Jennifer Williams never really worried about taking her own path but it wasn’t that long ago that she realized where the strength to make her own way came from.
“I think being involved in athletics as a female is great because it gives you a lot of confidence,” the former Gonzaga Prep standout said. “You have to work hard; have to learn to deal with situations on your own. My own personal successes, in career, in life, I can trace all the way back to playing soccer as a small kid.”
She needs that strength now. Jennifer Williams Bond lives in Tulsa, Okla., with two small daughters, Tessa, 2, and Ellie, 9 months, while her husband, Austin, an infantry platoon leader, is deployed in Afghanistan.
“It’s difficult,” Bond admitted. “He’s a National Guard member so we don’t live on a base. It’s not World War II where everyone is banding together. It definitely has a different feel to it but we’re very proud of him.”
Bond’s relocation was quite simple. She played basketball at the University of New Mexico and near the end of her career met the man she fell in love with.
Her decision to play for the Lobos after a decorated career at G-Prep was also simple.
“I had scholarship offers in volleyball and basketball,” said Bond, who graduated in 1997 after an All-Greater Spokane League season and trip to state. “I decided to play basketball because I enjoyed practice. In volleyball, I just enjoyed the games, and since you spend 99 percent of your time in practice, I thought I better enjoy that more.
“I picked New Mexico because they averaged like 10,000 fans a game. That’s a fun atmosphere to play in. I felt if you’re going to practice every day you might as well do it where there is a lot of energy.”
Becoming a basketball player was a bit more unusual coming from a family of skiers.
Brother Dennis, despite being 6-foot-6, was an accomplished racer, as was sister Katie, who also played volleyball. Jennifer followed suit, although as she grew to 6-1 she followed the basketball path as well, including summers with the Spokane Stars.
“I just decided to go with my more natural talents,” she said. “Ski racing’s not known for taller racers.”
She had a lot of success at volleyball for the Bullpups as a four-year varsity player but missed her freshman basketball season with a stress fracture, although she averaged 10 points for her career. She also played three years in the outfield for Prep’s softball team, quitting after she signed with UNM.
Bond made a quick impact in Albuquerque, starting and averaging 9.6 points and 5.9 rebounds for an NCAA tournament team. But a serious knee injury cut short her sophomore year, and although she returned to the starting lineup she said she was never quite the same player her last two seasons.
Her career ended with a loss in the 2001 WNIT championship game and no regrets.
“Being a collegiate athlete is rewarding, getting school paid for, doing something you enjoyed in a college atmosphere, a lot of life lessons,” she said, especially “being part of a quality program with great teammates.”
After meeting Bond she followed him to the University of Oklahoma and earned a graduate degree in Human Resources. When he went to law school she worked in the Sooners’ athletic department as an academic advisor in charge of wrestling, volleyball and tennis.
“Student-athletes are the same; they’re driven, good kids,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent work hard. There are always (a few) that are trouble, good athletes but not academically ambitious. It’s a great environment. I loved the people. It was rewarding (and) fun to be at a football school.”
They married in 2005 at Priest Lake, and when her husband started practicing law in Tulsa she went to work for her dad at Systems Transport in outside sales.
“Now I do inside sales,” she said. “When I had the children I had an opportunity to switch. It’s not as exciting as outside sales but it gives me a chance to be with the children more.”
Her brother and sister also work for the company so they stay in touch, and it’s a good excuse to visit home, something she has done more with her husband not due back until sometime this spring. But she has the confidence to get through.