From mat to court: Item leaving familiar behind in search of more


Tracy Tran

Coppell senior defensive specialist Sude Item warms up before the match against Plano West on Senior Night on Oct. 26 in the CHS Arena. Item has competitively played a variety of sports including gymnastics, volleyball and soccer. Photo by Tracy Tran

Saniya Koppikar, Staff Writer

Sude the gymnast. 

Training 29 hours in a six-day week, taking private lessons and attending school all within her gym, gymnastics defined Coppell senior Sude Item’s life for almost 12 years. 

Like many athletes who grow to compete at high levels, Item’s commitment and dedication to gymnastics started early. 

“After I finished fourth grade, I decided I could be taking [gymnastics] more seriously,” Item said. “I was starting to get better, and my coaches wanted me to train more hours.”

Item began fifth grade at Coppell’s Elite Learning Academy (ELA), the school located inside Texas Dreams Gymnastics. Consisting of five teachers and students grades two through eight, the school’s hours and homework load varied based on an athlete’s practice and traveling schedule. 

For the next four years, Item would attend ELA at her gym rather than a Coppell middle school. But, through an off-campus physical education agreement around the beginning of her freshman year, Item was eagerly placed into Coppell High School. 

Item’s athletic schedule maintained its rigor through this transition. She would train four hours in the morning, attend two classes at CHS then return to the gym for a second practice. 

Her gymnastics career was thriving, with her attending regional and national competitions and making use of her Turkish dual citizenship to compete internationally in Turkey. 

I was Sude the Gymnast, and it was really hard to let go of but I just had to at that point. I wasn’t happy.”

— Sude Item

But with long hours and a frenzied atmosphere at the gym, Item’s stress was also hitting a peak. 

“I was doing pretty good,” Item said. “But somehow, it was not fun anymore. It was time for it to be over. I wanted to go to high school and live a normal life. I was definitely [planning] to go to college with [gymnastics] because it was my whole life for 12 years. I was Sude the Gymnast, and it was really hard to let go of but I just had to at that point. I wasn’t happy.”

Item ended her gymnastics career soon after, but she couldn’t leave the rush of sports behind. 

“I don’t know why I chose volleyball,” Item said. “I had never touched a volleyball in my life, but I had always thought that it was such a cool sport. And then my junior year, I showed up to tryouts. I think I had been practicing for about three, maybe four months. I chose to try out and it was a disaster. I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know why they took me.”

Not only did Item try out for volleyball, but when soccer coaches at CHS expressed a need for a goalkeeper, she ended up on the JV soccer team for the second semester of her junior year. 

Though she was inexperienced, Item already knew how to work hard and balance sports and school, having perfected her work ethic through more than a decade of gymnastics. 

“She is super smart and the sweetest person ever,” Coppell junior right side hitter Skye LaMendola said. “It makes her exciting to be around, because she’s always talking and making people laugh.”

Item’s infectious personality was immediately apparent to her teammates. 

“She was very supportive of everyone’s efforts and endeavors,” Coppell senior outside hitter Abby Hendricks said. “She’s the best hype-man in the world.”

As Item realized how much easier it was to put in the effort when she was truly enjoying herself, her decision to curtail her gymnastics career only made more sense. She came to enjoy being a part of a team compared to the solitary nature of gymnastics. 

“It was weird because I was a junior, and everyone was asking me if I was new to the school,” said Item, jokingly. “But I’m very grateful for my first team. They were super welcoming and helped me out so much with learning how to play. I’m really happy they weren’t judgemental and didn’t block me out because I was new.”

Now a senior, Item plays as a defensive specialist on the varsity team. Her dedication to sports and her teammates has not subsided. Item especially values the support she has received from the girls on the volleyball team who have seen her grow, and credits them to creating a sense of community and teamwork for her.

To those who want to seek out something new for themselves, Item offers some essential advice: don’t be afraid to make mistakes. 

“I did, a lot, and it was really embarrassing at the time but it worked,” Item said. “You have to put in the effort and you have to know what you want.”

Follow Saniya Koppikar (@SaniyaKoppikar) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.