This is Sideline Stories. A platform where NE10 student-athletes can share their collegiate experiences in an unfiltered environment - using their voices to promote growth and positive change in our league and overall in NCAA Division II athletics.
Franklin Pierce sophomore Kennedy Garnhart had to overcome medical obstacles to live her dream of playing collegiate volleyball. She shares her thoughts in this edition of Sideline Stories:
Garnhart enters her second season on the Franklin Pierce volleyball team in 2019.
Growing up I was always involved in sports, I played basketball, softball, gymnastics, soccer, you name it, but my favorite was always volleyball. My mom coached my older sister’s team at the YMCA and I remember going to all the practices and begging my mom to let me play. Once I reached third grade, I was finally old enough to play on my own team. As I got older, I got more serious in athletics and started playing club volleyball in eighth grade. This is when I fell in love with everything about volleyball.
In high school, my biggest goal was to play with my sister Abigail, who is two years older than me. There were small moments we shared, but never really got to experience playing together how we both wanted. She committed to play at Franklin Pierce her senior year of high school, and left that next fall.
Kennedy Garnhart (right), pictured with her sister, Abigail.
My sister Abigail is my best friend, and her leaving was one of the hardest things for both of us. High school went on and I began the recruiting process and talking to college coaches until I got some life-changing news my junior year. I had severe scoliosis growing up, and it had gotten bad enough that I needed to get corrective back surgery the summer before my senior year.
It was terrifying because there was no guarantee that I would be able to come back to volleyball at the same level. I had the surgery May 15, 2017, and now have two rods and fifteen screws in my back. I recovered and trained all summer, with the support of my family, to return to volleyball for my senior year. (X-Rays from before and after surgery HERE)
Garnhart had corrective surgery for severe scoliosis.
In the spring, I committed to play at Franklin Pierce University alongside my sister, because I saw it as an opportunity that I could not give up. I remember calling Coach Dragan and telling her that I accepted her offer and hearing her scream with excitement because I was going to get to play with my sister for two years. She played with her sister in college, and told me that it was an experience that I would never forget.
College was somewhat of a culture shock for me at first because I am from Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is very different from the northeast. The people, the slang, the scenery, everything was so foreign to me when I first got here, but now it all feels like a home away from home.
Garnhart with her mom, Kimberley, sister, Abigail, and aunts, Kelly, Kyla and Susy.
I remember walking into the gym the first day of preseason my freshman year not sure what to expect, and being completely overwhelmed. The things that helped me through this the most were my sister and the new friends that I made here. I have made some of my closest friends through volleyball and school here at Franklin Pierce and I know they are forever friendships. My teammates are my go-to girls, and we have grown so close throughout this season. We laugh together, we cry together and we grow together, and I think that is what being a team is really all about.
I am an Elementary Education major with a concentration in English and a minor in Spanish. My mom is a teacher, and I have had so many teachers impact my life in a positive way, so I want to be able to have that impact on today’s youth. One of my biggest passions is helping others, and I believe that teachers have a huge opportunity to help every student they come into contact with, not only in their academics, but also in their personal life.
This year I am working in schools with children who have autism in elementary schools and middle schools through building lesson plans and observing their classrooms to get observation hours before I student teach. It is challenging at times to balance athletics and academics, but in the end it has made me a better student and athlete.
Franklin Pierce volleyball team.
One moment I will never forget is starting in my first college volleyball game next to my sister. One of the first plays I dug a ball that was set to my sister for her first kill of the season. We celebrated and it was a moment that I remember every detail of. In that moment I felt validated that all of my work had paid off. I wasn't done working, but I knew that it wasn't for nothing.
My favorite memories are the celebrations, the adrenaline rushes, cheering on my teammates, the laughs we share in practice, and all the little things. All athletes will tell you that college athletics is somewhat of a roller coaster, however the memories make it all worth it.
I would not trade this experience for the world. I am getting to play the sport that I love everyday with my best friends and studying things that interest me and will set me up for a successful job in the future. I didn't know two years ago if I would ever be able to be where I am now, so I try my best to never take it for granted.
- Kennedy Garnhart
Garnhart sisters play final season together in 2019.