In this age of specialization, multisport athletes are getting harder to find. Then there’s Natasha Thompson, who not only competed in two sports at Pinewood School this year – she did them in the same season.
The Los Altos Hills resident played basketball and soccer for the Panthers during the winter until a knee injury put an end to that in late January. And Thompson did all this while maintaining an A average in the classroom that helped her get recruited to play soccer at Vassar College, where she’s headed in the fall.
“From a young age, I’ve been pretty good with time management,” said the senior, who started playing soccer and basketball when she was 5. “I’ve always had a lot of practices and games, but my parents and I always put academics first. I’m grateful for that; it should make college easier.”
Thompson made Pinewood’s powerhouse varsity girls basketball team her freshman year and played high-level club soccer throughout high school. She didn’t want to graduate from Pinewood without playing at least one season for her school’s girls soccer team, though, and joined the squad in November.
Thompson pointed out that she wouldn’t have been able to do so without the support of basketball coach Doc Scheppler, soccer coach Whitney Wood and athletic director Matt Stimson.
“That was nice,” she said. “At bigger schools, they probably would have said no. But Pinewood is a small school, and I was able to work it out with the coaches and the athletic director.”
They all agreed that basketball would remain her top priority, which was fine with Wood; she was happy to have a multi-position player of Thompson’s caliber even part time on a team that won only one game the season before.
“Natasha had a huge impact on the Pinewood soccer team,” Wood said. “She was balancing playing basketball and soccer, so she was only around for half of our games, but when she was there, she was a difference maker. The team as a whole played better and harder when Natasha was playing.”
Thompson’s afternoon soccer matches rarely conflicted with her basketball games, which were usually at night, but there were days she played in both.
“I had a doubleheader a few times, but I always got to (the basketball game) before warm-ups,” Thompson said. “Since I grew up playing both, I grew up with the craziness and came to love it, so it all worked out.”
That is, until Jan. 22. That’s the day Thompson suffered a torn ACL playing in a Pinewood soccer game.
“I heard a pop, and that kind of worried me,” she said. “There was definitely pain, but I thought (an ACL tear) would hurt more, so I was hopeful. Then I had the MRI and found out. I was disappointed, but I’m still glad I got to play for Pinewood.”
Thompson, who had surgery Feb. 12, added that “rehab is going well,” but she expects to miss her freshman season at Vassar. She still can’t wait to get there, though.
“When I visited the campus, I really liked it,” said Thompson, who plans to major in computer science. “It’s smaller and very pretty. I felt at home there, and I really like the coach.”
Thompson also admires the coaches she’s played for over the years – including Wood, MVLA club coach Seth Alberico and her first coach: dad Matt Thompson.
“As soon as I could walk, my dad had me kicking a ball,” said the left-footed forward/back, whose father played at Stanford.
On the basketball side, no coach has made a bigger impact on Thompson than Scheppler.
“Doc has taught me work ethic and so much about the game,” she said.
Recalling her four years as a reserve on the basketball team, the 5-foot-7 Thompson treasures the Panthers’ triple-overtime upset of Mitty in the 2018 NorCal Open Division final most.
“It was insane to be a part of that,” she said. “It was so nice to beat them. I will never forget it.”