Olivia Fleming stays busy year round with academics, athletics, extracurriculars and work, and she really knows no other way.
The Gordon Central senior has a packed schedule and is short on free time, but that’s the way she likes it. She said she wouldn’t know what to do with herself if she wasn’t always on the go, checking off the next item on her daily calendar.
A big part of her four years at GC has been spent competing in athletics for various Warriors’ teams, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, track and field and cross country. This year as a senior, she has focused on three sports, volleyball, basketball and soccer, and she’s played a part of some memorable moments for each program.
This past Fall, Fleming competed on the volleyball court as the Lady Warriors played a varsity schedule for the first time in program history. She was a part of a group of seniors that helped start the program three years ago, learned the game and worked their way up after two years of JV competition. The Lady Warriors won their first-ever region match last season and also earned a win at the region tournament.
Fleming then turned to basketball and was a big part of a history-making season for the Lady Warriors as they got hot late in the season and earned their first-ever state tournament berth with a couple clutch wins over Dade County and Armuchee in the Region 7-AA Tournament. She did most of her work as a knockdown 3-point shooter for Gordon Central and helped lead the team as one of four seniors on the roster.
Fleming has now turned her attention to soccer this spring as she wants to be a part of the team turning things around under new head coach Matt Wiley. She competed as part of the Gordon Central track and field team the last few years in the spring.
Just like her days currently, Fleming also has her future planned out to a T. She has already enlisted in the Army and will head off to basic training soon after high school graduation in June and then spend several months at Advanced Individual Training. She has been accepted to the University of Illinois-Chicago where she plans to start next January while also being a part of the Army Reserve. She plans to major in Pre-Medicine and wants to follow her time at UIC by going to medical school at the University of California, Berkeley. Once all that is done, she wants to go into active duty in the Army and be a doctor in the field.
Recently, the Calhoun Times caught up with Fleming to discuss many subjects, including her goals and expectations for soccer this Spring, the special season she was a part of on the basketball court recently, helping establish the volleyball program at Gordon Central, her memories as an athlete at GC, the influence her coaches have had on her, what it is like juggling academics, athletics and everything else and what her future plans are, among other things. Here’s what she had to say:
CT: Soccer season recently started. How has it gone so far and what are the goals and expectations for the team this Spring?
FLEMING: Since we went to State with basketball, I didn’t get to play in some of the first few games with soccer which were non-region. But I kept up with the team and who was playing their hardest. So far we’ve been doing pretty well. Right now in our region, we’re 0-2, but just looking back on the past few years and comparing the team to now, it’s different.
We’ve gone through four coaches, and with Coach (Matt) Wiley, you definitely see the difference. We’re finally playing as a team. There is no arguments or anything like that. We listen to him. We value him as a coach because we know we haven’t had someone like him to put the time in like he does. We can tell he actually cares for us and wants us to be successful. You can see it on the field. We’ve had some trouble in the first few games communicating on the field, which is a big thing in soccer, but we’re getting better at that. With Wiley as our coach, he brings out the best in each player. He knows the value of each player, and he makes sure we recognize that. Honestly, I know we can finish high in the region because we’ve been close against a few good teams already. We still have a long season to go, but I know we can finish high in the region and make it to the state playoffs.
CT: Going back to a few weeks ago, how special was your senior basketball season and being a part of the first-ever state tournament berth for the program?
FLEMING: It was amazing. This season meant so much to us four seniors and the whole team. Being a senior and always putting in so much work with our old coach (Erick) Hopper, who was a great coach, but having to change coaches in the middle of the season last year after we started so well and thought it was going to be our year, we didn’t want to give up. And I think that’s what our new coach (Matt) Swanson saw in us. We were halfway through the season, and instead of just giving up or getting down on ourselves and feeling bad for ourselves, we trusted Coach Swanson and gave him the respect he deserved. He told us at the end of last season how proud he was of us to stick with it through all of that. Then we were a part of a team that made school history this season it was so rewarding. We knew the time and dedication we put into every practice. We put the work in to get us there, and it felt amazing. It’s probably the best feeling I’ve had in a sport, and basketball is my favorite sport.
CT: How much work did you and the other seniors put in this past season and over the past few years and how far has the team come from your first year to now?
FLEMING: We always knew the potential we had. It was just about actually finally working together and becoming a team. No arguments, no complaints. The past three years we had the potential to make it to State, but this year we actually put in the work to do it. We decided we were going to do all the extra things we needed to do…doing things on our own to make ourselves better. We did all the extra steps we needed to do to become the team we did. We listened to Swanson and believed in him. He is an amazing coach that helped us so much. I feel like this year every player did their role, and that made us come together and look like a better team.
CT: You got the chance to be a part of starting the volleyball program from scratch at GC. How much work was that and how much improvement did you all show this past season with it being the first year as a varsity team?
FLEMING: It was crazy because at first we were nervous even as a JV team. Coach (Debbie) Mixon and all the players had to go and learn everything about playing volleyball because we’ve never played it before. We were going against teams that had established programs and had experienced coaches. It’s fun to know that I was a part of a team that started from nothing and built up a program. It’s cool to be able to say that. To go from JV to varsity this past season, we didn’t go in scared because we’ve never played varsity. We didn’t think we were going to be the worst team. We kept our spirits up and stayed positive, and we ended up finishing pretty well. We may not have made it all the way through region, but we were still proud of what we did as a team and the work we put in to try to become the best we could.
CT: What has been your best memory as an athlete at Gordon Central?
FLEMING: Obviously, I will go with going to State in basketball first. That’s my best memory ever out of any sport. Nothing will ever replace that. Just that feeling that you get was special. We knew we deserved this. We had to work for it. The happiness we felt on the court when we won against Armuchee to clinch going to State is indescribable. There’s a picture that someone took of us right at the end of the game celebrating and jumping up and down, and that shows how we felt more than words can.
CT: How hard is it juggling playing three sports, school and everything else?
FLEMING: It’s hard. I thought as a freshman, ‘hey, I’m going to take these AP classes or take a college course.’ I was like let’s do this. That’s when I started realizing juggling sports, academics, getting a job and stress in general was a lot of work. But that’s when your family and friends come in and play a huge role. Most of my friends were going through the same things. We always made sure to help each other out and also put some time to the side to just relax sometimes. Now, my senior year, I thought it was going to be a breeze and I would have everything done, but it’s still tough. I’m used to it now, though. I know how to manage my time for school, sports and work. My senior year is flying by so fast, but I know that doing all this will prepare me better for college and for life. You learn how to set time aside for everything you need to do and be responsible. But I still have fun, and that’s what sports really brings for me is fun.
CT: Which one of your coaches has had the biggest influence on you and why?
FLEMING: I’ve had so many coaches, and they all give you a piece that helps you and something you can take with you. Coach Swanson will forever give me the drive to know that whatever I go through, I can do it. He related to us and knew what we were going through. He helped me so much. And I know Coach Hopper isn’t here now, but he told us after he left that he would always be there for us. Just having someone that was so hard on us and pushed us to strive for the best will forever help me in life. He taught me to never give up no matter how hard it was or how tired I was. Both of them were really important to me.
CT: Who is an athlete you admire or try to model yourself after?
FLEMING: I’m going to use an athlete here, Ruby Deras. She is my best friend, and she does cross country and track, soccer, has a job and takes the same college classes I’m taking. I know she has a stricter home life than mine. Even if she doesn’t know it, I’ve always looked up to her because she never complains. She stays humble and positive and looks for the brighter side in everything. I know I can be so pessimistic sometimes, and her optimism helps me so much. She is also so patient, and I have no patience. Ruby really pushes me to be a better person, and I think she always will. We’re going to the Army together, and I know she’s going to continue to push me even if she doesn’t realize she does.
CT: What are your plans for after high school?
FLEMING: June 4 I will be leaving for Basic Training for nine weeks, and after that I’ll go to AIT schooling for my specific job for about six months. I’ve already been accepting to UIC in Chicago, and I plan on going there in January. My hope is to go into Pre-Medicine. My major will probably be chemistry. I’ve decided that I want to do two years there and then transfer to Cal-Berkeley to go through med school. I will be in the Army Reserves during all that, and then I plan on re-signing with the Army and going on active duty to be an officer and a doctor.
Fast Food: Chick-fil-A
TV Show: Criminal Minds
Movie: Seven Pounds
Band/Artist: Sam Smith
College: Notre Dame
Male Celeb: Steph Curry