game. She also put up impressive numbers in assists, and field goals made.

“I often called her our ‘heartbeat’ in close games. She would come up with the big play at a critical time in the game,” said Coach Graves.

With the heartbeat provided by Dzindolet the team finished with a 24-5 reached including an incredible and memorable run in the NCAA Tournament all the way to the Sweet Sixteen.

Finally, a year playing top notch basketball and building love between teammates paid off.

Love Beyond the Court

Dzindolet’s achievements in basketball only scratch the surface of what she has accomplished at Springfield and the legacy that she is poised to leave behind.

According to Assistant Coach Colleen O’Connell, Dzindolet was among 3 leaders this year promoting the Humanics philosophy that Springfield uses as its motto: “Educating the whole person in spirit, mind, and heart” by creating an environment based on trust on and off the court.

Dzindolet joined a student leadership group, the Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT), at Springfield. Already having a passion for helping others, she now had an outlet to extend her outreach and show her loving nature in new ways.

She filled her off-seasons with her finding ways to assist people around campus.

She wanted to take action to resolve a number of problems complained about by her fellow students. Notably, she helped resolve an issue with bathrooms at Springfield after she found the school gender neutral signs covered.

Dzindolet, openly gay since high school, very much wanted to create an inclusive and caring environment for everyone.

Her girlfriend, Katie Vita, who is also a Springfield classmate said, “Grace is the most selfless person I know. She’s constantly looking out for others and making sure everyone feels supported and included. She goes above and beyond for those she loves and has the biggest presence in any room she steps into. Her radiant, positive energy and attitude is contagious wherever she goes. She’s an inspiration and role model to so many people around her.”

Because of Dzindolet’s efforts, Athlete Ally, a national organization that promotes a safe experience for LGBTQIA+ by ending transphobia and homophobia in sports, established a foothold at Springfield. Athlete Ally now holds guest speaker, tabling, and community events to raise awareness and tolerance at Springfield.

Grace was the subject of the first episode of Springfield’s “True Colors,” a video series that gives LGBTQIA+ student athletes a way to share their experiences to foster a campus that appreciates tolerance.

Thanks to Dzindolet’s efforts, Springfield became one of the first Division III schools in the nation adding pronouns to their rosters, an inclusive move that will far extend past Dzindolet’s time at Springfield.

Springfield awarded her the “Tom Waddell ‘59 Leveling the Playing Field Award” for her efforts in social justice.

Playing down her accomplishments, Dzindolet said that she personally does not believe she has done as much as she wants, despite any award received. She sets high goals and dreams to be an athletic director of a big program, inspiring more people and spreading the message of love and tolerance that she helped Springfield adopt.

One thing remains very clear about Dzindolet, that despite all she has done, she still wants to do more to show her commitment and love to Springfield and the sport of basketball.

She is now going to attend graduate school at Springfield to further her studies in sports management since she does not feel like she is nearly done with her work at the institution.

Her ambitions to aim for the top are directly connected to her desire to use her platform to inspire change. Dzindolet finds that people start to listen to you the more that you do and the better you get. She pushes to obtain greater leadership positions within the student government and Athlete Ally to make sure that people hear her voice.

Her resilience and fearless nature are just the beginning to stepping forward and taking matters into her own hands.

She sees the change she made at Springfield, but sees discrimination in other facets of sports in college and the world itself.

She believes she can sufficiently accomplish combining her love for basketball with her mission of bringing love into peoples’ lives only by achieving her ultimate goal: becoming president of the NCAA.

“It’s never ending,” Dzindolet said. “I’ve always used what I can and done what I can to make [the world] a better place.”

Love you too, Grace.

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