(Photos courtesy of Jeff Wooten)
Volleyball in North Texas is more than a sport. With a year round schedule being typical to most high school players, July has typically been about the only month with time to relax, taking a breath after USAV Nationals ends and before the High School preseason ramps up. The elite in the sport are in the gym more days than they are not and we’ve all become accustomed to a life of whistles and convention centers. We debate whether referees understand what a double contact is. We question whether the line judge was paying attention. We watch in wonder as the players get bigger, faster, stronger every season. Volleyball is not a sport, it is a lifestyle.
One year ago, it was not Bre Kelley’s lifestyle. Bre was a bit of a homebody, close with her family, and a basketball player. An earlier attempt to check out club volleyball was met with confusion and frustration. This time, with best friend Leah Green showing the ropes, Bre found herself plunged into the thick of the North Texas volley-world, and it has changed her life. On June 13th, Bre was named a member of the 2018 US Girls’ Youth National Training Team with an opportunity to learn from members of the US National Team Coaching Staff, one of twenty players from across the country. What a year!
Bre is a funny kid. She loves to laugh, she is goofy, and her raw athleticism on the court gives way to a kid who can trip out of nowhere off the court. She finds herself meeting a new “first” all of the time and she meets each one with awe and wonder.
In January of this year, Bre attended the first stop of Tour of Texas - a multi-stop showcase featuring the best teams in Texas. The first play date was housed in the Alamodome in San Antonio. With courts as far as you can see, college coaches everywhere, and a level of competition far beyond anything she had seen, Bre and her father, Chris, knew that they had just stepped into a whole new world.
Bre was in the spotlight early, a tower in the front row, still learning the game, on a team that had seven new players and had a lot of work to do to match the top competitors in the area. The attention was inevitable as Bre’s combination of height and strength is rare for someone her age - all anyone could see is potential.
As the season progressed, so did Bre and her team. The team avenged early season losses to opponents, developed a rhythm, and ultimately qualified for Open Nationals at the Lone Star Qualifier in Dallas.
The long season takes a bit of a toll on players and coaches with high expectations. It takes a lot to maintain composure and commitment to a goal. The result at Lone Star was the pay off the team, and the newbie Bre, were looking for. For Bre, it was the pay off of making a substantial change to her day to day life.
Bre is a happy kid, and was before volleyball as well. In her spare time, Bre enjoys watching shows with detectives and law enforcement. She wants to solve the case and catch the criminal before the shows get to the big reveal. If she didn’t spend all of her time in gyms and convention centers, she sees herself outside, in nature, on a hike. She loves pho - the spicier the better - and always finishes off the broth. She still just wants to go to the beach.
But one step onto the court has changed the course for Bre. It has opened new doors and developed a new lifestyle. She understands the value of what has been placed before her. She states that the most prominent thing that volleyball has done for her is given her a clear path to giving her the opportunity to find the right school for her and not feel limited in where she can go to college. She has not finalized a major, but thinks she may want to be a lawyer.
Along the way, Bre is also responsible for setting an example for her younger sister Becca who also had her first season as a volleyball player in 2018. She looks to her Rockwall Heath High School Coach, Maggie Younger, for guidance as she works to navigate this new reality. Younger encourages her to stay tough and persistent. She tells her that sometimes she has to “suck it up” and persevere.
Ultimately, the volleyball season is tough for most North Texas teams and players. The strength of schedule, the talent, the competition is all top notch in the country here. And Bre has had to learn many lessons and taken on more losses than such a highly coveted recruit may expect. But through it all, she has made it to the other side wanting to continue to learn and develop new skills. She craves being challenged to develop as a passer and on the defensive side of the ball.
All of this leads to Bre’s opportunity with the Youth National Training Team which will begin on July 20th. She will be learning and training at the highest possible level and as her knowledge grows, her responsibility on the court will continue to grow. She won’t be surprising anyone next season as the newbie to the volleyball world. While the team will train together, they will also be competing for one of 12 spots on the Youth National Team that will compete in the NORCECA Continental Championships from August 25th to September 2nd. While Bre is aiming to make the roster, she is first committed to continuing to learn and grow.
One year ago, Bre was not a volleyball player. Today, we see her about to reach for the pinnacle of the sport. Congratulations and good luck, Bre Kelley!
Author: Alex Lepp