From t-ball to D1 softball: Brianna Pechman commits to NIU


Photo by Brianna Pechman

Humans of WEGO: senior Brianna Pechman’s softball skills caught the attention of recruiters from Northern Illinois University.

By Emily Heath, Reporter

As priority college applications come to a close, many seniors are rushing to complete their submissions. Hours sitting at a desk – trying to find just the right words that will make someone different from any other student applying – becomes a common scene. The anticipation of waiting for those acceptance emails weighs on the minds of numerous seniors. This was not the case for Brianna Pechman, though, who made the easy decision of choosing a college where she could obtain both a great education and continue her softball career.

Brianna committed to NIU to continue her softball career. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Pechman)

When I sat down with Brianna in the West Chicago Community High School Commons, she was representing her future college, Northern Illinois University, wearing attire that proudly displayed her choice. Brianna was surrounded by many of her friends, who listened in on the interview. Brianna, or ‘Bri” as her friends call her, had no problem getting into “the zone” and having an absolutely intriguing conversation with me about her past and upcoming future.

Brianna grew up in West Chicago, Illinois and attended Benjamin Middle School. Her mom, Humanities Division Head Lisa Willuweit, described Brianna as “very active” because she always wanted to be doing something, whether on her own or with other people. Brianna loved to be “where other people were” and be involved in multiple different activities.

As a child, Brianna loved to play with friends, but also enjoyed sports, and started playing t-ball at age 4. Brianna’s mom said that she was a “very competitive child” who loved winning against others. These traits would endure as Brianna grew up to become #3 in the nation (tie) for stolen bases.

In fact, Brianna is also Illinois’ stolen bases leader and ranked #4 in runs in the state, in addition to being an All-Conference, Upstate Eight, and Academic All-Conference player.

Brianna shines as a star outfielder on the 18U Dennison Silver Hawks softball team. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Pechman)

It is incredible to think Brianna has been playing softball for as long as she has been able to hold up a bat, starting with t-ball and now looking forward to being part of Division I softball. By committing to playing softball at Northern Illinois University, Brianna will not only receive a great education, but also scholarships to help pay her college tuition.

In our conversation in the Commons, Brianna explained that the journey of recruitment was anything but easy. She began to attend softball camps in middle school where she learned new techniques and what it would take to play as a D1 athlete. She also had to put in work, promoting herself on social media and personally emailing college coaches starting in middle school. After an NIU recruitment agent came to one of Brianna’s travel team games, she was informed they were interested in having her join their team. After countless hours attending camps and meeting with coaches, Brianna agreed to commit to NIU, where she will continue her softball career over the next four years.

Brianna’s travel team coach, Thijs Dennison, described Brianna as “very kind. Loves seeing her teammates succeed, and is always willing to help.”

Dennison emphasized that on top of being an incredible player, Brianna is an even better person. 

Her friends, including senior Maggie Hancock, would agree. Hancock described Brianna as “the strongest person that I know. Her compassion, understanding, and resilience are unmatched. She is a fierce and loyal friend.”

A lot of Brianna’s character comes from an innate desire to do well. Willuweit, described Brianna’s work ethic as “pretty self-motivated, so we [her parents] didn’t have to do a ton. We would try and be encouraging, reward her positive behavior, and just, overall, be supportive.”

Brianna is pinned at the 2021-22 National Honor Society by principal Dr. Will Dwyer. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Pechman)

Her parents’ support has undoubtedly led to Brianna’s success throughout her high school career, not only as an athlete, but also as a student. Brianna is ranked #1 within the class of 2022 at West Chicago Community High School. She has also won many awards for her academic prowess, including the Academic Achievement Award. Furthermore, Brianna is part of the National Honor Society, which recognizes the top scholars and leaders in the school.

Brianna has a unique drive regarding her learning; many students might be tempted to blow off their educational priorities due to a lack of motivation or encouragement, especially in light of the pandemic. When asked what drives her to continue working hard, Brianna replied, “I have a very high expectation for myself, and everything warped into me having to be the best.”

Somehow, Brianna also finds time to play the clarinet.  According to Willuweit, she began reading, listening, and making music from a very early age.

Brianna’s Symphonic Band instructor, Marissa Janiszewski, said, “Bri is a hardworking musician and a valued member of the band program here at West Chicago.  I can always depend on her when it comes to knowing her part in the music.  She is currently one of the top clarinetists in our top band.  Not only is she a talented musician, but she is also a leader within the program.  Our younger students look up to her, not only as a musician, but as a role model as well.”

Brianna’s plan is to attend NIU to receive her undergraduate in pre-law. Once she receives her undergraduate degree, she hopes to attend law school. Brianna is not quite sure exactly what she wants to do after her law school graduation, but hopes to work as a civil rights lawyer or possibly a judge. Brianna hopes to push through the rough patches along the way – just as she did in high school – to carve out a successful future.

When asked how she is going to help Brianna get through the challenges ahead, Willuweit replied, “Talking through things with her…giving her those [communicative] environments, and having conversations so that she can identify what she needs to work on.”

With Brianna’s diligence and dedication to her work both inside and out of the classroom, she should have no problem pushing through law school.

Brianna has incredible perseverance and puts in hours of tireless work. Brianna’s advice to others who want to be as successful as she is: “You have to love what you do, and you have to put in hours and hours and hours, and you have to sacrifice a lot. There’s a lot of things that I have missed out on with my friends or with my family, but I’ve sacrificed it to get where I am. I don’t regret any of it because I am happy with where I am now, but it’s really hard at the moment to let go of some of those things…but making sacrifices will be worth it.”

Her own advice has gotten Brianna so far in life, and will continue to carry her even further into the future.