Photo by Kaitlyn Stratman
It’s the first day back from winter break, and instead of sitting in first hour, senior Sara Maddox is in a gym working out with the Mississippi State volleyball team. At the end of this semester, Sara will be graduating from high school and will be playing volleyball for Mississippi State University. She will be working out, lifting weights and practicing with the team for two hours every day. She will be living her third grade-self’s dream.
Volleyball runs in Sara’s blood, as her older sister, Jamie, had played before her. After seeing her big sister play, Maddox knew volleyball was something that sparked an interest in her. So when the opportunity to play for a club team presented itself when she was nine, Sara was bound to sign up. Little did her nine-year old self know that volleyball would become a cornerstone in her life, and that she would soon be spending two hours everyday practicing.
Originally, the summer before her junior year, Maddox was recruited by Arkansas. However, after the head volleyball coach at Arkansas was removed, Maddox chose to no longer go through with her commitment to Arkansas because she didn’t connect with the new coach as much. Maddox was back to square one of searching for a college, until last spring, when the Mississippi State University coach recruited Maddox at one of her tournaments.
Maddox explained that there are tournaments where college coaches are allowed to observe players from different club teams. If a coach sees any player they could potentially want on their team, they converse with the player’s coach, as they are not allowed to talk directly with the athlete.
“Those tournaments can have a lot of pressure on them,” Maddox said. “But I already sort of knew the [Mississippi State] coach, so I knew that if I messed up he was looking to see how I responded to my mistake. He wasn’t looking for me to be perfect all the time.”
At the end of her junior year, Sara was offered a spot by the Mississippi State team. But with all of the excitement of playing college level volleyball, came graduating high school a semester early. Maddox explained that she is graduating early so that she can immediately start up practices with the team as soon as she arrives in Mississippi, and will be able to play volleyball for the team in the fall.
“I think the hardest part for me will be being so far away from my friends and family,” Maddox said. “Especially when all of my friends are still at home and are able to hang out together.”
Even though they will miss her, all of her friends and family have been very supportive and shared in Sara’s excitement.
“I’m very excited and proud that she is going on to play college volleyball,” Sara’s volleyball coach Patty Phillips said. “Sara has always been a leader and contributes to our scoring when she is in the front row.”
Although Maddox is nervous to be thrown into playing college volleyball, she is looking forward to spending time playing with the girls on the team. Maddox explained that all the players are very tight-knit, and that practices are more filled with scrimmages, rather than just drills.
“My goal is to one day be able to play professional volleyball,” Maddox said. “So with the more competitive practices, I’m hoping to improve my game.”