ATLANTA (August 23) — Georgia Tech’s Sara McKee has never been a patient person. “Patience is probably the trait I have the least amount of,” said McKee. “I’ve always been taught that if you work very hard for something, generally things will pay off quickly.”
But, over the past three years, McKee, who is a senior outside hitter on Tech’s volleyball team, has been forced to learn that ever-important virtue. After two stellar seasons in which McKee collected 571 kills and 421 digs, and helped lead Tech to two ACC tournament finals and an NCAA appearance as the starting outside hitter, she began to have pain in her hitting shoulder. The decision was made to have surgery in the off-season and be ready to help the Jackets out again in the spring.
Following the surgery, McKee did compete in the spring, but still had a great deal of pain. So, entering her junior year, she decided to have another surgery to further repair ligament damage. This surgery was more complex than the first, requiring a great deal of rehabilitation. In fact, McKee missed the first 12 matches of the 1998 season and didn’t see action as a front row hitter until the Jackets had played in 18 matches. However, at the completion of the season, McKee still had a great deal of pain and experienced a third operation on her right shoulder.
“Last year was tough for me because I had never been one who liked to sit and watch people play,” said McKee. “Even in practice, it was hard, and a lot of time I would go running or ride a bike just so I wouldn’t have to be in the gym, wishing I was out there. I spent hours in the training room getting massages, doing rehab and icing my shoulder.”
Did McKee learn anything from that experience?
“Patience. Definitely patience. But, I am still not a very patient person. Carolyn Clevenger still gets upset with me and has to remind me that injuries take time to heal and to be patient.”
In addition to learning patience, McKee, a senior mechanical engineering major who maintains a 3.4 GPA, has discovered an interest in biomechanics, something which might not have occurred had she not spent so much time in the training room.
“After all the surgeries I’ve had, I’ve gotten really interested in biomechanics and the way the body works and I would especially like to get into physical therapy,” said McKee. “I’ve always been interested in engineering since my Dad is an engineer. And, Tech has a biomechanics path in which I can concentrate in and I plan on pursuing it and looking into a career, as well.”
Although McKee is not quite 100% physically entering her final season, she’s excited to be able to contribute this year. And, head coach Shelton Collier is pleased McKee will play a role, as well.
“Sara is our most physically gifted athlete in terms of explosiveness and quickness,” said Collier. “She has had to call on her exceptional determination to push herself to come back from three surgeries. I have tremendous respect for her, and I consider her desire and commitment to be extremely important to our team this season.”
The Yellow Jackets are happy to have her presence on the court, and will look to her leadership as Tech faces the University of Georgia in an exhibition match in Athens on September 1. And, when Techs regular season begins, McKee will be especially excited, as the Jackets will be playing in a four-team tournament in the city of Arlington, which is only 20 minutes from where she grew up. Tech will open its season facing Texas-El Paso on Sept. 3 at 5 p.m., and then face Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-Arlington on Sept. 4.
“I’m excited to be going home,” said McKee. “I’m a little nervous because typically we haven’t played well as a team for other teammates’ homecomings, but I think this one will be fun. It will be great to show my friends and family first-hand a little of what has been a huge part of my life for the past four years.”
Though at times a painful three years for McKee, its been one she wouldn’t have traded for anything in the world.
“I’ve loved my experience at Tech,” said McKee. “I’ve made great friends and learned a great deal about myself through all the set-backs I’ve encountered. I just hope I can help our team achieve the goals we’ve set this year and get us back into the NCAA Tournament.”