Molly Ernst may be just a sophomore for the Belmont women’s basketball team, but there’s no doubt she already plays a relevant role for the Bruins. Vocal and athletic, the 6-foot guard has started nearly every game this season for the Bruins, earning respect from her teammates since she came to the team as a quiet recruit from Louisville, Ky.
“In my defense … obviously when you come in as a high-schooler hanging out with college players, you’re not going to say a lot. After spending so much time together they realized I was pretty goofy,” she said. “I’m pretty unpredictable I think.”
When Ernst isn’t averaging nearly eight points a game for the Bruins or chasing cats with teammate freshman Katie Carroll, she is preparing for a career beyond college basketball. An exercise science major, Ernst eventually wants to be a physical therapist that works with geriatric patients.
Ernst’s combined enthusiasm for sports and the elderly inspired her to go into physical therapy. Through her rehabilitation for a bone spur in her knee during high school, she discovered a whole new environment that eventually made her want to help others rehab their own injuries.
“The physical therapist I went to was just crazy. We just had such a good time, and they’re working with athletes, people of all ages, all backgrounds, so I knew I wanted to do something fun like that,” she said.
As close-knit with her family as she is, Ernst didn’t look far to find inspiration to work with the elderly.
“My grandma is one of my best friends,” she said. “She’s my role model. She’s 91-years-old. She’s blind. She suffers from macular degeneration—she’s been blind now for about fifteen years. But, while she’s blind, she still lives alone, and she still gets around fine. She’s the most independent person I’ve met in my life.”
Ernst’s respect for older generations reaches past her grandmother towards all elderly people that she meets.
“From my relationship with her, I just love old people. I really respect them. I think they are precious. I love it whenever I see an old couple out having dinner at 3 p.m. in the afternoon holding hands,” she said.
While the challenge of balancing basketball and school duties haven’t gotten easier, Ernst’s family has supported her all the way.
“I grew up with two older brothers who played basketball, my parents played basketball, so I grew up a basketball child,” she said. “I played all the sports growing up – they let me do whatever I wanted, I was in a play, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ – I was the tin man! Every opportunity I had, they let me go free reign on it.”
The women’s basketball team has also turned itself into a family away from home, providing support for fellow team
“Even when we’re not playing basketball, we love being around each other. We go out to eat all the time, we’ll go to the movies, we’ll go dancing,” she said.
At the end of the day, Ernst’s optimism is her driving force.
“I try never to have a bad day,” she said. “If I’m making people smile, then that’s something that makes me feel good inside.”