Holy Innocents’ senior Allison Rhea does not take bad news sitting down.
After suffering four concussions during her high school career – two in volleyball and two in soccer – the two-sport ace was delivered some stunning news last spring after her last concussion in April.
“I talked it over with my neurologist and he told me that I couldn’t compete any more in contact sports – and that included volleyball,” Rhea said. “It was pretty devastating.”
While many would simply delve into self-pity and opt to “cruise” through their senior year, Rhea’s love for sports and her teammates took over.
“I felt my biggest obligation was to the volleyball program,” she said. “They are such a tight-knit group and they are all so connected. I started discussing my options with people in trying to figure out my next move.”
At this point, Athletic Director Ruth Donahoo and Rhea’s former volleyball coach then stepped up to aid her former player.
“I talked it over with her parents regarding what we could do to keep her involved in the program,” Donahoo said.
And this is what they came up with: Rhea is now in the coaching ranks, assisting Coach Julie Fennell with the girls’ 7th grade volleyball team.
The senior didn’t make the decision easily – as she said her choices were between running cross country, managing the varsity volleyball team or coaching at the Middle School level.
“So far it’s been the perfect medium,” Rhea said of her new role. “In a way I’m still competing and I’m still involved with the sport.”
The senior admits that changing hats hasn’t always been easy, though her love for the kids and the game has shone through and translated into early success.
“It was a very weird transition,” she said. “It’s one thing being a player and knowing what you’re supposed to do. It’s a lot different being a coach and having to know what everyone out there is supposed to do. Now I know why coaches can get so frustrated sometimes – it’s because they see how good you can be. I used to wonder why Coach Ruth would get so upset with us. Now I see.
“At first, I was scared to criticize or to give advice. Once I saw they were eager to learn and that they respected me, however, I got the hang of it.”
The senior said she also used some of her work with Girl Talk – a high school mentoring program that pits upper classmen as mentors for Middle School kids – to good use in helping her on the sidelines.
“It’s an awesome program and a good one,” Rhea said. “Middle School can be such a confusing age – it’s great to be able to step in and help.”
Looking ahead, Rhea plans on college and a potential major in environmental science. As for coaching, she says she would perhaps coach a club team or maybe her kids later on. Regardless, she is already able to put her athletic experiences into proper perspective despite her young age.