By Emma Gold '21
I have played volleyball for Randolph since I was first able to in 5th grade for the Randolph Athletics Program (RAP). As a fifth grader, I didn’t realize how much the whole program and everyone in it would shape me into the person I am today. After concluding my last ever season at Randolph, it is hard for me to not look back on all of the memories and what they meant to me. Playing a sport is more than just the wins or losses in a season. It is about the family you build. I believe that having these alternative families is very important for everybody.
When I was younger, I would look at my older sisters who were on the Varsity and Junior Varsity teams and wonder what it would be like to be part of a family like that. I would see them winning games, going to team sleepovers, and really adoring the sport. My love for volleyball began in 3rd grade when I met Coach Kelly. We first moved from St. Louis, Missouri to Huntsville when I was in third grade. The first person I ever talked to at Randolph was my volleyball coach, Coach Kelly Emerson. Obviously, as many of you know, she plays a huge role in the community in every way possible and dedicates so much of her time to the Admission Office. As a scared third grader and having no idea what I was walking into, her face made me feel so welcomed at Randolph. I feel like it is safe to say that we all have a person like that on one of the campuses.
Although she wasn’t my coach at the time, she did coach my two sisters. That didn’t stop her from coming to all of the RAP games in the small church gyms that we would play in and cheer as loud as she could. Coach Kelly taught me many things, but the biggest two lessons I ever learned from her were to always work my hardest and to not be afraid to talk to someone. When she came back to coach my sophomore year, I was terrified of her. I wasn’t scared because she was mean, she’s the furthest thing from that. I was scared I was going to disappoint her. My fear ended very quickly when she pulled me into her office and asked how I was. The first time we ever had our “1-minute meetings”, as she likes to say, I was confused on why my coach cared so much about what I was feeling like outside of the sport. She would ask how we are doing in school, if we were stressed, and if we needed anything from her. Obviously, she wanted to push me to be my best in volleyball, but I knew deep down that she cared for every single person on my team as if they were her own family.
Coach Kelly, along with the assistant coaches Emily and Bianca, are the moms of all of us girls and we all know that they truly love us. They changed the team's mindset of just being a couple of girls playing the same sport to joining us together and seeing all the possibilities we could have together. The bond I have made with the girls in the volleyball program is unmatched to anything I have ever been a part of. We truly act like a family and I know that if anything happened, we could all call each other, and everyone would just be there to listen no matter what. I know it is an overgeneralized cliche to say that teammates are like your second family, but I truly could not see it any other way. We have all grown up together and truly been each other's shoulders to lean on when needed.
"Every one of the girls on my team pushed me every day to be a better version of myself."
My first year playing volleyball, I met this crazy girl who had the same wild energy as me, Mary Maddox Creech. Mary Maddox, every day before I practice or game, would come into the locker room probably screaming for no reason, but she would instantly make things brighter on the team and set a better mood for everyone. Without volleyball, we may not have even known each other. Now, I couldn’t imagine what middle school and high school would have been like without her. I believe that it is so important to have people to lean on because in reality, we are all 14- to 18-year-olds trying to figure out what to do with our lives.
Without the teammates I had and the relationships that grew out of it, I would be a completely different person. Eliana, another one of the Seniors on the team, has been my best friend since 4th grade and I am so happy I made her join volleyball in 8th grade. Without Eliana, I would not be so driven to do better in life. She motivates me every day to do what I thought I couldn’t; whether it be screaming at me because I start to give up when things get hard in practice, or simply just seeing her work so hard in school. These are just some of the examples of how close we are as a team, but every one of the girls on my team pushed me every day to be a better version of myself and I truly will be forever grateful for that.
"Leaning on other people and getting those closer connections with more people really changes who you are for the better."
I never thought that this year would go the way that it did. Corona hit, taking away the majority of my season. The team lost in the area tournament, not even allowing us to move to super regionals at the VBC. Events like homecoming were cancelled. I always imagined my senior year as this insanely ideal thing, winning state in volleyball, going to all of the football games, and having the best time ever participating in all of those senior traditions. I was destroyed when those things didn’t happen, but I knew that it happened for a reason. If you told me that my senior year would look like this 5 years ago, I would’ve laughed in your face. But even without all the wins in the games, all the traditions, or everything that I thought was going to happen, I still love senior year and that is because of the people I am surrounded by and the second family I have gained by joining the Randolph Volleyball Program. With no next season to look forward to, I am forced to think about the past ones. I gained my best friends from the volleyball program and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I truly believe that the Randolph Volleyball Program is way more than games and practices, it is a family. I urge you all to find your second family within Randolph and try something new because you never know what will happen. My closest friends and the people I trust the most are almost all part of the program. I think it’s safe to say that it is a school-wide thing to have a second family with your sports team, club, or even classmates. I am truly blessed to have gotten the opportunity to be in the program for eight years and I will forever be grateful for all of the lessons, opportunities, and experiences I gained from it all. I would like to take this time to thank everyone who has been a part of my life and who has supported me throughout all my sports seasons.
You may be thinking, what is the point of this speech. The point is that leaning on other people and getting those closer connections with more people really changes who you are for the better. It doesn’t have to be a sports team or anything like it, but I believe that everybody needs their people to lean on when things get tough. My people are this team. Without being on a team like this one, I wouldn’t know how to be a teammate, a better friend, and care for others as much as I do now. I wouldn’t be able to push myself every day to do better than the last. So, thank you to all of my teammates, coaches, parents, friends, and students who watched our games to give us that extra push. Thank you to those people because you all made my life a little bit better every single day and continue to do so.