By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Mark Spencer
In describing her star player, Springville High volleyball coach Julia Smith can hardly get through a sentence without using the word “outstanding.” Amanda Schultz will graduate from Springville in December, to get a jump on things at Dixie State University, and her list of high school accomplishments is extensive and impressive.
The outside hitter is a four-year varsity starter, and for three of those seasons, she has been a team captain. She has more than 1,200 kills in her career, with 400 of those coming this year and she has been an all-state and all-region player in addition to an academic all-state honor this year due to her athletic excellence and a 4.0 GPA. The list goes on and on and on.
The thing about Schultz is her Midas touch. Everything she touches turns to gold, thanks to her hard work and effort. She is not just a great athlete, but she loves music and school and life in general.
“I’m surprised almost on a daily basis in the ways she’s outstanding,” Smith said. “She’s awesome in the classroom, she’s awesome at practice. We went bowling this weekend, and she beat everybody. We have a fun stat, as coaches – she’s been doing the coin toss for three years and her coin toss percentage wins is 81 percent, for something where the odds are 50 percent. Everything she does just has a little touch of quality, in every way.”
Begins At Home
Schultz gives much of the credit for the person she’s become to her family. Her parents and three siblings are always there supporting her, when she is playing volleyball and in every other aspect of her life. They listen to country music, play games and sing together.
Smith credits some of Schultz’s competitive drive to her family dynamic. It’s a concept she read about in a book.
“My coach was actually telling me about this,” Schultz said. “She was reading this book called Top Dog and it talked about families who have the middle kid, it comes for always looking at your older siblings and the family competitiveness. I have that in my family.
“We like to do a lot of fun, competitive things. My older sister played volleyball and I just grew up watching her and I wanted to do that too. I just have a competitive nature about me. I just want to always be the best I can be. I just want to keep improving and I don’t want to get to a point where I flat line. I think there’s always things I can improve on. We do a lot of goal setting and that helps. In volleyball, you can be your own toughest opponent.”
With the competitive nature of family life, the most notable characteristic of the Schultz family is support. They are there for each other.
“My parents taught me to always work hard and they’ve always supported me,” Schultz said. “They’ve always taught me to work hard. I remember them telling me, ‘You can make a name for yourself.’ Just work hard and do your best with everything and things will work out.”
It usually works out because Schultz does the things necessary to make that happen. She puts her school work first and lets the other things fall into place.
School Comes First
“For my family, school always comes first and that’s the way it is for my volleyball team too,” Schultz said. “I bring all of the stuff I need for the day and I stay at school until I’m finished. I try to finish all my homework before I go home. I don’t procrastinate things, which I think is pretty good for a teenager.”
Smith calls the three-year team captain a “rock star” because of the way she carries herself and her commitment to excelling at every part of life.
“She’s willing to do whatever it takes,” Smith said. “I think that quality of being determined to succeed for her overlaps in every category in her life, but especially in her volleyball. She doesn’t get swayed. She doesn’t get intimidated. She doesn’t get mental. She doesn’t get that way. She’s just determined to execute. We rely on her, really a lot. She hasn’t let us down yet, not once.”
Smith is a leader and she understands what it means to carry that role. She knows her team relies on her and she relies on them, and she sees her ability to play a role in creating a successful environment.
The senior does not worry about the difficult situations in volleyball because she has faced stress many times before in all aspects of her life.
“If I am in high pressure situations more, if it’s a test or getting a good grade or trying to keep up with everything, you become used to it,” Schultz said. “In volleyball, you know I’ve been there before and it’s not as big a deal.”
Among all of her traits, Schultz stands out among her peers and is a leader to her teammates.
“(Leadership is) Giving something more to your team,” Schultz said. “Sometimes it’s taking responsibility onto myself and helping ease the burden on someone else, being there for them. There are times someone is having a rough time or makes a mistake and you take that from them so they can feel more relaxed. That’s what makes a leader, the ability to take that burden from someone else.”
“I’m going to step up and try to be a leader each play. Everyone makes mistakes, but I try to be the one that breaks the trend. That’s something I’m really good at. I think I’m pretty good under pressure and I like the pressure.”
Leading By Example
Schultz does the little things that draw people to her. Her coach believes her style of leadership specifically makes everyone around her better.
“She’s awesome,” Smith said. “It’s unique. A lot of players with her stats and her ability to execute kind of have this essence about them that they’re better than the people around them that’s hard to break through, but her team adores her. She genuinely cares about them individually.
“One of the best qualities she has is she always finds a way to encourage and she doesn’t blame. Just from my experience as an athlete, the one that’s playing the best typically has the most reason to blame other people for the team’s mistakes or faltering. That doesn’t even cross her mind. Her purpose as a leader, and she knows that, is to strengthen her team.
“Because she genuinely cares about them off the court, it’s a huge role she plays on our team. The other outside hitters on our team have advanced specifically because they’re trying to catch up with her and she builds them too. It’s not beneath her to strengthen the people around her.”
Building a Championship Program
Since Schultz arrived on campus with the other seniors in her graduating class, a lot has changed with volleyball at Springville High. What was once a struggling team has been transformed into one of the best programs in Class 4A.
“A lot of it was, the year before Amanda’s year (we have eight girls that are seniors this year), so the year before that, our program didn’t win a match,” Smith said. “Those girls that came in as freshmen played junior league and were close friends, and they came in with a commitment to the sport. No matter what high school they went to, this was just a unique group of girls, close friends and they love the sport and they’re committed to it. I think the coach ahead of me did a great job of creating a structure for the program, a really solid offseason structure, a really competitive summer program.”
From that turning point, the Red Devils have created an environment that is designed to compete in the long haul. These young ladies are succeeding both on and off the court.
“Something we have that’s different from any other team I’ve been on…there’s no drama, which is unique because we’re teenage girls and there’s no selfishness,” Schultz said. “We’re genuinely happy when the other girls succeeds. There’s that trust and that synergy where we’re better together than we are individually. Instead of just six individuals on the court, it’s just one unit.
“That’s really helped us this year because there’s no worries and you trust the girl that’s behind you and know she’s got your back. We like being with each other and the outside dynamic of legit friendship carries over onto the court.”
“Our goal for this year is our coach wants us to out-talk, out-work and out-hustle every team in the gym,” Schultz said. “In practice, we’re playing things off the bleachers, we’re running everything down and she expects us to dive and get on the floor. Our hustle and our determination this year will surprise people because we can keep the ball going. Our coach tells us to live to play another rally. All you have to do is play volleyball longer than the other team.”
Especially For Athletes
With all of her other responsibilities, Schultz still finds time to work with the Especially for Athletes program and to serve on the Springville student leadership council for that program. E4A encourages student athletes to use their status on campus to bless the lives of their classmates.
“A lot of the statements that are part of Especially for Athletes, like ‘Seek to bless, not to impress,’ and all of those things, I didn’t realize necessarily the effect that athletes, or I, can have,” Schultz said. “In my sport and in my friend groups or the fact that I’m on a banner out there, people know who I am. I didn’t realize that goes outside of your sport and athletes have an opportunity to use that sportlight for good (because) people notice. It makes me think about being an example for others.”
As she prepares for the next chapter in her life, Schultz feels she has taken care of business so far.
“The things I’ve wanted to do in high school, I’ve been able to do,” Schultz said. “It wasn’t easy, but I’ve been able to keep my 4.0, so far. I’ve been able to realize my dream of playing in college, which I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been able to juggle that and still enjoy the fun things about high school, like football games and dances and stuff like that. I’ve loved all of it. I feel good about myself that this step in my life is accomplished.”