The double L rings out again as the announcer names the scoring player. Lisa, a 17-year-old senior from New Trier High School in Chicago, Illinois, has just scored two more points. Her long ponytail whips from side to side as she runs down the court, stops, and darts back and forth in front of one of the opposing players.
Then suddenly Lisa lunges at the ball, steals it, and a few seconds later, the loudspeaker booms again—“Li-sa Lar-son!” By the time the game is over, Lisa has scored 23 points.
When Lisa plays basketball, she explodes with energy. But it isn’t only on the basketball court that she demonstrates such enthusiasm.
“Lisa’s first word was more,” says her mother, Maya. “I guess that was a promise of things to come.”
A Gentle Side
Lisa lives in Northfield, Illinois, close to Lake Michigan, and belongs to the North Shore First Ward, Wilmette Illinois Stake. But if you met Lisa at church, you might not recognize her as the same girl who can dominate the basketball court. She is quiet and a little reserved. She attends early-morning seminary. You can often find her deep in thought.
“Time passes faster now than it did when I was younger,” Lisa says. “That worries me. I don’t want life to go by too fast. The gospel helps me put more value on time, and I want to do as much as I can with the time I have.”
When Lisa isn’t on the basketball court or at a Church activity, there’s another place you may find her. She loves animals; horses are her favorites.
“Some neighbors needed someone to watch their stable last summer, so I volunteered, just so I could be around the horses. Horses have a peaceful spirit, and I like to be with them.”
“The horses can tell she cares about them, and they really respond to her,” says her grandfather, James Larson.
Lisa is also interested in piano, tennis, dance, water ballet, and community service. “I want to learn as much as I can,” she says.
The Only One
The Trevians’ girls’ basketball team is one of Illinois’s strongest. Lisa is cocaptain and the only Mormon—which presents interesting opportunities.
“Once we were playing a tough game, and I was standing at the foul line next to a big girl from the other team. She turned and asked, ‘Why don’t you ever swear?’”
Lisa smiles as she tells the story. Then she gets more serious. “I know that because I’m LDS, the other girls are watching everything I do. I want them to know that being a Mormon can make you work harder, not just in sports but in everything. I think they’re starting to understand that my standards give me more physical drive and help me think clearer when things are moving fast. The gospel makes me stronger in everything I do.”
This priority on gospel standards influences Lisa’s non-LDS friends. They come to her for advice, knowing they can trust her. “During a junior prom, I was able to talk a couple of my friends out of doing something that could have been real trouble for them. My friends are amazed that I can enjoy life without drinking or drugs.”
There are only about 20 LDS students at New Trier, but in spite of their small number, Lisa says, “when we talk about religion, almost everyone listens. They want to know what we have to say, and why we believe the way we do. They keep us busy answering questions about the Church, especially when there’s nothing else to do during bus rides to field trips.”
Work and Wisdom
Last year, Lisa dislocated her shoulder and missed a chance to go to the Blue Star Basketball Camp to be seen by college recruiters. She was disappointed, but she didn’t give up. “I knew that I’d kept my body clean and strong and that it would heal fast.” She came back playing even stronger.
Lisa’s coach, John Schneiter, says, “In my 35 years of coaching, I’ve never seen a harder working athlete.”
Lisa comes by a lot of that determination through her family. The Larsons are like many active LDS families throughout the world. They echo gospel ideals in many of their activities. Their conversations are sprinkled with LDS catchwords. And they relate well with their non-LDS neighbors and friends. The Larsons also have an unusual number of family traditions which seem to bind them together. Visit them in December, for example, and you’ll probably see their family enactment of “The Night before Christmas”—with all of the lines changed for comic effect.
Lisa has two brothers and one sister. Josh, 15, is the oldest brother, just younger than Lisa and also an up-and-coming basketball player; then come Brigham, 12, and Brittany, 9.
Lisa relates well to her father’s athletic background as a college football player. “He’s been a great influence on me,” she says. “He loves sports and is a real fighter. He helps me stick with it when I get discouraged.”
More to Come
What’s in Lisa’s future? “I’ll always be interested in sports,” she says. “But there’s more. I want to go to college—to BYU and major in dance. And join a dance troupe later on. And then teach.”
She pauses again.
“I’d like to go on a mission somewhere in the middle of all that. And of course get married and raise a family.” And more, and more, and more, and more.
In many ways, Lisa is just a good LDS girl, whose life is continually influenced by her membership in the Church. But because she’s always trying to do the best she can, for her more isn’t just a word; it’s a lifelong challenge.
Editor’s note: Since this story was written, Lisa has graduated from high school and is attending BYU.