In order to open your eyes to the bumpy road Claire Embry, a McKinney High freshman volleyball player, is experiencing this year, I present to you the wisdom of Nelson Mandela:
"In order to understand the present, we must look at the past."
Hopefully in doing so, our minds can be opened to a sliver of who this wonderful athlete, student, sister and daughter is.
Can anyone remember their first day of high school? Or even the dreadful day where you go get your schedule, match it to everyone else's, and then find out you have no classes with anyone that you know? And then after overcoming the shock that you'll actually have to meet new people, you then realize that you have a locker that is on the complete opposite side of where your main classes will be, causing you to have to walk a mile before getting anywhere. By the time you get there, you've realized you left the right book in the locker, and even after running, dodging, jumping and hurdling everyone and everything in your way to get to class on time, you realize you're in the wrong room, in the wrong hall, on the wrong level of the high school that you luckily even made it to.
Well, ladies and gentleman, I present to you a girl that not only overcame the diversities of the first days of high school but also made the varsity McKinney High Lionette volleyball team this year as an outside hitter and a defensive specialist.
Although Embry has played volleyball her entire life, she started playing on the club level when she went into fourth grade. This is probably one of many reasons being on a team with girls four years older then her doesn't even phase her.
"Even though I'm the only freshman, everyone always jokes around and talks to me and we always have a blast together," said Claire. "Everyone is so welcoming."
One thing you can say about Claire is that she is a competitor. She has been a part of the team for tournament play this year, including the Denton Ryan tournament where she made the all-tournament team.
"Claire has just jumped right in and been an amazing asset to this team," said MHS coach Jessica Camp, following a recent match.
Not only has she seen success on the court as a freshman, but she also carries and maintains an 'A' average in school. This is mighty impressive for a freshman that apparently has a schedule that would scare away most.
"I get up at 6:20 a.m.," Embry said. "I'm in all pre-AP classes, and after going to those I play volleyball during seventh period and after school Monday through Friday for at least two hours. Then I've been going to open gyms for club, which have tryouts in mid-November."
While her schedule might indicate otherwise, Claire always finds time to spend with her family, particularly around the dinnertime.
"I always help around the house," she said, "and my family always tries to eat dinner together, even if its not home-made."
With all of the chaos and excitement that is going on in her very first year of high school, Claire leans on the support of her family and friends.
"My family and friends listen when I need to talk and make sure I'm always healthy," she said.
When talking with Claire's mother, Beth Larsen, you got the sense that she was very involved and supportive in her daughter's life.
"Claire is motivated in so many ways," said Larsen. "Most of that is what she was born with. She was motivated to do well even as a child. She took dance, played soccer, basketball and played some tennis, but volleyball is what she loved."
Claire's older sister, Callie, was apparently a big help in the motivation area for her, having also played on the volleyball team and graduated from McKinney High School. She started playing volleyball because her older sister played, and Beth understands how much of an influence Callie had on Claire's life, both on and off the court.
"She watched her sister compete and was inspired and motivated by her," Larsen said. "Claire is busy but she manages it very well. She finds time to relax and just hang out. We spend a lot of time on the weekends hanging out as a family."
When asked if there was anything that was a little intimidating about any of these major changes, Claire has endured in the last month, she said there wasn't anything that she couldn't handle.
"Nothing to the extreme. I mean tryouts was a little bit stressful and the first day of school I was a little nervous, but right when I walked in I had a lot of fun," she said.
If she does get a little flustered on the court, Claire tries her best to just take a deep breath and remember all the work she had put into the game beforehand.
" 'You'll do fine,' I tell myself," said Claire. "I'll get a perfect fit or a perfect pass and it'll all be fine. I don't freak out easily so it's not a big factor in my play."
The Lionettes are still looking for their first victory in District 10-5A since moving up from 4A last year. MHS will travel across town to battle Boyd on Friday night. Game time is 6 p.m. And like in every match, a freshman will play a major part for MHS.
Underneath the composed face of this competitive volleyball player is a model student, a family girl, and a teenager is a calm, cool, and collective under any kind of pressure. I think it is safe to say that Claire Embry has a bright future ahead of her at McKinney High School.