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Athlete Profile: Volleyball player learns true leadership through injury

Self-proclaimed sport fanatic Kayla Brockway joined the Georgia College volleyball team as a freshman. The now senior from Jacksonville, Florida, has played an important role on the team as the setter for her four-year career.

“I didn’t play the first game my freshman year, and then, Coach Gretchen Krumdieck threw me in. She was like ‘you know we just lost with our other setter, and we are going to let you try it out,’” said Brockway.

“From there, I just kind of took the role of the leader. A lot of people compare the setter to the quarterback in football. Having to do that as a freshman really helped me for last year and this year because I knew how to lead and I knew what I had to do.”

Her determination and leadership helped guide the team to a 24-7 record in 2017 and a winning season so far this year.

“One of the biggest qualities that attracted me to Kayla during the recruiting process was all of her intangible skills. She does so many things on the court that you just can’t teach,” said Krumdieck, head women’s volleyball coach.” Kayla’s balance between athleticism and instinct is something you want in a setter, but can be hard to find."  

“Her leadership style is not loud and boastful, rather direct and to the point,” said Krumdieck. “She is well respected amongst her teammates and other teams in our conference. She has been a great role model to her teammates.”

The 2018 season, however, has proven to be her most challenging yet.

“We were playing at UNC Pembroke, and I dove for a ball and someone else came in to  dive too, and took my pinky with her,” said Brockway. “It’s considered an unstable boxers fracture, and I plan to get surgery on it after the season comes to an end.”

The devastating news rocked her world. She worried the injury would end her career halfway through her senior season.

“I got an appointment with a hand specialist, and I begged him to let me play because I just couldn’t face the fact that it could be over so soon.”

Cleared to play with a specialized splint, Brockway adjusted to stay in the game and help her team continue their season.

“If this would have happened my freshman year, I don’t think I could do it. But with having three years of college experience, I’ve been able to know what I need to do to set and be able to adjust it just a little bit.”

She had to adjust not only her play, but also her overall mindset. Thanks to the support of her team and the Georgia College community she’s been able to stay positive. 

“My team showed me how much they had my back because all of them know how much this sport means to me and how much senior year means to me,” said Brockway. “They all knew I was mentally struggling. My teachers knew too and were supportive”

Even with her injury, Brockway still shines on the court hitting the impressive 4,000 assist mark recently— a first in Georgia College volleyball history.

“I remember when I set the ball I kind of got it out of the net, so I thought people were cheering because it was a good play. Then I realized they were cheering for the 4,000th assist,” she said. “People held signs up, and it was really cool.”

For the athletic training major, her success playing the sport she loves and even facing the challenge of breaking her hand confirmed she has the right career path in mind.

“I’ve never had a big injury like this. But I’ve seen friends go through that, and it’s tough. I know how much an athletic trainer can mentally help as well as physically.”

The life of a student athlete can bring it’s own set of challenges juggling sports and academics. Brockway credits her overall experience at Georgia College in helping her find the right balance. She knows skills she’d gained inside the classroom and on the court will stay with her.

“My college experience has been everything I could have hoped for and more. I had all these expectations, and every single one of them was blown out of the water,” said Brockway. “It’s been great that I have small classes, so I can get to know the teachers well and build those relationships. Some of my professors even come to games, so that’s been a good thing.”

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