No Days Off for Rachel Grace


Submitted Photo

Grace can’t contain her excitement as she poses for a photo with her idol Steph Curry.

When Rachel Grace first saw those words “Before I die I want to…” she immediately knew how to finish the sentence. While everyone else around her struggled to think of what they should write Rachel confidently grabbed a piece of chalk and headed toward the board. Without any hesitation, she filled in the blank with the words, “I want to work for a professional basketball team”.

Although Grace has not yet achieved her goal of working for a professional basketball team, she has certainly made a name for herself in the basketball world. At only 27, Grace has already managed two female college basketball teams, East Stroudsburg and Villanova. Something else that sets Grace apart from any other manager is that Grace has Down’s Syndrome. But that certainly isn’t stopping her. Grace is currently with Villanova’s women’s basketball team and she enjoys every minute of it.

“It has always been a dream of mine to be a part of a division one basketball team. I have been with the team for four years now and over those four years I have continued to grow so much,” Grace stated.

While being a part of a big-time division one college team such as Villanova has been an overall incredible experience, this season, in particular, was one for the books.

“This year we were a part of March Madness and we made it to the sweet sixteen. Unfortunately, we ended up losing to Miami. But next time we will get them back for sure,” Grace declared.

For Grace, basketball has always been more than a passion. It was a calling, something she was born to do.

“I started playing basketball when I was five years old. I got very serious with it and now I am twenty-seven and I still love it,” Grace explained. “I was born into playing basketball because the head coach of the men’s team at Penn went to college with my dad, but he also means so much more to me because he is my godfather. Since my dad played and my godfather played I knew I wanted to carry the tradition on. I wanted to be the next generation”.

While Grace grew up playing multiple other sports, she always seemed to come back to basketball. Even when her brothers turned to other sports, Grace just knew basketball was meant for her.

My brothers always ran track but I am built differently than my brothers. I was raised playing football, basketball, and soccer. My main passion though was always basketball,” Grace noted. “When I was younger I had a little basketball hoop and I always had a ball in my hand. I just automatically knew I loved basketball.

— Rachel Grace

“My brothers always ran track but I am built differently than my brothers. I was raised playing football, basketball, and soccer. My main passion though was always basketball,” Grace noted. “When I was younger I had a little basketball hoop and I always had a ball in my hand. I just automatically knew I loved basketball.”

As Grace grew older and continued to improve her skills she also showed her love for the sport by getting involved with her school team. In seventh and eighth grade Grace helped manage her middle school team and even played her ninth-grade year. When Grace got to North Penn, she quickly jumped at the chance to become the manager of their girl’s basketball team. Grace credits so many of her accomplishments to the team and will never forget all the memories and friends she made during her time with the team.

“I really miss being a part of the North Penn girl’s basketball team. I haven’t talked to them in a while, but I miss them. It is super cool though because one of my good friends from the North Penn team is actually playing basketball at East Stroudsburg. It is super fun for me because then I get to go watch her play at my old school,” stated Grace. “Overall though I miss my teammates from North Penn tremendously. They were very inspiring for me and they helped teach me to work harder”.

When her time at North Penn came to a close, Grace wasn’t sure exactly where her basketball career would go after that. Grace did apply to college and eventually found out she got accepted into East Stroudsburg. There was even a video of Grace’s reaction to her acceptance which generated millions of views. But little did Grace know that she would be able to continue her basketball career at the collegiate level.

“When I found out I got into East Stroudsburg my really good friend reached out to the head coach for East Stroudsburg at the time, Diane Decker, and she brought me on as a manager for three years,” explained Grace.

While she was with the team for only a short three years, Grace can’t say it wasn’t eventful.

“I loved playing with the girls at East Stroudsburg and I had so many fun experiences,” Grace stated. “In my second year with the team, I got a chance to meet my sports hero Steph Curry and in my last year there I got to play in my first-ever college basketball game. It was awesome and I ended up scoring ten points in three minutes, most of them were three-pointers”.

Grace makes her college basketball debut for the East Stroudsburg warriors.

When asked about her encounter with Steph Curry, Grace shared that he inspired her in life and with basketball.

“Meeting Steph Curry was awesome. The very last thing he said to me when I talked to him was to keep doing what I was doing. I really took that to heart and it motivated me so much to continue to get better at basketball. It was very special for me,” Grace shared.

At the end of Grace’s incredible three years with the East Stroudsburg team, she was disappointed to learn that Diane Decker would be leaving East Stroudsburg. With this news, Grace didn’t know what would happen to her manager position. But her worry quickly faded when she learned of the new opportunity coming her way.

“My last year Diane Decker went to work for Villanova and she said if you get me, you get my manager because we are a package deal. Ever since then, I have known that Villanova is my forever home,” shared Grace.

Once she made her switch to practicing with Villanova, Grace quickly formed a relationship with the girls. Now, four years later, she knows that she can lean on them for anything.

“The girls on the Villanova team are very special to me. They are like my sisters. I grew up with brothers and never had the experience of having sisters,” revealed Grace.

One thing that is special about Grace’s relationship with the team is that not only does she learn from them, but they also learn from her.

“Something that I think I teach the girls is to always have a positive outlook when it comes to basketball. I always bring to the team high energy and a positive attitude. They call me the heart and soul of the program,” shared Grace.

Rachel Grace never fails to bring the smiles and positive vibes to the Villanova girls basketball team.

Even though Grace brings most of the positivity to the team, sometimes it is difficult to maintain that level of positivity. But the girls on the team never fail to help her back up.

“The girls encourage me to keep getting better every day. At the end of practice, I always try to hit a three-pointer and recently I have been in a slump but the girls have helped me stay positive and get back into it,” explained Grace.

Basketball is something that Grace takes very seriously. She trains for hours a week with the Villanova girl’s team and her Special Olympics team. For Grace, basketball is like her full-time job.

“I take basketball very seriously. I train five days a week and I say NDO meaning no days off,” stated Grace with a smile. “I train with the Special Olympics team on Mondays and Thursdays and when I am not with them I am with Villanova’s girl’s team. I train before every practice with one of the coaches here at Villanova. I also have a paying job in the mornings. So everything keeps me really busy”.

Now that the season is over, Grace isn’t taking any breaks. She plans to train all throughout the summer and to help the girls prepare for the next season.

“In the summer I will continue to train all day every day during the week. The whole summer I live down the shore and I work down there Friday through Sunday. But Monday through Thursday I train and in between my jobs, I train,” revealed Grace.

As for her future with the team, Grace doesn’t see herself leaving Villanova anytime soon. But there is one dream of Grace’s that she hopes to one day achieve. In fact, her dream can be seen written on the wall at Wonder Spaces in Philadelphia.

“There is this place in Philadelphia called Wonder Spaces and they have a chalkboard there that says ‘before I die I want to’ and you fill out the rest. When I was there I filled mine out and wrote ‘Before I die I want to work for a professional team’. Whether it is the NBA or the WNBA I just really want to work with the pros,” shared Grace.

Until her dream finally comes true, Grace will continue to bring her energy to Villanova’s girl’s team and hopes that next season will be just as exciting.

“For next season I believe that Villanova can go all the way and win the title. I also really want us to win the Big East tournament because I would love the opportunity to get the Big East ring,” stated Grace.

While Grace’s story is just beginning, she hopes that she has already inspired people and that she can continue to be that inspiration in the future.

“I want other people to be inspired by my story and to keep following their dreams and working hard. I hope that people learn to live life to the fullest and just keep doing what they are doing,” concluded Grace.