Bella Van Gieson is a dual-sport athlete at Severna Park High School, with the sophomore suiting up for both the Falcons’ lacrosse and soccer teams.
It wasn’t an easy path to traverse for Van Gieson, though, as she battled a back injury that ultimately required surgery about a year ago.
“I knew I was going to play again,” Van Gieson said. “I just didn’t know if I could catch up and get back into it.”
Thanks to long hours rehabbing, training, working on offseason drills and a remarkable sense of determination, not only did Van Gieson battle back, but she earned a spot on a pair of varsity squads.
When she stepped on the soccer pitch for the first time after surgery, she knew the road to recovery was worth it.
“That’s exactly what I needed to come back,” Van Gieson said. “Just to be surrounded by such a great coaching staff and group of girls and have that confidence boost.”
Severna Park varsity girls soccer coach Rick Stimpson praised Van Gieson’s ability to absorb instruction and execute on the pitch. Stimpson said although Van Gieson plays defensive midfield for the Falcons, he could slot her in any position and her natural leadership abilities would take over from there.
“She’s incredibly intelligent and coachable,” Stimpson said. “It’s kind of rare that somebody would step into that position and make it their own as a sophomore. She definitely personifies what we look for in an athlete.”
Van Gieson already has ambitions of playing lacrosse in college and following in the footsteps of her sister, Sam, who plays for William & Mary. The younger Van Gieson not only suits up as a middie for her high school team, but she also plays with her club team, Maryland United.
“Our coaching staff is impressed by her leadership and while she is only a sophomore, we expect big things from her this season and in the years to come,” said Annie Houghton, Severna Park girls varsity lacrosse coach. “She will definitely be a leader on this team.”
Van Gieson lauded Houghton’s support, and that of her teammates, as she spent last season mostly sidelined with her injury. She was only able to participate with the junior varsity squad in the opening weeks of the season. Although she was sidelined, her love of lacrosse wasn’t.
“It’s just such a growing sport, and I love it so much because every practice you learn something new or get a new skill or create a better shot,” Van Gieson said.
But it’s not just accolades or highlights that Van Gieson cares about. She credits her family for shaping her tendency to advocate for people and give back to the community.
She grew up with her mother, Melissa, being a special education teacher and she had a pair of uncles with special needs.
“Growing up around that, I feel lucky because I got to experience that at such a young age,” the younger Van Gieson said.
Her older sister got her interested in working with Paws4People and she helped Sam raise puppies that would be trained to assist veterans with disabilities. She’s since gone on to be an officer with the Best Buddies program, which is a nonprofit dedicated to ending social, physical and economic isolation of people with emotional and developmental disabilities. The high school program pairs students with disabilities to those without.
“Bella has the personality and drive that is unique,” said Bethany Fish, special educator and co-advisor for the Best Buddies club at Severna Park High School. “Her ability to be an active leader in Best Buddies and be a leader on the field is admirable. Her passion to improve on the field is just as strong as her passion to make others better too. She is a team player that wants everyone to feel important.”
Ashley Morris is an English teacher at Van Gieson’s school as well as a co-advisor for the Best Buddies club. She was also Van Gieson’s Honors English teacher earlier this year.
“I think what impresses me most is Bella's positive and friendly attitude while juggling so many interests with her academics,” Morris said.
Academically, Van Gieson excels just as equally as her athletic prowess and empathetic inclinations. She’s currently sporting a 4.4 GPA.
“I think that’s the biggest thing about sports, about clubs — what you take away from it, and not necessarily what you’re doing on the field or in school, it’s just how you actually use these strategies in society,” Van Gieson said. “There’s like a whole world here and I can help out.”
In partnership with Wyble Team of Century 21, the Voice’s Student-Athlete of the Month series recognizes the many student-athletes in our area who make an impact not necessarily by way of statistics or stardom, but by their unique contributions. Contact Zach Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a young person in our community making a positive impact through sports.