When Brooke Birch is not leading the Georgia Southern volleyball team on the court, you can find her binge watching random shows on Netflix or eating highly controversial foods. Her favorite show? Gossip Girl. The food? Hawaiian pizza. . . yes, the one with pineapples on it.
When the defensive specialist was a freshman, her team mate gave her one piece of advice that has stuck with her over the years. As a leader, she has learned that she is responsible for learning everyone’s coaching and communication style. She is the go-to person when the team needs someone to facilitate tough conversations.
“My fall semester of my freshman year, it was a really tough practice and I started crying,” she said. “Catherine Murray was like ‘Why are you crying? Don’t take it too seriously’, so I’ve tried to not take things so seriously ever since.”
The Lorton, Virginia native, is going into her senior season as an Eagle and has lived to tell the tales of constant change in the GS volleyball program. This is the first season under head coach Chad Willis, who is coming from Sun Belt rival Appalachian State. She believes he has completely changed the culture of the team this preseason.
“I’ve experienced change every single season because we haven’t had a stable coach,” she said. “The coaches really care about making us into good human beings off the court. They want to prepare us for what is after volleyball.”
Being 10 hours away from her family at home, Birch relies on her teammates for support.
This summer, the team took a team bonding trip to North Carolina to experience white water rafting. With the help of weekly meetings and open communication about tough topics, she believes that adversity brings the team together.
Birch led the Eagles with 25 aces last season, but admits that while she was the star of her high school team, playing at the Division 1 level forced her to toughen up and rise to the challenge of her equally-as-talented counterparts. She has strayed away from her aggressive on-court antics over the years.
“I shied away from my go-get-it attitude in high school and I really regret that,” she said. “But, I’m getting back to that with the help of the right coaches.”
Birch recorded 159 digs and eight assists last season and joins three other seniors in Ryan Tuten, Kendall Adams and Carly Turner.
“I’m hopeful about it [the season],” she said. “I don’t know what to expect so I’m just thinking positive things.”
Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Sports Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org