Amo recently sat down with Kristen Seidl whose mom Pamela Mardoian Seidl is a die-hard alumna of the Racine AYF Chapter. Kristen is an all-around basketball champion, and we are thrilled she will be attending AYF Olympics in Chicago! Kristen shares her thoughts on growing up Armenian, her basketball journey and advice on the sport for athletes participating in the first ever AYF Olympics basketball three-on-three to be held at the Chicago AYF Olympics on Friday, August 29.
Chicago Amo: What was it like growing up in your hometown of Kenosha? How did you preserve your Armenian heritage?
Kristen Seidl: Growing up in Kenosha was great. Most of my immediate and extended family lived close by, and we would always get together for big Armenian holidays and events. The lakefront was and still is my favorite part about Kenosha. My grandparents on my mom’s side were both full-blooded Armenians, and my grandma was a die-hard Armenian cook. She always had a freezer full of lamajoon, mante, sarma, dolma, boreg, stuffed peppers and lots of fattening baked goods. Anytime I would visit, she would have a pot of fresh rice pilaf on the stove waiting for me, because she knew it was my favorite. When you would walk into her house, it just smelled Armenian. She definitely helped preserve my Armenian-ism by teaching me to cook, speaking the language, playing the music and teaching me how to dance.
Chicago Amo: Tell us a little about your basketball history.
Kristen Seidl: I played basketball for 18 years of my life. I started playing when I was about five years old and my dad (who also played college basketball) was my first coach. I developed a passion for it in grade school, playing on school teams, recreational leagues, and attending many, many basketball camps in my youth; I even had a personal trainer who coached at the professional level. I played varsity my sophomore through senior year at a division one high school. When I was 14, I decided I wanted to play at the collegiate level and knew I had to work even harder to get there, so I began playing competitively year-round.
I played for a competitive AAU traveling team for four years during the off-season, and we played 60 to 70 games every spring and summer in tournaments locally and nationally, even Hawaii. Our team spent two weeks in Maui in a world tournament with some of the most talented players I’ve ever competed against. We took third place. That same summer, I also traveled by myself to Australia and New Zealand to play internationally. I was one of two players who represented Wisconsin. Our US team took second place in that tournament. I then went on to pursue my dream and played college ball for four years and traveled all over the Midwest, ending my career strong at the age of 22.
Chicago Amo: What position did you play?
Kristen Seidl: I played forward and center in my earlier years and in high school; when I got to college, I played shooting guard and sometimes forward. I was fairly versatile due to my height and experience.
Chicago Amo: What advice do you have for our basketball players or overall any athlete?
Kristen Seidl: If you love something and you have a passion for it, pursue it and commit to it with all your heart. You will never regret the things you’ve done—only the things you didn’t do. I knew early on that I loved the game of basketball, which made all the hard work, sacrifice, struggle, pain and victories taste so much sweeter. You can then look back on your career (as I can today) and have no regrets.
Chicago Amo: What advice do you have for any Armenians, anything you can add to help promote being Armenian?
Kristen Seidl: Being Armenian is special and unique, so embrace your heritage. I feel like every Armenian I meet is like family. You just “get” each other: the culture, the history, the language, the dancing, the food, the look. It’s a special kind of bond that only Armenians would understand.
Chicago Amo: What is at your core and your biggest accomplishment outside of sports?
Kristen Seidl: My core, my purpose, my passionate pursuit, is my faith. Life is tough. And it’s a whole lot tougher without God. I’ve lived my life on both sides of the fence, with hope and without hope. I could never imagine living without hope again. My biggest accomplishment has not happened yet. For me, it will be when I reach heaven and hear, “Well done.”
Chicago Amo: Who is your hero?
Kristen Seidl: My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ