Growing up, Alex (Fowler) Graves didn’t imagine herself attending Notre Dame Regional high School. But her family’s decision turned into a multi-sport prep career and memories to last a lifetime.
With each school year, Graves was on the softball field in the fall, the basketball court in the winter, and the soccer field in the spring. Some would say she saved the best for last: she was the girls’ soccer Regional Defensive Player of the Year three times, along with being a two-time All-State performer.
“I found a niche with it,” she said. “I was a big basketball player going into high school, and actually Coach Worley, ironically, was my coach in soccer. He saw a knack for defense and they moved me back to defense and I loved it.”
“I wasn’t a super-offensive minded person so when I got moved to a more defensive position … It was really a great fit. I think that was the big change there for me and why I was successful.”
Graves admitted when she first got to Notre Dame, soccer isn’t where she thought she would excel but fellow inductee Coach Jeff Worley put Graves on a path that ultimately would be beneficial for both. Graves said it is an honor going in the Hall of Fame with her former coach.
“It’s really cool. As I said, he had a huge part in my high school career,” she added. “Going in, I didn’t think soccer was going to be my main sport in high school, honestly. He saw something in me that I don’t think even I knew. Like when he first told me, ‘I’m going to move you back to defense. I think you’d be good at it.’ It ended up being this awesome experience. It’s hard to explain, but I loved it. I still miss it even 10 years later. It was such a huge part of my high school experience because of him…. When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for him.”
Graves now works at her high school alma mater, but she didn’t think Notre Dame would be the place she ended up. She said she had a school administrative position elsewhere and was where she wanted to be professionally, but memories are hard to let go. “The Notre Dame position came up and it changed everything,” she said.
Graves said she is pleased with her decision and is excited to be back in the place that gave her so much. “The thought of going back to that atmosphere was just really awesome because what I remember about Notre Dame is it is a family and that’s something you just don’t get anywhere else,” she said. “I love the other schools where I’ve worked, but you just don’t get that atmosphere. It was a hard decision but in the end it was the right one for me and my family. I wanted not only myself but also my kids to be around that, that family atmosphere, the faith atmosphere and everything that goes with it.”
When one is a student attending Notre Dame, it might seem as if events and projects just happen as an ordinary occurrence. For instance, although everything connect with Activity Week is foreign to a freshman, as a senior, it’s commonplace. However, as a faculty member, it is a completely different experience entirely.
“Being back as a teacher and seeing Activity Week from a teacher’s perspective, it’s just so wonderful seeing how the students come together and how they support each other,” she said. “I don’t think I understood that as much as a student as much as I do as a teacher. As a student, it was just there. You don’t necessarily understand how things are done everywhere else. Having taught in other high schools and then coming back, I get that perspective.”
As to her most vivid sports memory at Notre Dame, it didn’t involve Graves directly, but the repercussions rang loud. During her sophomore year, the Lady Bulldogs won the district title at Sikeston before the boys’ team took the court against those same Bulldogs of the red variety. To clinch the boys’ game, then senior Abraham Dirnberger buried a long 3-pointer to propel Notre Dame to a double district crown.
“I still remember the looks on the Sikeston fans’ faces when that ball went in,” she said. “That was probably the most beautiful moment of my high school career.”