Christy Novitsky Spielman Madison, 1996
PIL Hall of Fame Members of the Month Christy Novitsky Spielman

Christy Novitsky SpielmanChristy Novitsky Spielman

Christy Novitsky Spielman Madison, 1996

October 2023 ~

She was just a little kid and it was just a silly board game and she has to take her brother’s word that the alleged incident even happened because she sure can’t remember it or at least she can’t remember it the way he does, him thinking it was pretty darn funny at the time and all.

But looking back on that moment now, years removed from it, Christy (Novitsky) Spielman (Madison, 1996) admits that, assuming it did in fact transpire, there may have been a little foreshadowing at play as the siblings reached the conclusion of their heated game of Candyland.

“I mean, there is zero strategy involved in that game,” she says with a laugh. “Even so, my brother claims that when I lost to him I threw the board across the room.”

The foreshadowing part comes to full fruition several years later, first at Madison, where Spielman competed at a high level in volleyball, basketball and softball. While she enjoyed plenty of individual success, that didn’t always translate to team success. In other words, her Madison teams didn’t always win.

And if her brother learned (and if the rest of us could guess) anything from the “Candyland Incident,” it was that Spielman liked to win.

“I was always pretty competitive, and I took losses pretty hard,” she says, starting to sound like maybe she does believe her brother’s tale. “But it was through competing that I learned how to win graciously and lose graciously.”

And it was from her grandfather, primarily, that Spielman first learned the value of, and joy in, competing in sports.

“My grandparents played a huge role in my life; I went to their house after school every day,” Spielman says. “And Grandpa Walter was really into baseball. He and I would go down to Rose City Park and he’d pitch batting practice to me. Then he’d catch for me, because I was a pitcher then.”

Spielman explains her relationship with her grandfather in further detail in her bio on the PIL Hall of Fame website, writing, “He loved all things sports-related and encouraged me to pursue dreams I may have otherwise thought impossible.”

Spielman says she came by her interest in softball by playing whiffle ball in the street with brothers and other assorted local relatives and kids from the neighborhood. “I had to keep up with the boys,” she says, adding that she’d “play anything to be moving and outside.”

That meant some organized softball here, a little smacking of tennis balls off the garage door there, in addition to the street games with the guys and skill work with Grandpa Walter.

Once at Madison, Spielman would focus on softball, basketball and volleyball and wind up excelling in all three. She was particularly enamored of volleyball, which is the sport where she experienced the most team success, ultimately being the key player on Madison’s PIL championship volleyball teams.

When team success eluded her, Spielman would find gratification in the improvement they would make. She has especially fond memories of her basketball experience, which started ominously when she was a freshman.

“That year I played varsity but mostly sat on the bench,” she says. “I remember if we lost our last game, we would have set the state record for losses in a season. We ended up winning. The next year, we got a new coach and, while it wasn’t a dynamite season, I think we finished over .500. Then my junior and senior years, we wound up making it to the first round of the state playoffs. It was really exciting to help take that program from not having much success to the state tournament.”

Again in her Hall of Fame bio, Spielman wrote of the lessons she learned through adversity.

“Through my athletic experiences I learned many lessons; some came easy, others the hard way. I’ve learned you’re going to win some and lose some. The losses make the wins more triumphant.”

That’s one of the many lessons Spielman learned through athletics and has passed along to her daughter, now playing golf in college, and two sons, both heavily involved in high school sports.

At Madison, Spielman would earn four letters in basketball, 1st Team All-PIL honors as a junior and 1st Team All-PIL and All-State as a senior, a year in which she was also Madison’s Player of the Year. She also lettered in softball all four years and earned 1st Team All-PIL honors as a junior and senior.

It was volleyball, however, that emerged as her favorite sport. “It seemed to light a fire in me, and I wanted to continue playing it after high school,” she says.

When the high school volleyball season would end, Spielman kept playing at the club level, which turned it into a year-round sport, gave her more exposure and helped her get the attention of the University of Portland, which wound up offering her a full-ride scholarship that ultimately covered the cost of both her undergraduate and master’s degrees.

By the time she completed her volleyball career at Madison, she had earned three letters, was named 2nd Team All-PIL as a sophomore; 1st Team All-PIL as a junior and senior, and 2nd Team All-State as a senior.

As a senior, she also was named a Multnomah Athletic Club Scholar Athlete and team captain in all three sports.

At the University of Portland, she dealt with more than her share of adversity, at one point tearing an ACL, working hard on her recovery, then tearing it again soon after she returned to action. But she says overcame the setbacks by again leaning on the lessons she learned from Grandpa Walter and from experiencing the losses that are unavoidable in competition.

“When you want something so bad that doesn’t work out, you have to find appreciation in the journey,” she says. “I’ve tried to teach my kids that you have to enjoy what you do every day, not just the outcome.”

Spielman says she was headed in the direction of a business degree until she fulfilled a University of Portland requirement to volunteer at a youth summer camp, where she served as a coach. “I remember coaching one little girl and seeing the light finally come on with her and how rewarding and fulfilling that was. That’s when I changed my major to education.”

After college, Spielman moved with her husband Jason to Colorado, where she taught for seven years before the couple relocated to their current home in Sheridan, Wyoming. There, she continued teaching for a couple years before taking time off to stay at home with her newborn daughter.

Once she returned to teaching and coaching, she was recruited into a leadership training program, which led to her taking a school principal position that she held for six years before retiring in 2012. She credits her participation is sports, as much as those classes, for helping her become an effective leader.

“Athletics taught me a lot about leadership, sometimes the hard way,” she says. “It was all about pulling people together and learning how to deal with adversity and working toward a common goal.”

Now, in addition to helping with the family construction business, Spielman says she spends a lot of time “following kids around” to their athletic events. In wide-open Wyoming that requires a lot of driving.

“In high school, our longest bus ride was 20 minutes to Wilson, and we thought it was a tragedy we had to travel that far,” she says with a laugh. “Here, the closest competition is an hour and a half away.”

Of her 2013 induction into the PIL Hall of Fame, Spielman says “Just the name itself sound impressive, but it’s really flattering to be a member and surrounded by such impressive people. I really appreciate the fact someone thought enough about me to nominate me.”

 

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