How Kirby Student Athletes Learned to Win as a Team


This year, Kirby Middle School revitalized its girl’s volleyball program, providing students with an opportunity to compete in a team sport. Despite not having a history with volleyball and team sports, Kirby students eagerly signed up to play. “So, a lot of my girls had never been on a team before or known what it means to be an athlete. So, we had to do a lot of work, describing what a team is and lifting each other up,” said Meg Tryder, Kirby volleyball coach. On top of mastering the basic skills of volleyball, students were challenged to shift their thinking from “me” to “we”.

Making this transition proved to be challenging, but the team’s first home game was a catalyst for change. “We lost one of our first home games and it was a big crowd. And that was a real struggle for them. A lot of them were upset, crying, and frustrated with each other. “As a former student-athlete, Tryder was all too familiar with the range of emotions her students were experiencing. “I had to do some work with myself like, I did not prepare them well enough for something like this, to lose in front of their own school,” admits Tryder. During the following practices, Tryder created space for the team to reflect on the experience and better understand each other. The team’s mantra soon became, “We win as a team, and we lose as a team.”

“We lost the next game, but they lost as a team, and they were so excited. I hadn't seen smiles like that the entire time that I was coaching, they were genuinely amazed that they really played as a team,” smiled Tryder. No longer were they getting frustrated when a teammate missed a serve, instead they were motivating each other and saying things like “You’ll get the next one.” Tryder attributes this change to introspection. During practice, she began asking students to look inward and reflect on how it felt when they missed a ball. The unanimous answer was frustrated and upset. And so the solution became clear—let’s lift each other up. “What kept me going and giving it my all was Ms. Tryder,” said Mikaiya Watson, a seventh grader at Kirby. “Sometimes I’d want to give up but then I’d think about what Ms. Tryder said and I’d keep playing and coming to practice.”

The team closed the season with a home game. The team was serenaded with cheers as they took to the court—Kirby cougar spirit was at an all-time high. "We won at home, and they cried tears of joy. They were so excited and happy,” said Tryder. Though it was nice to end the season with a victory, Tryder's focus was on helping the team build cohesion and learning how to have fun on the court. “I was more interested in how they came together as a team than having a winning season or anything like that.” The team is already looking towards the future and identifying the ways they will build on last season’s success.

We are proud of the team’s accomplishments and can’t wait to see what they accomplish next season. At Green Dot, we know that athletics provide students with unparalleled opportunities. Through sports, students develop core skills, take on leadership roles, and learn how to be a part of something bigger than themselves. All of which makes certain that students graduate from our schools well rounded and confident in their ability to conquer life’s challenges and achieve their dreams.