Most people in the Archer community know Danielle Roberts as a tall, quiet sophomore, but many may not know she’s a three-season athlete with a passion for sports. According to her family, coaches and teachers, she’s a scholar-athlete who knows how to maintain balance despite a hectic schedule.
Get to Know Dani
Dani, as her friends know her, arrived at the Archer School for Girls as a sixth grader in 2011. She is one of the few three-sport athletes at Archer. Roberts is a member of the volleyball, basketball and softball teams.
“She is really well-known because she is like a famous athlete, but I think she is respected by a lot of her peers not just because of her athletic talent, but also just her presence and the way she conducts herself,” said Roberts’ faculty adviser Jenn Babin.
Roberts, the youngest of four children, comes from a large Samoan family. She was born during a tumultuous time for her family. Her grandfather was fighting a losing battle with cancer.
“As our family was grieving the loss of a loved one, Danielle’s presence eased us through the grief,” her father Junior Roberts wrote in an email interview. “You know it’s been said that when one leaves this earthly life, another is sent to take their place.”
Through this experience, Dani was given the nickname “the Glue,” for being able to hold her family together.
Roberts comes from an athletic family. Both of her parents participated in the South Pacific Games as part of the American Samoa team. Her mother played volleyball, and her father played on the basketball team. She was also exposed to soccer, basketball, baseball and softball by older siblings.
According to teammates, coaches and relatives, Roberts has many traits that help her in sports.
“She’s coordinated, with and without the ball. And beyond that, which I think is sad for me to say since I fought against it my whole life, you can’t teach height,” said Christine Jinbo, Junior Varsity volleyball coach, who coached Roberts for two years.
Junior Roberts wrote, “Danielle is really grounded. She’s a very humble player, doesn’t boast of herself or her team, but shows on the court what her skills can do. She really enjoys the camaraderie that comes from being a teammate.”
Joyce Barahona ’18, who plays basketball and volleyball with Roberts said, “She’s always positive and always pushes herself and challenges herself.”
“She always looks out for the other players,” Alex Feldman ’18, who plays basketball, volleyball and softball with Roberts, said.
Why Three Sports?
Most athletes pick one sport to focus on, in attempt to get better at that specific skill. However, Roberts sees a benefit in playing multiple sports.
Jinbo, who played college volleyball herself, encourages athletes to play sports year-round.
“I grew up playing three sports, if not more. I think it’s a really important thing if you want to continue playing sports at a higher level, if you want to play sports as a lifetime sport, playing in college on an intramural team or to be able to go onto a recreational team as an adult,” Jinbo said.
“It’s a great way to socialize and make friends,” she said, “and beyond that, the three-sport athlete shows a kind of dedication to their team and academics because of the time management skills they need to have.”
Playing year round teaches stamina and endurance that can be transferred into many sports. It also ensures that the athlete stays healthy and active because there is no off season.
“Research shows that the best athletes, those playing in college or at the professional level, which are very rare, almost all were multi-sport athletes in high school,” said Denny Lennon, Archer’s Athletic Director and Head Coach of Varsity Basketball and Softball.
“Girls and boys that participate in multiple sports are much more likely to stay active as adults,” he said. “Single-sport athletes are the ones to break down physically because they don’t have another sport to fall back on, and they tend to be less active adults. It’s good for the high-level athletes and the ones who just enjoy being on a team.”
With the particular sports that Roberts plays, many skills carry over.
Roberts said, “Volleyball helps a lot with basketball, there’s a lot of footwork and jumping that I can use in basketball. In softball, we run a lot to bases and there’s also a lot of footwork and hand-eye coordination.”
“I can definitely see her skills carry over from both the volleyball and basketball courts, along with just watching her in softball,” Downer said.
Roberts was exposed to sports through her family since she was a baby, but she truly got her athletic start at the age of four in soccer.
“My older sister has always been a really good soccer player,” Roberts said, “and I used to watch her when I was little and went to all her games. We made our own [AYSO] team and she was my coach and my dad was my assistant coach.”
Her older sister, Domanique Roberts, was a member of the Cal State University of Stanislaus Women’s Soccer Team, where she started as fullback for four years. Roberts’ earliest sports memory revolves around her sister, who Roberts recognizes as her role model.
“We were sitting there watching [Domanique] play and [she] scored a goal and then she played defense on a girl. She stole the ball and was dribbling down the field when a girl slid into her and took out [Domanique’s] knee. It ended up tearing her ACL,” said Roberts, about her first sports memory. “The day of the incident we went to the hospital. It was just terrible. That was the only thing I remember.”
However, Roberts did not let the negative incident deter her.
“It wasn’t my sister’s fault she got injured; it was because of another player. She was always very aggressive and determined when she was playing, so I thought that I could do the same thing and have as much potential as her because I look up to her,” Roberts said.
Dani Roberts’ stint in soccer only lasted a year, because she was more interested in pursing basketball.
“I think she enjoyed the snacks more than she did the running,” Junior Roberts wrote.
Roberts began playing club basketball at the age of five. At Archer, she has played every year since the sixth grade and intends to continue through her senior year. Roberts’ dad and older brothers played basketball before her and introduced her to the game.
“Basketball is where she excels the most. I think it’s because she has been doing that the longest and that is what she is most passionate about and you can definitely tell by the way she plays and how hard she works,” Cydney Davis ’18, Roberts’ volleyball and basketball teammate, said.
As a leader and captain of her teams, basketball has taught Roberts a lot about being a leader, a role that she was formerly uncomfortable with because of her soft-spoken nature.
“Her first game on varsity as a freshman she scored 24 points. I think she was so scared she didn’t know what else to do, so she just kept scoring. It was really spectacular,” Lennon said.
“Last year we played against Marymount, a big, physical team out in the desert for the MaxPreps Tournament. They knew Dani was our best player and they kept sending girls after her, bumping her, nothing illegal just very physical play throughout the game,” he said. “I saw Dani get up repeatedly from being knocked down or pushed and she never gave in and kept playing.”
She has started her sophomore season off strong with 28 points against Heritage Christian School, despite being unable to play the entire game because of penalties. She is co-captain of her team.
Roberts’ accidental start to her volleyball career began the summer before her freshman year. Roberts’ parents got a call from Archer’s Athletic Department suggesting that she attend the summer volleyball camp, which she did. This sparked her interest and motivated Roberts to start playing that season.
“I ended up going the second day of tryouts. I didn’t think I’d like it, but I ended up liking it a lot. I made the decision of playing last year and this year,” she said.
She made Junior Varsity as a freshman and she co-captained the team as a sophomore but was moved up to Varsity midway through the season. She plans to continue playing for the rest of her high school career.
“I have cousins on my dad’s side that are really good volleyball players and I always go to their games to watch them. I was always interested in playing, but I never thought I could be as good as they were and get to their level,” Roberts said.
Jinbo always knew Roberts had something special when it came to volleyball after observing her play for fun in middle school.
“She had a lot of prior knowledge about volleyball,” said Jinbo. “She’s tall with a good arm span and she’s also agile and aware. That’s a combination that you can’t really teach, but you can help access them as a coach.”
This year’s 2015-2016 Varsity team won the Brentwood Invitational Tournament for the first time in Archer history and made it to the semifinals of the CIF-4AA Southern Section.
Roberts played a year of softball in middle school and continued on to play on the Varsity team as a freshman. She intends to remain on the team for the rest of her time at Archer.
“My first cousin on my mom’s side has been playing softball since middle school, and I used to go to her games a lot,” Roberts said. “I never thought that I’d ever play the sport because it didn’t seem like my thing.”
However, like the other sports she plays, coaches say Roberts excels. Lennon believes her most valuable trait as an athlete, particularly in softball, is her dexterity.
“Her coordination makes her a really good shooter [in basketball] and allows her to play a really skilled position like shortstop [in softball],” said Lennon.
As a freshman Roberts did not see much playing time because there were so many veterans on the team. In a particular game, she was put in as shortstop because of absent of teammates.
“It was against a good team and she got a ground ball really early, so it tested her right away. She got the ball and threw it to first [getting the opponent out]. She looked like a shortstop,” said Lennon. “We’re going to need her this year for sure.”
Last year, her team won the Liberty League.
Roberts’ family has had a very strong impact on her as an athlete.
“[My dad] has been to almost every single one of my games. He’s always there before and after to give me advice or help me improve on myself,” Roberts said.
One Memorial Day, when Roberts was young, she had a club basketball game that only her mother was able to attend. She scored 30 points, helping her team win the championship game. She was named MVP of the tournament.
“When they came home from the tournament and hearing all about the game and how she and her teammates did made the rest of the family upset that we didn’t go to watch her play and support her,” Junior Roberts wrote.
Since then, her family has vowed never to miss a game. No matter the sport she is playing, anyone who comes to Roberts’ games can look into the crowd and find her family cheering her on.
Roberts is a student-athlete, meaning she has to balance sports and academics.
“Playing three sports is hard academically because we most likely have practice everyday after school, and they’re kind of far from where I live, so I get home pretty late. I still have to do homework and I end up staying up pretty late and not getting enough sleep,” Roberts said. “It would be nice to have more time.”
Roberts is proactive and does just as well in the classroom as on the court or field.
“When she was accepted at Archer, she knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, especially for a student-athlete,” Junior Roberts wrote.
“Being a three sport athlete can be challenging for any student just because you tend to miss more class, but Dani does a really good job of staying on top of the work that she misses and [manages] her time,” Babin said. “That is not easy at all, so kudos to Dani.”
Roberts also thrives socially, her adviser said, while mastering time management skills needed to fulfill her rigorous load of obligations.
“She is a joy. She is very self-aware and knows what her schedule is like in and outside of school and she knows what she needs to do to fully commit to school and commit to her athletics,” Babin said.
Roberts hopes to continue playing sports for the entirety of her life, maybe even playing basketball in college.
“Other people look at her and notice what a great athlete she is, like Krysia Sikora ‘13, Maia Barnett ‘14, or Christian Luhnow ‘16. You see the athletic ability, but they’re better people than they are athletes, and I really like that,” said Lennon.
“When you care about your team and are selfless, that makes you a better athlete. Dani fits into that mold,” Lennon said. “She’s a really good teammate and person. It’s fantastic to coach Dani, and I think she’s only getting started.”