BY SYDNEY SNELSON
Back in elementary school, I played basketball for IYAA. My mom was the coach, and our team consisted of girls from multiple schools around the district. Although teams were based on grade level, sometimes, when a younger athlete didn’t have a pool large enough to play in, we would take them in. This is how I came to meet Jayden Herl. She was a cheerful, energetic, smiley little girl. Even at a young age when all of us could barely dribble a ball, she always put forth her best effort and gave all of us positive encouragement. We went on to play together in middle school, and she was still the same girl. Fast forward to today, Jayden has dropped basketball altogether but has since picked up a new talent: volleyball.
Beginning at age 8, Herl explains that she was only ever introduced to volleyball because her parents put her in it. She began attending the Chrisman workouts, where her interest only grew. She went on to play for years while dabbling in basketball and performing in gymnastics. That was until a fractured back led her to quit gymnastics altogether and turn to volleyball as her main sport.
Less than 6 percent of all High School volleyball players go on to play in college. Of that 6 percent, a mere 1 percent play division one. Jayden Herl wants to be in that 1 percent. Finishing off her second season of high school ball, she’s shown dedication and flashed potential greatness. Head Coach, David Gardner, describes Herl as an “all-around player. She can perform all the skills needed, blocking, hitting, passing, and even setting.” He went on to say that she sets an example for the other girls, even the older ones by putting forth maximum effort and putting her all into the team and her own performance.
Experiencing highs and lows is not foreign to athletes, including Herl. Whether it’s scoring an ace for the game-winning point to secure third overall in the Club Power League, getting an astounding 7 kills against Lincoln Prep, or 12 kills against Noland Road rivals William Chrisman, Herl has done amazing things throughout her career so far. However, this doesn’t shield her from hardship. When asked to describe her lowest as an athlete, she mentions this prior club season. She recalls dealing with stress due to school, personal matters, and other factors. Despite this, she pushed through and has produced amazing stats this season, including 15 kills against Fort Osage.
Herl understands volleyball won’t be with her forever, which is why she tries to cherish every moment she spends on the court. After seeing teammate Addison Gardner tear her ACL, Herl made a deal with herself to never get caught up with the mistakes she makes in games. Instead, she promised she would move past them and give her full effort in return. This has seemingly been working for Herl. She can be seen in games always shouting positive phrases at her teammates and never stopping when she makes an error. She immediately shakes it off to start fresh.
When asking questions, I expected to receive answers filled with volleyball, and a future surrounded by sports. Surprisingly, being an athlete isn’t Herl’s main focus. She values her family, friends, and sunsets the most in life. Her happiness doesn’t just come from getting a great hit in a game, but from the little things like star watching, smelling flowers, and listening to music. Her goals paint an equally grounded picture, casting aside her passion for volleyball in exchange for a fulfilling, happy life surrounded by family and friends. Herl has big plans to pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon. Whether it’s on the court or in the operating room, she will surely strive to impact the world in a positive manner.
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