Even after her playing career ended, Chloe Barnes has stayed close to the game of basketball, but even she admits it took time to come back to the sport.
After a high school career that started at Quincy High School and ended at Quincy Notre Dame, Barnes went on to play at Ball State University. Her collegiate career, however, was cut short after just two seasons because of concussions.
That opened the door for another career path. After spending time working as the director of Student Athlete Affairs at Texas Tech and as the lead advisor for Athletic Academic Services at Loyola, she recently started her own company that focuses on helping high school student-athletes make the best college choices. Barnes, 25, also has done color commentary for the Illinois High School Association Class 2A girls basketball state tournament at Redbird Arena in Normal for the last four years.
What has life been like since basketball?
Athletics is still very much part of my life. I run my own company in Elle Grace Consulting, LLC. We work with high school families to help their student through the recruiting process. We make sure they're in the right classes, that they are prepared when they go college visits. We also do value-based assessments so they can make the right college decision for them. We make sure they're owning it for themselves. Kids often are caught up in the limelight that sometimes happens when kids are getting recruited these days.
Where did the idea come from to start a business like that?
For me, being a former student-athlete, having to go through the recruiting process was one of the most stressful times in my life. I was the first one in my family to go to college and go through that. It was something I had wished -- something my mom had wished -- that someone knew what was happening at that time. To go into college athletics and see the other side of it, I saw some kids who didn't make the right college decision for them because they got caught up in what someone else was saying or what their parents were saying or their friends. That's why the transfer rate is so high in college athletics, because kids are making the wrong decisions. I couldn't help but think with a little bit of guidance, I could make someone's college experience a little bit easier and take a little bit of burden off the parents.
How'd you come up with the name of your company?
My family is a big reason why I am who I am. I have two sisters. One passed away, and her name was Lachelle. The other is Gracie, or Anna Grace. When I was forming my company, I wanted to do something that made them proud and something that could leave a legacy to reflect the great women that both of them were and the influence they have in my life. Elle is half of her name, Grace is half of her name, and the initials are EGC -- C is what my name starts with -- so it works out really well.
What's a typical day in your job? Is there one?
There isn't one. I still work in a corporate space for now while I'm still working on building capital for my business. I wake up at about 4 in the morning and go work out. I'll do business and client calls and prep from about 5-7. Then I get on the train from 7-8. During my lunch, I do a lot of conference calls and I'm on a lot of national committees. At 5, when I get off work, 'til about 10, I'm fielding calls and working with students and clients. I'm doing anything I can to help promote what I'm doing. Then I go to sleep and do it all over again.
You're broadcasting at the state tournament. How did you get into that?
On accident. While I was at Ball State, one of their regulars quit and didn't show up for one of their games. So they were like, "Hey, Chloe you're intelligent and can talk about basketball, so give it a shot." It was one of those situations where not only did it come naturally, but it was the first time in a long time I still felt connected to a game I hadn't gotten to be a part of for a really long time.
When's the last time you picked up a basketball?
Actually about two weeks ago. After I was done playing, it was tough for me to get back into the space, and I shunned basketball all together. I just got back on an intramural team and just started shooting in a gym. There's an emotional healing process that when a game you love is taken away from you.
Your career at Ball State was cut short after two years. That had to be disappointing.
Disappointing is an understatement. You come to places like (the state tournament) and in Illinois, basketball is your life. You do that as soon as you're 5 or 6 years old. You're always building for that elusive Division I scholarship. I gave up a lot. I traveled every weekend to Chicago in high school, and I missed out on a lot of opportunities to make friends because I wanted to be the best I could be to play at the next level. To do all those things and to never really have an opportunity to see it through is disappointing. When I got my first concussion, I was doing really well. I was a freshman and just came off the bench to bring some offensive energy. I was really hitting my stride, but once I got that first one, it was all downhill.
How many concussions did you have?
Six total. I had two from car accidents, and four were from playing basketball. I fell back and hit my head once for a charge. I was in a box-out drill and got elbowed. There was another in there I don't really remember. Then ironically enough, we were in a shootout in Cancun, and it was my first game back after having to sit out after awhile. I was really excited and draining 3s in warmups. Our manager threw me the ball, but he didn't call my name, and it hit me in the head. That was the last one. It was horrible. At that point it was like, "Are you kidding me?" I didn't know that one was going to be the last one for me.
You stayed at Ball State after the school ruled you medically ineligible. Is that because you liked being there?
Yeah. I really was fortunate. I was in the honors college and had a community at Ball State. It was a place that I loved, and it just happened that I started to do broadcasting after I was done with basketball. It kind of saved me. I had my own radio show in grad school. I got to have another way to enjoy sports that some people wouldn't have had. As much as it sucked having my playing career end, everything happened for a reason. I'm in my profession and got into broadcasting because I got hurt. It all comes full circle.
How often do you make visits to Quincy?
My whole family for the most part still lives in Quincy. My grandparents are there, my parents are still there. My sister lives in St. Louis but my brother Kramer just moved back there, and Kellen still lives there. I'm very much a city kid, but my roots are still in Quincy. I don't go visit as much as I should, that's for sure. Probably a couple times a year. I've been going back a couple more times lately because my grandparents aren't doing too well. I try to spend time with them.
What's life like in Chicago?
It's very busy but great at the same time. There's so many people who want to help youth and kids. It's so crazy how basketball has opened so many doors for me. In Chicago, there's nothing more than basketball, so the people I have been able to meet through my connections like from QND and basketball has helped me propel my business. I've made some really good connections with people like at Jordan, Nike and places like that.
You started your career at Quincy High School but graduated from Quincy Notre Dame. Why did you transfer?
It was the biggest drama of all time. At that point in time, there was stuff that was happening from our family with the coach (Sandi Devoe) that made it really difficult to continue in that space. It was the best for me and my family to look at alternative places to go to school. I'm so fortunate to have had the opportunity to play at Notre Dame. My first year after transferring was our first season here (at the state tournament), and it was a record-breaking year. It was really cool to see that after that year the legacy kind of continued, because it wasn't like that before I got there.
It sounds like you kept your options open to different schools?
Oh, yeah. It was a decision that was difficult for my entire family. My dad played on the Blue Devils with Bruce Douglas. My uncles played on the Blue Devils as well. My family is still really close to the Douglas family. The whole family is pretty much a QHS Blue Devil. I guess I started to shake things up a little bit when I went to Notre Dame.
The IHSA let you play right away. Did that surprise you?
Not really. We had a lot of conversations with the IHSA to make sure we were in compliance. My mom and I moved, and we weren't living in the same area anymore. There was a lot of things. It's still crazy that after all these years I still have people ask me about it. I actually had a few people ask me about it this weekend. It's crazy.
Getting to play at QND allowed you to play on this floor. What's the experience like playing here and now getting to broadcast games here?
It's remarkable. I know how much it means to these girls to be here. The only thing I hope is they really enjoy it because one day they're going to be old like me, and they'll remember all the things about this moment. Whether you play college or not, it will never be like this ever again. All your friends, the community support behind you. That's why I like doing these broadcasts. Once a year I get to come back and reflect and remember how this experience shaped my life.
What's your future?
I always like to think my future is where the opportunities are in what I feel passionate about. For me, that's pursuing my business and helping grow that. I'd like to continue working in the broadcast side of things. It comes naturally to me. I'd like to get back on radio. I had my own radio show at Ball State that was all about female sports and got to interview athletes like Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy and Sage Steele. It was a really fun place to talk about things that were important to me and my listeners. If someone said tomorrow, "Chloe, you can have your own radio show," I'm so there.