ECHS Volleyball Player
Story by Cindy Burbage
photos by Shelia Scott
Although volleyball is more than a hundred years old, it is just now developing into a favored sport. Local volleyball player, Andrea Garcia, proves that perseverance is the way to succeed and accomplish life goals.
The Effingham High School athlete has been playing volleyball for almost 5 years; but getting serious about the sport in the 8th grade. “Before I started middle school, I had no idea what volleyball was. On the first day of school, there was an announcement saying that volleyball tryouts were going to be held the next day. I asked my mother if I could tryout and she said yes, thinking that I was joking with her because I had never touched a volleyball in my life. The next day, I went to tryouts; after tryouts, I looked at my phone to discover that I had about 24 missed calls from both my parents and 50 texts asking where I was. I called them and they yelled at me for 10 minutes asking where I was and why I didn’t call them. I said that I was at volleyball tryouts and they stayed quiet for about one minute. ¨You were being serious about that?¨ my mom asked me. I said yes and asked if they could pick me up at 5:00 for the next two days. They agreed to, but, they thought I would be cut from the team immediately. To our surprise, I made the team,” she exclaimed and then jokingly replied, “I even got the rookie award my 6th grade year.”
She did not realize her calling as a volleyball player or knew that her future in the sport could change. “I didn’t become serious about volleyball until Coach Amy Duke came to one of our practices and invited me to be a guest player for her club team. That tournament changed my life! For the first time, I got to see what volleyball was really about. I made friends with many different people, created memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life, and developed fundamental character traits, all while learning how to play. For the first time, I was excited to go to practice and to get better. Without Coach Duke, I would never have discovered the passion I had for volleyball,” she recalled.
Andrea chronicled, “For the first two years, I played as the setter. In my eighth grade year, the coach put me in as an outside hitter. That year I also won MVP. It wasn´t until my freshman year of high school that I was told I was too short to play hitter. My dreams of being a volleyball player were crushed. That is until the high school varsity coach, Brittney Lein, told me to try playing libero. ¨Li-what?¨ I had never heard of that word. I agreed and spent the majority of tryouts passing instead of hitting. The day they announced what teams we made, I expected to be put on the JV team because I thought there were other players that were so much better than me. Seeing the amount of skill this team had pushed me to work hard and be just as good as everyone else. Though I had no idea what the libero was, I knew I had one job: to keep the ball from hitting the ground. Since then, I have been playing libero for the Effingham County High School Varsity volleyball team. And I enjoy every minute of it. Now, I can’t imagine playing any other position than Libero.”
After playing a match against a rival school, Andrea’s volleyball careered changed. “The GACA North-South All-Star Classic is a two day event where the best players from all over the state are chosen to compete against each other. I was nominated by Coach Bob Massey from Statesboro High School. After playing against their school team, Coach Lein came up to me and said that Massey wanted to nominate me to play for North-South All-Star game. I was able to meet amazingly talented girls from around the state and bond over our love for volleyball. After putting a lot of hard work into our practices, The North-South teams faced each other in a best 3 out of 5 match. After putting our all in four sets, our team won 3-1. This was one of the best experiences of my life because I got to see true passion and determination with girls I have never even played with. I am very grateful that I got to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Volleyball is not the only sport that the sixteen year old Junior has mastered. “I grew up playing soccer. Since I come from a culture where soccer is idolized, my uncles, Salvador and Javier Figueroa, urged my mother to let me play soccer. For the first few years of my life, I lived and breathed soccer. I played on an all boys team coached by my uncle Salvador until the age of 13. As I got older, my mom was worried that I would get hurt playing with older boys. That is when Robert Long approached me and invited me to tryout for a new soccer club. I played for that club for two years until I decided to take a break from soccer. I thought that when I grew up, I would become a professional soccer player for the women’s national team. But as high school went on, I realized that I couldn’t be in AP classes and do both sports at once. I had to choose which sport I wanted to continue to play. It was one of the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make, but in the end I chose the sport that made me the happiest.”
Andrea’s drive is one that she learned firsthand from her family. “My family has always been very supportive of me. They put a great deal of time and energy into our family restaurant, to create a good future and wellbeing for my sister and I. My parents grew up in poverty in Mexico, and started their lives together in the United States with little money and little-to-no family. After living in Houston and working in restaurants for a few years, they decided to move to Georgia to have a fresh start and attempt to pursue their dreams and open their own restaurant. Since then, my parents have successfully managed two businesses. My older sister, Nadia Garcia, has been like a second mother to me. Because my parents spent a majority of their time working, my sister has been responsible for keeping me on track with school work and making sure I had food to eat after a long day of practices and school. My family has done so much for me and I am very grateful to have them in my life,” Andrea shared.
Andrea Garcia’s future is bright. After graduation, she plans to attend a four year college/university where she will pursue a master’s degree in both Aeronautical engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Hopefully the high school honor student will design and build airplanes to travel around the world.