By Jeff Batt | firstname.lastname@example.org
At the age of 11, Shea Hamilton had her first chance at trying out for her school’s junior varsity volleyball team. Unfortunately, she was one of the few girls not picked to join the team. Ever since that rejection, she has used it as motivation to look forward to success, which includes a jaw-dropping spike she uses today.
“It sucked. I hated getting cut, but I was new to the sport so I understood,” she said about that experience.
She said she knew the reality — she just needed some practice. She had the athleticism to be good at volleyball, and she started her career with the Pinellas Heat, a club volleyball team near her home in Clearwater, Fla.
While a part of the Heat at the age of 13, 15 and 18, she and her teammates made it to the Junior Olympics, also known as Nationals. She got the opportunity to compete for titles in places like New Orleans and Texas.
Come her senior year of high school, Shea was not really sure where she wanted to apply for college and wondered who was going to recruit her for volleyball. She received letters from smaller schools that wanted her to play libero position, but she wanted to play outside. She received her first Division I offer from Jacksonville State her senior year, but then Flagler College Volleyball Coach Matt Affolder stepped in.
“Matt (Coach Affolder) emailed my club director about me because he had seen me play and I started talking to him and scheduled a visit,” she said. “I knew Cait and Amber on the team because they were from my area. I had heard about it, but never thought it was going to be a fit for me.”
Hamilton took the short drive to the opposite coast to visit the school and knew it was the right decision.
“I knew that it was in Florida, it was comfortable, I liked the girls, I liked the coach and it was the right fit for me.”
A little over a month and 17 games into the season, Hamilton is having a major impact with 89 kills and 159 digs. Standing at 5 feet, 8 inches, she is considered one of the shorter players on the team, but that does not stop her from annihilating the volleyball into her opponents.
“I took private lessons with my coach of my club team,” she said. “I started training with him, so he initially got me into targeting and I knew at the same time I was small, so I knew that I had to have something that the taller girls did not have.”
In collegiate athletics people tend to judge competition based on what division the institution is in. There is Division I with schools such as University of Florida, Florida State University and Alabama, which tend to be the most competitive and highly sought after. Next, you have Divisions II and III, which tend to be smaller schools. Hamilton knew that a smaller, non-division I school was going to be the right place for her.
“I wanted to be able to come on to a team where I could have an immediate impact and bring something to the team,” she said. “And I knew that in bigger schools you were going to have people that were twice my height. I just don’t think I could have made as big of an impact as I could have here.”
Even though she has fresh legs here at Flagler, Hamilton brings in confidence as she has one and only one goal: “I can definitely say that making it to nationals is a huge goal. I think we are good enough to make it there, but it will come from a lot of hard work.”
Hamilton knows that she brings youth to the Flagler program, but every moment counts.
“I know I am new and I am getting more playing time than most freshman do and I am very thankful for that,” she said.
Hamilton is from the same town as Flagler volleyball veterans Caitlyn Kovach and Amber Peone, so she does not hesitate to ask for a quick tip during a match.
In a match against rival Armstrong Atlantic University, Hamilton faced a tough situation as she was serving and made a service error to lose the match. Of course, everyone makes mistakes and luckily for Hamilton she had a supporting cast around to help her move on quickly.
“After the error I looked at all my teammates, and Cait told me to shake it off, forget about it, it’s gone. It’s tough and you are going to be hard on yourself, but it was easy to come back when you have your whole team supporting you.”
She is currently pursuing a degree in Communications, but after she is done with college she is not sure what she wants to do. If she had a dream job it would be doing something in photography as she loves to take pictures in her spare time.