Georgia McGovern & SW U17 Coach Dave Gunter
It’s always good when past players take the time to drop in to say hi, and last weekend the SW U17 Girls had a visit from Georgia McGovern, who was back in the UK on a Christmas break.
Georgia (No. 8) was part of our 2019 SW U17 Inter Regional Championship winning side, before following her volleyball career at Claremont McKenna College, California, where she plays setter for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS). She has very kindly provide her story so far…..
Four years ago I went up to hit a ball at the UK final 8’s of U18’s in Kettering and when I landed, I tore my ACL, MCL, and meniscus entirely. ACL injuries are a volleyball player’s greatest fear and it was instilled in me from an early age that I should do absolutely everything I can to try and prevent such an injury. And I did: I worked on my strength, did preventative exercises and took care of my body and yet it still happened to me.
ACL injuries in young female athletes remain understudied but that is a different matter. Nevertheless, I recovered, and have since played three successful seasons of NCAA volleyball in the USA, captaining my team to two regional championships, two final four appearances and becoming a three time All-American selection as a setter.
I started my volleyball journey in Los Angeles, California when I was ten years old. I fell completely in love. I was hooked even when we were serving underhand from the three meter line only for it to just go over the net; every rally resembled one-touch tennis. I played competitive club volleyball there for a few years before moving back to the UK, to Taunton, which luckily had Taunton Volleyball Club. For several years I juggled playing junior volleyball for Taunton, while also commuting over an hour to play in the super league for first, Bristol Volleyball Club, then later, Wessex.
Before I knew it I was being pulled into the Southwest programme. I was thirteen when I played in my first U17 inter regionals and I remember that we did not do very well. Four years later and we won the whole thing, causing a big upset in the final. It was the same year as my very first interregional, however, that I was first called up to represent England at NEVZA U17 turning fourteen during the tournament.
When I was eighteen and six NEVZAS later in both U19 and U17 age categories, I made the dream-team of the tournament. The first time I was called up to represent England at the senior level I was sixteen, and I knew that I was going to be standing and learning from the sideline. However, when an unexpected injury occurred on court I was called upon to step up, marking my first senior cap. I suppose what I am trying to say is success probably won’t come instantly – it takes time, it takes having role models to look up to, it takes perseverance, and it takes a little bit of luck.
Georgia (in white, by the net)
And all while this was going on, I was trying to get recruited to play in the USA, trying to get coaches thousands of miles away to notice me. I trained relentlessly one-on-one, trying to speed up my game and fine-tune my technique. I created highlights of myself playing over several years to show my development and my improvement, and eventually I was offered a place at Claremont McKenna College, a very academically selective school just outside of Los Angeles in California. Funny how that full circle happens – I started volleyball in LA, and that is where I am now and have been happily for four years.
It is also due to my university in the US that I was able to study abroad and play in the top league in Sweden for a season. All of these experiences: playing for countless different teams, playing with people older than me, with people from different cultures, matured me as a player and as a person.
There is no doubt that volleyball is a developing sport in the UK, often taking a back seat to the more “traditional” British sports such as netball and hockey. And yet, in other countries, within the last year, it has set records, quickly becoming one of the most watched women’s sports around the world. When you go outside of the UK, volleyball becomes a kind of universal language. I believe the UK will catch up, but what is missing is that vital development in younger players who often cannot choose to play volleyball at school because it is not one of the sports offered to them. I think volleyball in the UK will only begin to develop faster, especially as women’s sport becomes more and more in demand.
The 2024 SW U17 Squad with Georgia (front left)
It is important for those aspiring to play volleyball overseas or at the highest university level in the UK to realize that no minute is wasted when you are on the volleyball court. You are either enjoying yourself, pushing yourself to be better, or cultivating lasting friendships. And those are never a waste of time. And when I step onto the court, I know I will always play for the little girl who first served that ball over the net from the baseline.
All American Report at: https://www.cmsathletics.org/sports/wvball/2023-24/releases
You can check out CMS match videos, reports, stats, photos etc at: https://www.cmsathletics.org/sports/wvball/2023-24/schedule
Georgia (CMS) recently made it to the NCAA Division III Semifinals and their match highlights are available at:
Match report: The CMS women’s volleyball team kept fighting back to force the match to a full five sets after falling behind 2-0 but came up short to Hope in the NCAA Division III Semifinals.