Ball is life: Kayla Burton’s career as a basketball player


It’s 5 a.m. and pitch black outside. Kayla Burton’s alarm clock demands she wake up.

As much as she wants stay in bed, the will to practice harder and continue to get better at playing the game she loves outweighs Burton’s desire to hit the snooze button and fall back asleep.

Burton, a junior point guard for the Lehigh women’s basketball team, has been playing basketball since she was 7 years old, putting in countless hours of practice to work toward being the best she could possibly be.

“My dad would wake us up early every morning,” Burton said. “I have three siblings, and we would go out and shoot before school. It was tough, but I’m glad he pushed me.”

The time and commitment Burton put in with her father as a child has paid off: She is playing basketball at a Division I school. When she isn’t focused on sinking 3’s or shooting free throws, Burton, a journalism major, is busy with school work or out in the field as a sports reporter for The Brown and White.

The level of dedication Burton devoted to playing basketball caused her to miss out on other extracurricular activities and growing up, She had to make sacrifices to play the sport that she loves.

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Burton recalls times in high school when she would be sitting at home, and her phone would light up with texts and calls from her friends inviting her to hang out with them. Frustrated and annoyed, she would have to say no because she had practice that afternoon or a tournament early in the morning.

“It was not fun watching my friends be able to go out at night and go to parties,” Burton said. “But that’s just part of playing a sport at a high level.”

The sacrifices Burton made throughout her childhood and her high school career have helped her get to where she is now — a Division I collegiate athlete.

“(Burton) is the kind of teammate you want on every team. She works hard, has passion for the game and her energy is contagious.”

Sophomore guard Kayla Burton attempts to shoot a basket at Stabler Arena on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. The Mountain Hawks won 75-61. (Chris Barry/B&W photo)

Junior guard Kayla Burton attempts to shoot a basket at Stabler Arena in a game against Loyola University (Maryland) on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. The Mountain Hawks won 75-61. (Chris Barry/B&W Staff)

Having basketball play such a prominent role in her life for so long, the sport has made impacts on her relationships, her everyday life and even the person she has become. Whether it is tough losses on or off the court, the lessons that come with playing a team sport have stuck with Burton throughout her life. She said she has learned to fight through hardships, deal with people that she may not get along with and most importantly to persevere and never give up.

“Basketball has really taught me about the ups and downs,” Burton said. “Whether I make a mistake on the court, or just in life, really, playing this sport has taught me how to bounce back and deal with the adversity.”

Coming to Lehigh to play basketball not only gave Burton the opportunity to play Division I basketball, but it also introduced her to a group of girls who have become her best friends.

She said she spends countless hours with these girls, whether it be at practice or snuggled on the couch watching a movie. She said this has helped her form close relationships.

“I feel like our friendship off the court helps us learn how to interact on it,” said Kari Moffat, close friend and junior on the Lehigh women’s basketball team. “We know what makes each other tick and playing the same position we know how to push each other.”

Even at a college level, Burton’s dedication to bettering herself as a player hasn’t subsided at all.

Burton came in as a starting point guard her freshman year, but that didn’t last. In her sophomore season she lost her starting spot to then freshman Quinci Mann.

“If you would have seen my face that day, man I was not happy about it,” Burton said while chuckling. “But I knew I had to keep fighting and working hard.”

There was a time when Burton felt like giving up. She said her sophomore year she didn’t fight for her spot but now as a junior she has completely changed her attitude.

Burton fights hard in practice every day not only to better herself but also to better her teammates.

She said it is important to recognize the meaning of a team sport. It isn’t about any single player doing a good job, it is about each player doing their part, whether that be solely in practice or on the court come game time.

“(Burton) is the kind of teammate you want on every team,” Moffat said. “She works hard, has passion for the game and her energy is contagious.”

Although the team is in their offseason, Burton doesn’t stop practicing. She spends her free time in Grace Hall shooting or in individual one-on-one practices with her coach, along with team lifting in the weight room.

“Playing this sport has taught me how to bounce back and deal with the adversity,” she said.

Burton is excited for her senior year and last season, not only at Lehigh, but also of playing competitive basketball. This sport has played a significant role in Burton’s life for over a decade and it will continue to have lasting affects on her and her future.

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