As A Player And As A Person, Giomi Is Head Of Her Class
The student has become the teacher.
Five years ago, Lydia Giomi was one of Oregon's "Sweet Sixteens," the transcendent 2016 recruiting class that propelled the UO women's basketball team to unprecedented heights. On Thursday, Giomi begins her final postseason run with the Ducks, who face Oregon State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament (11 a.m., Pac-12 Network).
Giomi, who is pursuing a master's in education, also is wrapping up a winter quarter in which she got her first real-world teaching experience. Something of a "mother Duck" to Oregon's "fab five" freshman class this season, Giomi also has spent her mornings this quarter on Zoom, teaching third grade.
"You learn there's not a big difference between 8-year-old children and 18-year-old freshmen, I'm here to tell you that right now," she said with a laugh. "It's like herding cats."
Giomi and her fellow senior, Erin Boley, made their final Matthew Knight Arena appearance this past Sunday. They and the rest of the team remained on the court long after the final whistle for a virtual senior day ceremony featuring video of family, friends and teammates wishing them well.
"They've left a legacy that's going to be hard to match," UO coach Kelly Graves said. "But more than that, they're just great people. They truly are. They're going to make the world a better place."
For 25 local kids, Giomi is well on her way to doing that. That's how many third-graders she's teaching this year, while pursuing her master's and playing with the Ducks.
Giomi spends her mornings on the computer, leading two sections of third-graders through reading and math lessons. In the afternoon, she attends practice with the Ducks. Three nights a week, she attends graduate school late into the evening.
Somewhere in all that, she makes time to eat and sleep.
"It's been the hardest year so far, definitely," Giomi said. "Filled with a lot of growth. There's a big adult jump once you get into grad school, of what you're expected to do."
Hopefully, Giomi is able to extend the same grace and empathy to herself that she's extending to others through the pandemic. Including her young students.
"People say that kids aren't learning anything right now because it's online learning," she said. "I would argue that they're learning flexibility. They're learning how to cope. They're learning self-management skills.
"They're learning a lot of skills that, you know, they'll be resilient in for the rest of their lives. It might not translate directly to fractions yet. But it's going to do other things."
Teaching kids ages 8 and 9 has helped Giomi empathize with her young teammates as well, she said.
"Working with kids, it definitely reminds you to be light of heart, to express your emotions, to say that emotions are okay and that this is healthy and this is normal," she said. "We're all struggling and we're all in this together …
"College athletics is hard; no matter what, everybody's mental health drops. You find yourself looking for distractions from focusing all your energy on basketball. When sport doesn't go well, nothing feels in balance. Obviously we haven't had as much success this year as we have in past years, but you're just like, guys, we're young, we're okay. Like, take a deep breath. We're fine."
Through everything else, Giomi has kept herself ready to contribute off the bench for the Ducks this season. She had a double-double in Oregon's season-opener against Seattle, and another on Jan. 24 against Washington.
Perhaps it's not a coincidence both schools are based in her hometown, and the place she hopes to settle down eventually. But Giomi has big plans between now and then.
Born in Spain while her father was playing professionally there, Giomi hopes to follow in his footsteps and sign with a Spanish team next season. After a year, she would pursue dual citizenship, freeing her up to play throughout Europe.
Eventually, Giomi wants to pursue her doctorate, and enter administration at a school in Seattle. But not just yet.
"I can be a teacher for the rest of my life; whenever I choose to do that, I can," she said. "I cannot play basketball for the rest of my life. I can't be a kid forever."
Giomi may be one of the "adults" on the UO women's basketball team that begins Pac-12 Tournament play Thursday. But she doesn't want to feel all grown up just yet.
"You just associate playing ball with being young and having fun," Giomi said. "And we've had so much fun."
For Giomi and the Ducks, there's still the chance to make a few more precious memories in March.