Q & A: WSU ALL-TIME REBOUND LEADER, KATE (BENZ) BETHELL

In this Master Your Mindset Q & A series, you’ll read interviews from top performers who have inspired me in various sports. I selected individuals who were able to maximize every ounce of talent to do the extraordinary. Their ability to overcome adversity, consistently compete at a high level, and be an outstanding teammate is why they were chosen. Use their answers and experiences to help take your game to a higher level, as well as to gain perspective.

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Kate (Benz) Bethell

  • All-time leader in rebounds for Washington State University Women’s Basketball

  • All-conference Pac-12

  • First Team Pac-12 All-Academic

  • Lead editor of Master Your Mindset 

CH: What sacrifices did you make that contributed to your success?

KB: I never thought of my lifestyle as an athlete as a sacrifice toward success, but I am guessing many people would. Everything in my life revolved around athletics and academics, but I can't imagine it any other way. I had self-awareness early on and knew I wasn't comfortable in the party scene. I was very much interested in school and contributing to the community in which I lived, so I focused my attention in those areas.

CH: What were your non-negotiable habits?

KB: Beginning in high school, I set goals at the start of each season and before each game. I wrote these down and always concluded with: "Work hard. Have fun." I planned my days around classes and practices. The thought of skipping class, missing practice, or showing up late never crossed my mind. I knew I was a role model, and I wanted to live my life in a way that exuded my passion for the game and zest for life. I didn't—and still don't—want to disappoint others or myself, so I set the bar very high in all areas of my life.

CH: What's the most important lesson you learned as an athlete that you have carried over into life? Please explain.

KB: Team first. I experienced personal success as a college athlete, but I was on a losing team. Reporters always asked me questions about my success, but I'd typically deflect to the team and express my desire for more wins. It felt amazing when we won because everyone contributed. And how great would it have felt to make it to the NCAA tournament? You can't play a game of basketball without other team members, and almost all of the jobs I've had rely on team success. I've been a captain on the court and a team lead in the workplace, and when the wheels aren't spinning in unison, very little is accomplished. Success tastes so much sweeter when you have others to share it with. 

CH: Who was your role model? What did they teach you?

KB: My mom is my role model. She taught me to get up early, work harder than others, and listen to my heart. It's amazing what you can accomplish in a day when you are determined, you're willing to do the things others aren't, and you can function on less sleep than others (a genetic gift!). My mom was always that person. She—and my dad, of course—taught my siblings and me the importance of eating healthy meals, exercising every day, fulfilling commitments like school and sports, serving others, and accomplishing goals. We also went to church every week with no compromises, even in our sports uniforms and on vacation. Morals, values, character, integrity—all things I learned from my parents.

CH: Who was your favorite teammate and why?

KB: That's a tough one to answer. I had a different favorite teammate from every year I was in college. From my recruiting host to my Swedish best friend, the only other graduating senior, and my underclassman position partner, I connected with different teammates throughout the years. Each one of these ladies inspired me to be myself. We were never a very successful team, and losing really drained us physically and emotionally, but your teammates become your friends and your family, and leaning on each of these ladies at different times in my career proved to be essential.

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CH: What was your favorite failure? What did you learn and how did you overcome?

KB: One reporter used to question my decision to choose WSU because other more successful schools recruited me. He wanted to know if I felt I made a mistake. I guess I can spin this question and answer by saying choosing WSU was my favorite failure because it 100 percent made me the person I am today. The friends I made and the experiences I encountered shaped me. We lost a lot of basketball games. We were failures on the court. But I learned life is so much more than sports. I learned how to be a well-rounded person, how to be positive when surrounded by negativity, and how to find joy in humbling situations. 

CH: Describe a moment when you were in a flow state (a.k.a., “in the zone”). What did it feel like?

KB: I will never forget a tournament game in Hawaii in which I kept grabbing rebound after rebound. I was in a flow state for sure. I could tell exactly where the ball was going to land every time in went up in the air, and I was on a mission. It felt like my energy was endless and my mind was laser-focused—almost like an out-of-body experience. I believe I matched the single-game rebound record in that game.

CH: What routines did you consistently perform during the day of competition to get yourself ready to play?

KB: I made sure I ate enough of the right kinds of food, I worked with our trainer to heat and stretch my body, and I prayed. I visualized a successful performance after reviewing the scouting report. I always visualized us winning, even when we were up against the best teams in the conference, and even when we hadn't won a game all season. The best thing about sports is the unpredictability, and I always felt optimistic and energized because I loved the game.

CH: Explain what your self-talk and internal dialogue was like after you made a mistake.

KB: I told myself to make it up on the other end of the court. If I wasn't performing well on the stat sheet, I knew I could always, always hustle. So my focus became out-hustling my opponents and sometimes even my teammates. Hustling for loose balls or taking a charge on defense would energize me and help me forget about mistakes.

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CH: What would you do to increase your confidence?

KB: I focused on the little things instead of the big things. I loved watching players who would bring energy to their teammates, and I tried to be that player. I tried to be a volleyball player dressed in basketball clothing—that is, I wanted to celebrate and encourage all of the time. Lifting up my teammates became a priority of mine. I found that celebrating the success of others would help increase my own confidence in an interesting and very fulfilling way. And when you're on a losing team, you have to find a silver lining or your days become long and arduous.

CH: What was your why? What drove you to be a top performer?

KB: I don't think I ever stopped and thought about why I was playing sports or pushing myself to be the best in the classroom. I just think it's the way God made me. It's innate. I've always had so many interests and various passions, and I just felt like and still feel like I should do the best I can at whatever I set out to do. I've always followed my heart and taken risks that just "felt right."

CH: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?

KB: Lighten up a bit! I've always put a lot of pressure on myself. I pushed myself so hard to get straight A's, even in college. My siblings used to tell me my employers weren't going to look at my report card. And my dad would say, "Sit back, relax, and watch life like a movie." I doubt I would listen to myself, but maybe I would have taken a few more electives or gotten into yoga or something. 

Thank you for reading! To gain more insights and tools to win the inner-game, Master Your Mindset the book is launching on June 23. ORDER HERE

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Collin Henderson