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Clara Sánchez Honored as Athlete of the Month

Sports director César Rioja nominated Clara Sánchez Circián as the SLU-Madrid Athlete of the Month in recognition of her high-level basketball game, exemplary sportsmanship and dedication to her training. Sánchez, a sophomore originally from a town called Cobeña in the suburbs of Madrid, is pursuing a major in English while she continues to train and complete for Alcobendas Olímpico, a team playing in primera division, one of the most competitive local leagues.

Clara Sanchez in action.

Sports director César Rioja poses with Sánchez after presenting her with the April Athlete of the Month trophy. He nominated her for the award in recognition of her high-level basketball game, exemplary sportsmanship and dedication to her training.

Sánchez’s basketball career began only four years ago, when she was 17. Driven by a desire to improve her English skills, she spent a year abroad in the United States, completing her senior year at Northport High School in Northport, Washington. Sánchez grew up playing volleyball and had always enjoyed sports. Her first foray onto the basketball court, however, was there in Northport, at the insistence of her host family, who thought that it would be a good idea to help her integrate culturally and socially.

The beginning of the season was difficult for Sánchez. While she was new to the sport, her teammates had been playing for years. “I had to work harder than anyone to be at the level of the people who had been playing since they were kids,” she recalls. A natural, Sánchez ended the season as the Most Valuable Player on the varsity team.

When she returned to Spain the following year, Sánchez took a gap year which she spent training and playing for the team Fundal Alcobendas. Her efforts paid off, as she received an athletic scholarship to play at Barton Community College in Great Bend, Kansas. After completing her associate's degree at Barton, she transferred to SLU-Madrid to finish her university education in the American system and continue playing basketball. Sánchez says her favorite part of the sport is the team aspect: any victory belongs to the whole team.

Sánchez is still in close contact with her host family in Washington. They follow her basketball career and routinely ask for photos.

“Clara is a reference to others who don’t have experience in the field but are determined to succeed. She never gives up and continuously improves,” said Rioja.