Junior Emma Henderson signed up for a volleyball camp when she was 11 years old. After the first day, she wanted to quit because she didn’t want to miss Taco Tuesdays at Homestead Country Club. However, her mom forced her to finish the next six weeks of camp. By the end, volleyball was Henderson’s new passion.
Monday April 18, Henderson committed to a full-ride scholarship at Central Connecticut State University for Division 1 volleyball.
But first, you need to know the story of how.
After that volleyball camp in fifth grade, Henderson joined a rec team with her friends, but that team proved to be not competitive enough for Henderson, so she moved to a club team in sixth grade — MAVS.
Henderson and her mother, Kerry Helmuth, attribute this sudden change in heart to Henderson getting over the initial hump of being a shy fifth grader. Then she developed an enormous bond with her teammates and the sport.
“Her friends were doing things that she wanted to be a part of at the time the camp occurred so she thought she was missing out on something more fun,” Helmuth said. “When camp was halfway over it had switched and the volleyball part was more fun for her.”
She continued on that same team and with the same five core girls for four years. Henderson was improving rapidly, so she went up in the ranks from a beginner team to an extremely competitive one.
Today, still playing on MAVS, Henderson also is on the East varsity volleyball team. Coming into her freshman year with experience from her club team, Henderson made JV and then competed with varsity for state. Henderson has played on varsity ever since.
“Emma is ‘the rock’ of the team, she is very coachable and a leader on the court,” Patty Phillips, varsity girls volleyball head coach, said. “I can depend on her to be mentally and physically ready to play in a match.”
Henderson and her club teammates travel every other weekend and play five hours every weekend. According to Henderson, her MAVS squad has created a serious bond over the years. And even though Henderson loves playing for both East and club, she has a deeper connection with the club team and has played at a higher level – it’s that year round, hotel sharing, aspect that really makes the difference.
Helmuth attributes all of Henderson’s success to self-determination to put in the work to make what she wanted to happen, happen.
“It was 100 percent Emma,” Helmuth said. “When it was time where people were talking about where they were going to play in college or not, she said ‘I just can’t imagine not playing’. So when she said that we started to figure out where.”
Henderson was looking at many colleges other than Central Connecticut State, such as Belmont and Edwardsville and some other D2 schools. But Connecticut appealed most to Henderson due to the school not having a huge amount of players even though it’s D1, so she can make more of an impact at a lower level.
“If I was going to [play college volleyball], I was going to do it really competitively and not just go to a D2 school, I wanted to be fully committed to it,” Henderson said.
After visiting Central Connecticut, Henderson was coming back from the airport when she called the school and committed. Helmuth also loves the coaches as the people to be in charge of Henderson when she is away from home and feels the team fits Henderson’s personality perfectly.
Helmuth has been with Henderson this whole journey, at camp and now at high-level tournaments. A wave of relief came over Helmuth as she had raised a child to play in the highest prestige in college sports, plus she didn’t need to pay for her college. The waterworks were on show at the airport when Henderson committed.
“It’s a D1 school, but it’s not a huge program, so Emma should have the opportunity to make a huge impact even as a freshman and play a lot,” Helmuth said. “They recruited her to play all six positions, not just [her main position] as a hitter.”
Being two plane rides away from home usually brings Henderson a pit in her stomach. Henderson has already met the girls on the team and thinks they will make great teammates. According to Henderson, it might make it a little easier to leave her current bond-stricken club team.
Henderson still looks back to that day when her mom forced her to continue volleyball instead of Taco Tuesday, and she can’t thank her enough. Now, she can look forward to college volleyball and hopefully a future professional career of volleyball.