PLAYER PROFILE: Athlete keeps faith a priority
When a volleyball player leaps above the net and drives the ball into the opponents’ court, the crowd erupts in cheers. No one notices the player who set up the assist that came before it.
Well, maybe not no one.
After Houston defeated Tulsa in three sets at the Athletics/Alumni Center on Friday, fans crowded around UH senior setter Kelsey King asking for photos and autographs. One middle school student told King, "I’ll see you in the Olympics!"
King may have started playing volleyball after watching her older sister, Kary, but now she’s the one setting an example for younger girls.
"It’s really flattering. It makes you feel really good," she said. "I just try to keep my head cool and not get too big of a head."
King showed early talent in the sport when she began playing in elementary school.
"I was on a fourth grade team. I was the only second grader, and I got into club in sixth grade."
King played for Winston Churchill High School in San Antonio, where she became involved with another group she is still active in today – the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
"I always loved just the fellowship that we got out of it and just connecting with other athletes who share my beliefs," she said. "It’s really important to me to make sure that first and foremost, everyone knows I’m a Christian over an athlete. It’s hard sometimes, and I know that I don’t always do the best job of showing that, but I try my best."
King played for Birmingham Southern as a freshman and led the Big South Conference that year with 1,207 assists, averaging 11.83 per game. However, when the school became a Division III program in 2006, King transferred to Houston and was enthused to find a FCA chapter at UH.
"When I got (to Houston) I was so excited that we had one. We didn’t have one in my old school. I try to help out as much as I could, and when (chaplain Mikado Hinson) asked me to be a leader, I was so excited, King said."
King said her leadership in the group carries over onto the court.
"Part of being a leader is keeping your composure (and) keeping a positive attitude for your team so they’ll follow you. That’s part of being a Christian, having an attitude so that people will follow you and want to do what you’re doing. I just hope and pray that I do a good enough job for my team, showing them and not just talking about it, but walking the walk."
For King, one of the most rewarding aspects of being part of a team is being able to build relationships with the other players.
"With (Hurricane) Ike, we were on the road for a week together. It’s tough, especially during pre-season. We live together in the dorms and spend every waking hour together, so it’s kind of hard… but it’s really fun to get to know somebody so well, knowing every side of them, much less 15 girls.
"This team has been the best team since I’ve been here (with) getting along and really making sure that we care about each other and what’s going on in each others lives," she said. "I’m really happy that for my senior year, this is the team I have."
King, who is majoring in psychology, will graduate in December. She wants to go to law school, but would also like the opportunity to play professional volleyball.
"I talked to (a former UH player) a little bit about going to Puerto Rico and playing this spring, especially since I’m not in class anymore," she said.
Playing competitively for so long hasn’t come without consequences. King has had two surgeries on each of her knees and will need another one after this season because doctors "found out I don’t have cartilage" left. Still, she said it’s all worth it and will continue playing the sport for as long as she can.
"With my knees, I’m probably going to have to have surgery right after season. I don’t know if I’ll be back in time to go to Puerto Rico, but I really, really want to just for the experience and to keep playing, because I don’t want to give this up. I love it so much," she said.