A Tight-Knit Team Both On and Off the Playing Field
Spotlight on Kyra Rodi, 17
Written by Jessie Fox
Between being a member of the Hillsdale College women’s volleyball team, volunteering at a local women’s shelter, teaching Sunday school, and pursuing a biochemistry major and biology minor, junior Kyra Rodi doesn’t have a lot of time for Netflix. But when I asked about her experience as a student athlete, a huge smile spread across her face.
“I’m trying to think about how to put it into words,” she said. “I love it.”
Throughout high school, Kyra had a feeling she wanted to study science and a goal to play collegiate volleyball. Division I, II, and III programs had expressed interest in her as an athlete. Her impressive GPA in combination with her 6’1″ stature made her stand out.
It was her freshman year of high school when Kyra first heard about Hillsdale from her volleyball coaches—both Hillsdale alum; one even played for Chris Gravel, the current women’s volleyball head coach.
Hillsdale’s size left freshman Kyra thinking, “It’s just not going to happen.” But when she finally visited campus her junior year, everything changed. After visiting a variety of schools, Kyra had decided she wanted a strong academic school, a small school, and a tight-knit campus. Hillsdale had all three qualities plus a volleyball team that was more like a family.
“I thought a D-II school was a good balance of having academics first but also having a good athletics team, and I think that’s what drew me to Hillsdale,” Kyra said. “There aren’t many other schools that have this strong of an academic standard and this strong of a volleyball program.”
Kyra continued visiting a few other schools after visiting Hillsdale but admitted that none of them compared.
Kyra said she remembers feeling amazed that her tour guide seemed to know everybody on campus. In the last three years, Kyra has experienced Hillsdale’s tight-knit community firsthand.
“We get so close by the fact that we are going through the same thing,” she explained. “There’s a shared bond in knowing that we are working to achieve something so much greater and bigger than ourselves both in our teams and with school. So in that way, you can relate to everybody else here.”
Though she has made friends in all corners of campus, Kyra has found a stable family in her volleyball teammates.
“We’re all committed to the same goals, and we all know we’re here for a reason,” Kyra said.
In these friendships, Kyra has noticed a selfless attitude in her team as a whole.
“Everybody makes it a point to get along and care about people and want to know, ‘How are they doing? How can I help them?’” she said. “It’s all about the team, which makes it a lot easier to put yourself under somebody else because you’re serving them. You’re trying to see how you can help someone by asking, ‘How can I make you better? What are you struggling with?’”
On her visit to Hillsdale, Kyra was drawn to Hillsdale’s science departments after talking with chemistry professor Lee Baron.
“Dr. Baron really impressed upon me how much hard work Hillsdale involves but how much it pays off, because you see the benefits, and you see yourself growing,” Kyra remembered.
Kyra also learned about the science programs by talking to upperclassmen volleyball players who were pursuing science degrees.
“It was the fact that they were so close with their professors and had so many good things to say about the science departments,” Kyra remembers. “The way the faculty works with the students, helps them learn, and wants them to succeed, and the fact that there are such small classes in the science departments here really stood out. Typically in science programs the lecture halls are so huge.”
In pursuing her biochemistry major, Kyra has found it rewarding to develop her time-management skills. She said one of her favorite parts of being a student athlete has been overcoming these obstacles.
“It’s figuring out how to study for a midterm, write a paper, and finish a lab report on a bus ride because you’re going to miss the next three days of class,” she said and laughed. “But at the same time, to look back on each week and say, ‘I made it through, and I did it well,’ to see that payoff and growth as you go from being a freshman to a sophomore to a junior is huge.”
In overcoming these challenges, she has been able to lean on her teammates and coaches, who pride themselves on putting academics over athletics while still striving for excellence on the court.
Kyra explained that her coach sets aside time for them to study, and her teammates make an effort to help one another succeed in the classroom.
“It’s about that emphasis on the team,” Kyra said. “We win together, we lose together, we fail together, we pass together.”
Jessie Fox, ’17, is a native Michigander from Chelsea, MI, studying marketing/management and Spanish with a minor in journalism. She is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, works for Campus Recreation, and is an assistant editor for the college newspaper.