‘You have to fail before you succeed’


Teacher takes this lesson to heart as she pursues goals on and off court

By Brady Extin | The Times-Post

LAPEL — Most college basketball players attend class, shoot around, watch film, or just relax on game days.

But, in more ways than one, Anderson University’s Lexi Dellinger isn’t most basketball players.

Instead, her day is spent at Lapel Elementary School teaching math, science, english and much more to 28 fifth-graders.

The double-duty of playing collegiate basketball and teaching wasn’t always in the cards for Dellinger. After graduating in 2022, she was eligible to return for one more season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It wasn’t always the plan, but it was always in the back of my mind that I could potentially play my fifth year,” Dellinger said. “I had a couple of other job opportunities for teaching around here as well, so I knew that once I found a job around here that I was probably going to play.”

The job that got her to commit to a fifth season of basketball was one just a short drive from Anderson University. Just 13 miles from Anderson’s campus, Lapel was the perfect opportunity for Dellinger to continue doing what she loved while taking on a new, and just as rewarding, task.

“After last year, I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back and play another year of basketball, but the job here at Lapel kind of led me to thinking that I could potentially keep playing and teach,” Dellinger said. “I found the opportunity and was a little nervous about it, but I thought I could do it, so that’s why I took it.”

A typical day for the 23-year-old sees her get to school by 7:30 a.m. Nearly eight hours later, at 3:05 p.m., and after a long day of work, she exits the Lapel parking lot and heads straight to O.C. Lewis Gym for either practice or a game.

Practice from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and another hour-or-so of shooting afterward is just the beginning of Dellinger’s night. From there, she heads home to either grade papers, prepare lesson plans for the next day or do homework. Yes, homework.

As if teaching, and being a superstar on the basketball court wasn’t enough, she is pursuing her Master’s Degree in business.

“My hard work and dedication. I feel like that no matter what I’m doing, I’m trying to work really, really hard and to accomplish something that most people say that I can’t accomplish,” Dellinger said. “And just having the support system that I do behind me with my teammates, coaches and family members, I feel like that has helped me a lot in all of my accomplishments throughout my career.”

Those accomplishments that Dellinger is referring to are plentiful, and one of the other things that makes her unlike most basketball players.

Her path to stardom began as a freshman at South Adams High School in Berne, Indiana, where she played varsity basketball.

Just a few years later, in her senior season, she became the school’s all-time leading girls basketball scorer with 1,126 points.

Fast-forward to 2023, and she now holds all-time scoring record at another school, Anderson University.

On Jan. 11, Dellinger cemented herself in the AU record books.

At home, against Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference opponent Defiance, needing 30 points to break the record, Dellinger exploded for 37, knocking down seven 3-pointers, and going a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line while also grabbing 11 rebounds.

“I knew that I was close, but I didn’t really know if I was going to get it that day. I worked that day, and my brother kept bugging me because he knew that I was close to getting it. I left school and went to shoot around and felt pretty good,” Dellinger said. “I felt like I had a great group behind me with my teammates and everyone who was coming to support me that night. I just felt really good that day and my teammates were getting me the ball. My emotions were really high because that’s something that I wanted to achieve my whole life, just to be able to accomplish something like that at AU.”

Hard work and dedication were the catalysts to Dellinger’s record setting career. And on top of the scoring record, she leads the HCAC this season in scoring and 3-point percentage, is second in free throw percentage and steals, and is fourth in both rebounding and assists.

She leads the Ravens in points, rebounds and assists.

“I think a lot of what I do in basketball has helped me by just bringing it into my everyday life,” Dellinger said. “Just how hard I work, I see a lot more results in my teaching. If you work hard, you’re more likely to accomplish more things.”

But despite all her accomplishments within the sport, it’s the times that she’s failed that Dellinger sees as the most beneficial to her in her future endeavors, whether in front of a room of students or elsewhere.

“Just learning from failure. I’ve failed a lot in my basketball career, and that helps to know that it takes a lot of failure until you get exactly where you want to be,” Dellinger said. “I think with me being a first-year teacher I make a lot of mistakes, and I’m still learning, but I feel like because of that I’m growing. I know that you have to fail before you succeed, so that tells me that I’m on the right track of where I need to be as a teacher and in life as well.”

With basketball already deeply rooted in her life, and teaching becoming another big part of it, a combination of the two is something Dellinger sees as her next step.

“I would love to be a coach. I’m not sure what level I want to coach yet, but that is my end goal once I’m done with my playing career,” Dellinger said. “I’ve had a couple of people reach out to me already about coaching AAU and other stuff, and I would love the opportunity to just continue going with basketball, not playing but just sharing my love of the sport with other people.”

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