Taylor Stephens Shares Her Experience of Signing With UCLA

  • January 27, 2021 

Taylor Stephens, senior at Gahr High School, signed with UCLA back in November, 2020. The following interview contains insights about her aspirations and journey with softball. 


Joseph: “Okay, so yeah, I just first wanted to thank you for coming. And I also wanted to congratulate you on signing with UCLA - which is pretty crazy.” Taylor: “Thank you.” Joseph: “I heard that they were actually number one - they ranked number one in softball last year. And that’s pretty exciting, so yeah, I guess we’ll just get started. How do you feel about signing with UCLA?” Taylor: “It was a dream come true for me. I’ve been playing softball since I was four years old, and ever since I picked up a bat, I’ve always wanted to go to UCLA. They’ve always been like my dream school to attend to. So, every travel team I’ve played for, and for my high school, Gahr, it always was with the goal in mind to attend UCLA. So signing there was like, it was a dream you know. It was cool.” Joseph: “Alright. Uh, so what’s your story? So like what got you into the sport?” Taylor: “My family. My uncles, they played baseball. My brother played baseball. But growing up, my parents just put me in every sport, so it really was my decision to play softball. But for sure, the people around me: Jackie Robinson, like, just, me being around my family all the time, we would always watch baseball, the Dodgers. We are BIG Dodger fans, so um." Joseph: (“Same here.”) Taylor: “Saying that it was just like - it was for sure gonna happen that I was gonna end up choosing softball. It was meant to be.” Joseph: “And what position do you play on the field?” Taylor: “Um, I play shortstop. I played shortstop in high school. [But] I can play all middle infield, so: shortstop, second base, third base. But my favorite position is, by far, shortstop." Joseph: “Oh wow. Ok so everyone has someone they look up to, like an inspirational person. Do you have anyone like that, who kind of inspired you both inside and outside of softball? Taylor: “Yes. So I have two. Two people that I’ve always looked up to. When I first started playing softball, I was actually a pitcher, so my softball inspiration was Lisa Fernandez. And she’s actually the Assistant Coach at UCLA. But she’s just my idol for softball. She did it all. She was a pitcher. She played third base. She was an amazing hitter. So she really was somebody that I looked up to for my whole softball career. And then, for baseball, Jackie Robinson. I mean, he was an African American, Latino softball player. He was somebody that I for sure looked up to, um, breaking the color barrier in baseball, and playing for my favorite MLB team, the Dodgers. So I mean, it’s just, yeah for sure - those were my two biggest role models growing up, and I’ve always looked up to them since I started playing.” Joseph: “That’s awesome. Alright, so going back to college, I was wondering how the recruiting process looked like. Could you walk me through some of the steps you took into signing with UCLA?” Taylor: “Yeah. So when you play travel ball, there are things called ‘showcases,’ and that’s where all of the college coaches come to your games and they watch you guys play. It’s like a tournament, but it’s set up for the reason to get recruited by college coaches. So, I joined travel ball, I want to say, my 7th grade year in middle school. And yeah, it was great because the team that I played for, we would always get all of the top colleges coming to our schools. So I had, yeah like, UCLA, the University of Florida, Texas - just really big schools. Really big academic schools, and softball schools. So I was blessed to be able to experience that for sure.” Joseph: “So, the next question is, do you plan on playing softball past college? So like maybe if that’s playing professionally, or maybe being a coach for the team?” Taylor: “I actually want to be in the Olympics. They just brought softball back, so I want to make the Olympic team for softball. As far as pro, I’m not sure yet. I am still thinking about it. But I know for sure [the] Olympics is - that’s always been something that I’ve wanted to do. So the fact that they’ve brought it back for softball, I for sure want to try that.” Joseph: “Oh, that’s crazy!! Uh, alright so I think we can both agree that with this pandemic, it’s just been pretty crazy, and just with quarantine, I think we have a lot more time on our hands. So, you can either use that time to work hard and kind of get better at whatever you are working on, or you can kind of fall off and waste all [of] your time, right? And so, what are your thoughts on this? I know being a college athlete takes a lot of commitment, and just a lot of work. But do you think the pandemic has affected you as a player? And if so, [has it been] for the worse or for the better?" Taylor: “It for sure has affected me for the better. For sure. Um, with all of this time on my hands, I’m just finding things to do to better my skills in the game. So as of now, I’m actually getting up every morning, Monday through Friday, at 4:30am to go work out. Like, I would have a 6am workout.” Joseph: “Oh wow.” Taylor: “So it’s like, it’s for sure been able to skill me into better disciplining myself to where I can get done what I need to get done(?) But you have to have dedication to be able to do it, so I’m just for sure working on that. You know, like implementing that type of motivation and that drive. I’ve always had it, but just having all this time on my hands, it for sure has made me be able to up my game for sure.” Joseph: “And how would your training schedule look like? Both in season and offseason? Taylor: “It actually, in season, when we were in school, - in high school - our coach would have us practicing everyday after school. Even offseason, we were practicing everyday, right when we got out for sixth period to like 5:30pm. Um, and so I’ve really been trying to incorporate that, even though we are not in school. So I’ll still do the same type of workouts that I was doing when we were training with our team and with our coach - just with private coaches, or on my own. My brother is a baseball player, so he’s a great partner to work out with. I’m able to play catch with him, run sprints with him - stuff like that. So I’ll just really make work [with] what I have, you know?” Joseph: “Yeah. Alright, so with any sport, there’s always a high pressure situation that you might come across - I know, especially with your experience as a shortstop or as a pitcher - how do you handle these kinds of situations as a player?” Taylor: “I stay true to myself in knowing that I’ve worked so hard to get here. It’s all of the hours of work and the sweat - all of that. It all is for this one moment, you know? Like this championship game. This winning run that’s in scoring position when I’m up to bat. Like, I’ve worked for this. It’s something where you have to know that you can do it. You have to believe in yourself. And I don’t think that I would be as far as I am now without believing in myself, or without putting in the hard work and knowing that I can do this, you know? Like, it’s something that you for sure have to train yourself. It’s a mental game. So you have to have the mental side of the game down to be able to succeed.” Joseph: “Wow, that is really inspiring. So for our athletes at Gahr, do you have any like, last minute advice? Especially for those planning on playing at a college level. What do you wish you knew when you were in high school?" Taylor: “I wish I knew that… ‘don’t be so hard on yourself.’ Know that what you’re doing is good, and if it’s not, then know that you have to do more. Know that you have to put in more work. You have to put in more hours. Train more. You have to work on your mental side of the game more. It’s really a self reflection. And I advise anybody that’s an athlete - young or old - just to, especially in these times right now, just to stay true to yourself, and don’t give up. Even with the adversity. Even with the challenges. Know that you can do whatever you set your mind to do.” Joseph: “Alright, yeah, so that’s actually about it. I know it was really short, but thank you so much for coming. I know it’s finals week and everything, and so thank you for taking the time to come here and do this interview.” Taylor: “Thank you for having me.” Joseph: “Yeah. So, can’t wait to see you in the Olympics, coming up. And that that’s something we can all look forward to, in seeing where you go with your talent. And so yeah.”
Taylor: “Thank you so much.”

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