Dedication, to find that something inside of you that pushes you, is very important. For some, it’s dedication to their country, and for others it is dedication to sports. For Capt. Caitlin Chiaramonte, 18th Fires Brigade judge advocate, her passion has always been serving her country and playing competitive basketball.
“I started in 6th or 7th grade and I just liked it...the competitive nature. I used to just play outside with the guys in my neighborhood and then I played in high school.”
Chiaramonte went to Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a school known for success in women’s high school basketball.
“I knew there was a big emphasis on women’s basketball where I lived because our high school was four-time state champions. I was on a state championship team in high school and then was recruited to play in college.”
After graduating high school, Chiaramonte, received an athletic scholarship to play at the University of Richmond in Virginia. After playing and attending at Richmond, Chiaramonte sat out a year and played at Fordham University in Bronx, N.Y.
“College basketball was tough (mentally), because it can be more of a business than what I was used to in high school. I went through three head coaches and ten assistant coaches.“
Despite being frustrated with the business side of college athletics, Chiaramonte said she made a lot of friends during her time in college, friends she still talks with to this day.
After obtaining her law degree, Chiaramonte went on to work at a law firm in New York City. After awhile, she began to miss the game, and made sacrifices to get back to playing basketball.
“I had been approved in law school for the JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps, but I realized how much I missed basketball, so I asked if it was okay to defer. I was still in contact with my agent from before and said I’m still interested in playing. She asked if I was still in shape, I said yes and she called me that December and said, 'can you be on a plane to Berlin in a week, we need a post player in Germany'.”
With the support of her law firm, Chiaramonte went overseas to play basketball and pursue her dreams while working for the firm during the summer. She went off to see the world, traveling from city to city, visiting different countries; she got to live her life. After a few years of playing overseas basketball, meeting new people from all over the world, she said she knew it was time to join the Army.
“It got to the point where I felt like I didn’t want to mislead the JAG Corps but I had another contract for Germany with a good team that I wanted. So I had to make that decision to play another year or join the Army now. I felt a responsibility to do something with my law degree. Little did I know then there would be opportunities to play in the Army,” said Chiaramonte.
Those opportunities came with the All-Army basketball team, which she joined for two years, as well as the All Armed Forces team. Chiaramonte changed her focus from beating other teams to beating the other service branches and instilling confidence and camaraderie in her teammates.
Currently serving as the brigade judge advocate and playing on the Fort Bragg basketball team, Chiaramonte has a lot on her plate but doesn’t complain, knowing that it's the life she chose for herself.
“I think it’s tough, but a personal decision to make that commitment. So, if it means getting up at 5:30 a.m. and not getting home till 9:30 at night because you’re training and working and going over paperwork at night. It’s a decision I made. I’m willing to make that sacrifice for this,” said Chiaramonte.
“It kept me on the straight and narrow,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t be late to school in high school if I wanted to go to practice. I knew I couldn’t skip class in college, I knew I couldn’t take drugs or drink alcohol. It always kept me in line because if I wanted an athletic scholarship my grades had to be good. It really is funny, when I think I want to leave basketball, it keeps finding me and I keep playing.”
Chiaramonte continues to push herself to show the love and passion she has for basketball, as well as the Army.