As Shannon O'Keefe enters the 2019 PWBA Tour season, a fair question to ask is, "What are you going to do for an encore?"
In case you're unfamiliar, O'Keefe's 2018 season started with two titles in the first four events of the season, including her second career major at the United States Bowling Congress Queens. She would garner seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s, which helped her secure 2018 PWBA Player of the Year honors at the QubicaAMF PWBA Players Championship.
But, the award didn't come easy for O'Keefe, as Danielle McEwan made a strong push to close the gap in the player-of-the-year race. Had McEwan finished first or second at the PWBA Players Championship, she could've won the award outright at the PWBA Tour Championship.
But O'Keefe, who won her first career major at the 2017 PWBA Tour Championship and had entered the 2018 season with the goal of winning the PWBA Player of the Year award, accomplished her mission.
"Looking back on it, I feel really proud of what I was able to set my mind to while staying focused week in and week out on the things that needed to be done," O'Keefe said. "When you set a goal like that, at times you could set yourself up for failure because I can only control what I'm doing, and I had to stay focused on that knowing I can't control how others perform. So, to be able to fight through all the ups and downs, to still come out successful and win player of the year, was like a dream come true."
O'Keefe has been trending upward since 2015, and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before a PWBA Player of the Year award would be part of her trophy case.
So, how will O'Keefe challenge herself in 2019? If you guess repeating as PWBA Player of the Year, you would be surprising wrong.
"I'd love to win player of the year again," said O'Keefe, who now owns eight career PWBA titles. "I'm not going to call it repeating because, if I am to win player of the year again, it's probably going to look very different than how I was able to accomplish that goal last year. I would really love to win another major and I would love to be at 10 career titles by the end of this season.
"Those are some lofty goals but all I can do is prepare, work hard and be mentally tougher than I was last year to continue to stay focused on the path that's needed in order to set myself up for success."
O'Keefe celebrated her 40th birthday in January, and every athlete will tell you Father Time is a formidable opponent, even for athletes such as O'Keefe, who have strong training regimens.
But the milestone is just another challenge for the busy O'Keefe.
Remember, she's the head women's bowling coach at McKendree, and their season begins in September and ends just prior to the start of the PWBA season. Since she's become a coach, O'Keefe always has sought the proper balance to make sure she's able to prepare for the PWBA season without taking anything away from her "kids", as she affectionally calls her team. That's first and foremost for her.
She's the ultimate competitor and ready to battle Father Time, but she also is aware of how her busy schedule takes a toll on her.
"When it comes to turning 40... in my brain I'm still 25," said O'Keefe, with a laugh. "But, I have to make sure I find the proper balance of working out but also giving myself the proper amount of rest so I don't increase the risk of injury.
"I find that if I haven't worked out or ran in three or four days, I can be a little too hard on myself. So, it's really just trying to forgive myself and know that I'm still putting in the work, whether it's in the gym or on the lanes."
With no thoughts of retirement from Team USA or scaling back on PWBA competition, training for longevity also is key.
"I have been really hard on my body over the course of my athletic career, which included other sports," said O'Keefe, who was a 1998 NCAA First-Team All-American softball selection at Portland State. "I need to also make sure I'm taking care of my body so my career can be as long as it can be. I make sure I see the chiropractor regularly and what I really need to do, and haven't done yet, is start incorporating more yoga and stretching. I'm just trying to listen to my body a little bit more but also continue to push myself and continue to be the athlete I have been."
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