When she was in elementary school, senior Margo Campos would play basketball with her cousins everyday after school until the sun set. This sparked her love for the sport. At the time, she didn’t know that her love for the sport would become her escape and the balance she would need for her ambition.
Campos is a Kinesiology major and hopes to pursue a career in Orthopedic Medicine. She works three jobs to put herself through school, is a ASWC Senator, Vice President of the Poet Leadership Academy for student athletes, a member of the Phi Epsilon Kappa Kinesiology Honors Society and is a type one diabetic. She knows how to juggle it all with a humor that is contagious and an air of humble confidence.
For Campos, life is all about balance, with basketball at the center. “When I was young, I noticed that [basketball] gave me this overwhelming sense of calm and peace,” said Campos. “When something was wrong, I’d go outside and play basketball. It would be just me and the ball. It became a world I could escape to. As I grew up, it saved my life in a sense with my diabetes and my diagnosis. It helps shape who I am.”
Campos decided to attend Whittier College to play Division III basketball as a guard and small forward, as well as to pursue her love for academia. While she had opportunities to play ball at junior colleges with championship titles, she chose Whittier because she wanted to be a part of something bigger than just winning.
“When I came for my recruitment visit, Rob Coleman [Athletic Director] told me that we want to build here; build a legacy, which is different than going to another school who is already successful and you not winning is essentially failure,” said Campos. “I like building a legacy and leaving something behind, leaving something positive.”
This year, the Women’s Basketball team has a new coach, Roy Dow. Campos says Dow has a refreshing approach to the game. He encourages his team to play tough and defend hard and urges the offense to take more three point shots. “I like his offensive philosophy,” said Campos. “A lot of coaches teach a system of play and a lot of teams they follow that play. They’re very robotic. [Dow’s] more about teaching us how to read and react, and that is something that is difficult … so it’s challenging us. I really like that he wants us to be defensively tough … to get up in people’s faces and defend hard, and that’s how we’re going to win: on our strengths.”
Campos has a true passion for the game and improving her team’s strategy, but since the start of her college basketball career, she has struggled with many knee injuries that have kept her off the court. She is currently in the process of rehabilitating and practicing with the support of Dow and her teammates.
During her first year at Whittier, Campos tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and was forced to sit out her sophomore season. As a junior, she began practice again and tore her meniscus on the same knee, then underwent surgery. She was cleared in March of her junior year to begin practice, but on her second practice of her senior year, she hurt her knee yet again and is currently waiting on the results of an MRI.
Regardless of her injuries, Campos has not held herself back from continuing to practice with her team for up to 30 hours a week. According to her teammates, Campos is always the first one to arrive at practice and the last one to leave, usually arriving an hour and a half before to stretch and warm her knees, with a book for class in hand.
“Margo’s work ethic really is unmatched,” senior point guard Carly Buechler said. “Not only for your typical college athlete but especially for someone who has been injured for such a long time. She continues to work so hard to come back and get her knee better while showing 100 percent support for the team and our success.”
Campos said her favorite part of playing basketball are the friendships she’s made with her fellow players. “My teammates are awesome,” Campos said. “I have been hurt since my freshman year but they have never left my side. They have always been super encouraging and been an ear for me to vent to whenever I had issues or was frustrated with my rehab.”
This year, Campos has spent a lot of time working on her research for her senior project. Her research hopes to help athletes with type one diabetes better understand rehabilitation after an injury, and to what extent diabetes affects that process.
“My mom would always tell me, ‘You can’t push yourself in rehab because of your diabetes,” said Campos. “I am the type of person who wants definitive answers and that is not a good enough reason or excuse for me to not push myself, so I wanted to research why. When you’re an athlete, you’re told at a young age that you push through your injuries, your pain, your fatigue. That makes you tough. That’s what coaches love.” However, for an athlete with diabetes, that pushing through pain and fatigue can be a bit unclear to navigate.
“When you’re diabetic, you don’t have an efficient way to [process sugar for energy],” Campos said. “When you’re working out, your sugar tends to rocket. Your sugar can go too high if you’re without insulin for too long. This happened a lot in high school. I would start shaking on the court, my heart was racing and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The more dangerous side is after working out, your sugar levels drop dangerously. It’s called hypoglycemia and it can cause death or a coma.”
For athletes without diabetes, a racing heart or sweating might seem normal, but to Campos, she has to be cautious. Campos explains that being a diabetic athlete is manageable; she just hopes to understand more in order to help other diabetic athletes, especially those with injuries.“If I can dedicate my life to ACL [injuries] and diabetic athletes in general and how their bodies work and help them be better athletes, I think I would be really satisfied with my life,” Campos said.
Balancing basketball, work, leadership positions, and academics has been a challenge that Campos handles well because of her organizational skills and pure ambition. “Margo is driven by perfection, whether it’s on the court or in the classroom,” Campos’ teammate and fellow senior Ana Youngblood said. “This commitment to being perfect makes her push herself to be better. She will stop at nothing until she reaches a level that she is satisfied with.”
Campos never stops pushing herself to improve. “There is no such thing as free time,” she said with a laugh. “As a student athlete you are either working on homework, studying, or in the gym or weight room getting better and getting stronger. Whenever we think we have free time we should be doing something else.”
Coach Dow also supports his players in putting their academics first. “His golden rule and only rule is that academics do come first,” said Campos. “He does allow us to miss practice when we have an academic commitment like tutoring or extra credit or a mandatory speaker. He’s okay with that and a lot of coaches aren’t. They’ll give you sass or they’ll bench you or they’ll give you some sort of passive repercussion. Dow always tells us you’re here for your degree. That’s what college is about. Your first focus is academics and I really respect that from him.” But between it all, Campos still finds a few hours to spend with her teammates after practice or watch Netflix in bed.
“I’ve definitely thought about what my life would be like if I wasn’t an athlete,” Campos said. “What would I be doing? Who would my friends be? I’m really thankful I am an athlete. Very few athletes play collegiate sports. To be part of that small percentage is a huge honor. Whether or not you play all four years or sit the bench all four years, being a part of that one percent means so much. It’s really a blessing.”