The Oklahoma volleyball season is nearing its end, which means it is time for At The Net to catch up with the graduating class. First up from the senior class is Kerrville, Texas, native Kelly McCarter. Check back in the upcoming weeks for features on fellow seniors Yvette Villanueva and Christina Maynes.
The one constant in life is change. Nobody has been through more change on the Oklahoma volleyball team than senior co-captain Kelly McCarter.
Anxiety about the end of an athletics career and the beginning of a new life is a big enough obstacle for many athletes. Although unlike many student-athletes, McCarter has not waited for her amateur career to end before making decisions that will affect her life after volleyball.
McCarter is a rare fifth-year senior who transferred to OU after playing three years at the University of Arkansas, where she completed her undergraduate degree. McCarter redshirted her sophomore year as a Razorback and still had a year of eligibility left.
That is where OU came in.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude, McCarter chose to further her education by going for her masters in adult and higher education. With a roster full of freshmen, OU head coach Kalani Mahi was in need of an experienced setter. McCarter found an opportunity to fulfill the team's need and play her fourth year, while at the same time having her first year of graduate school paid for.
"OU had an academic program that I was really interested in," said McCarter. "The coaching staff expressed interest in me coming down here to play and I was really lucky when the scholarship became available."
The change from undergraduate to graduate studies has required some adjustment. McCarter's classes are all after practice in the evening and generally run for three hours. Beyond the unique schedule, graduate school takes an extra effort, on top of the increased reading and paper writing requirements.
Add the challenge of joining a new team that is chalk-full of youngsters and many students would be overburdened. Not McCarter. This chameleon has adjusted to the crimson and cream experience flawlessly.
"It has been a little odd having a lot of 17 and 18 year old teammates," said McCarter. "A lot of the freshmen find it weird that I have such a different class schedule than they do. While they are in class during the day I'm back at home doing my home work."
McCarter has taken on a mother-like role with her younger teammates. While new to OU herself, McCarter has had four years of college and provides leadership and experience that is helpful to the up and coming team.
"I feel like I'm really approachable and I want my teammates to know they can talk to me about anything," said McCarter. "My teammates constantly make me think back to when I was their age. I always try to be there for anything volleyball or non-volleyball related."
The Sooner volleyball team has also helped McCarter's transition to the unfamiliar settings in Norman.
"I would definitely say that having the ability to play volleyball my first semester here has been the best thing for me," said McCarter. "Starting school and playing with the team, I automatically had a group of girls that I knew. All of us are here for the same reason and we keep each other busy and entertained."
McCarter has faced a number of changes as an athlete, dating all the way back to high school. Luckily, the Texas native comes from a highly athletic family and picking up new skills has only been a matter of time. McCarter's father played defensive back and linebacker at the University of Colorado. Her brother plays baseball for Navarro Junior College and was drafted by the Cincinatti Reds last spring. Her mother never reached the collegiate field but was a track and field star in high school.
McCarter started off her athletic career as a basketball standout. She was on the varsity squad all four years of high school and is still Tivy High School's (near San Antonio) all-time leading scorer.
When McCarter was in high school she started to concentrate on volleyball. Volleyball didn't come as naturally for the OU senior, but it provided the best avenue for a college scholarship.
The scholarship came for McCarter and it brought about another change. This time she found herself switching positions from outside hitter to setter as she began college.
"I played a lot of outside hitter in high school," stated McCarter. "When I started getting recruited, colleges liked my hands and pushed me to become a setter. I made the change because I thought it would help further my career."
With her volleyball career in its final month, McCarter can reflect on the past and look forward to her future.
"I have had many great experiences playing volleyball," said McCarter. "I got to travel to Europe with Arkansas. On the court, one of my most memorable moments was against No. 4 Florida in the SEC Tournament a couple years ago."
As rewarding as her volleyball career has been, McCarter is excited about the unknown future. Don't bet on her struggling as she hangs up her sneakers and uniform. The heady senior, who had a 4.0 GPA in six of eight undergraduate semesters, has carried her problem solving ability off the court and into real-life.
When December rolls around, McCarter won't be surprised as her life changes. More importantly, she is looking forward to the inevitable change.
"I've had no regrets in my college career. I've had a great career and I'm proud to finish as a Sooner", said McCarter. "I am excited to see what's next for me and to finally have some free time."