Bill Stooksbury looks remarkably composed for a man bringing up four daughters.
“He’s a tough Marine,” Maryville High athletics director George Quarles said.
Just how tough, Stooksbury said, we’ll find out come July.
That’s when the retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. will drop off his daughter, Maryville High senior Andrea Stooksbury, at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Four years from now, Andrea plans to follow her father into the Marines as a commissioned officer.
“It’s going to be an emotional experience for a dad when I leave her up there to come back to Tennessee,” Bill Stooksbury said.
Andrea, a super-athletic two-sport standout at Maryville, is joining the academy’s swim team, having signed a National Letter of Intent with the Midshipmen on Tuesday. The breaststroke and butterfly specialist knows well what lies ahead. Bill Stooksbury taught ethics at the academy before retiring seven years ago. Andrea completed the fifth grade in Annapolis. She was even a Marine for Halloween once.
The Stooksburys — which includes wife Laura and daughters Hannah, Keeley and Jamie — are certainly familiar with military life. That’s why, when it came to his daughter choosing the academy, Bill said he let it be Andrea’s call.
“He really let me make my own decision,” Andrea said.
Initially lukewarm to the idea, Andrea visited a couple of schools out West before making a final choice. She had until May let the academy know her intentions. After a visit to Annapolis, where she met many of her future teammates, Andrea said she decided not to wait.
“As much as I thought I wouldn’t like it, I really did,” she said. “I fell in love with it when I went there.”
Two weeks ago, she informed her family.
“They were all kind of quiet for a second,” Andrea said. “I said, ‘It’s really happening. I made the decision to go there.’”
Laura Stooksbury said she supports her daughter’s decision. Bill served in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. Andrea was 4 weeks old when he saw her for the first time. All that withstanding, Laura backs Andrea’s decision to attend the academy.
“It’s different as a parent than as a spouse,” she said. “I think she’ll thrive there because of the opportunities and I think she’ll do well. I’m very, very proud there will be military leaders like her.”
There will always be concerns, Laura said.
“I don’t want her to worry about me worrying about her,” she said, “but, as a mom, that’s part of the big picture.”
There’s little question Andrea has the toughness for the academy, Maryville swim coach Dan Rule said. It’s not uncommon for a swimmer to make eye contact with an opponent prior to a race, he said. Andrea’s pre-race stare was never simply gamesmanship, though.
“Hands down, she’s the fiercest competitor I’ve ever worked with,” Rule said. “She can win a race before she even gets in the water.”
It’s the structure and the sense of teamwork the academy provides that helped her decide, Andrea said. “Being on team,” she said, matters most, both in life and in sport.