Throughout the start of her college career, Kara Overholt felt she wrapped too much of herself in her sport, let volleyball define too much of her life.
As her Coker College team struggled throughout her freshman season, Overholt found herself mired in those struggles, letting those shape her days.
But Overholt soon found perspective and found the proper place for volleyball in her life – so much so that she hopes to give it a permanent spot.
The former Polk County standout recently concluded what proved to be a stellar career at Coker, finishing third on the school’s all-time digs list and playing extensively throughout her four seasons. She is now finishing her final semester taking classes online while serving an internship at nearby Converse College and spending what spare time remains coaching Polk County Volleyball Club’s 17U squad.
And occasionally still yearning to suit up.
“I am going to miss playing a lot,” Overholt said. “Obviously, there are extra things about volleyball as well, the workouts and the team trainng and such. But as far as playing, heck yeah, I’m going to miss it a lot.”
Overholt, though, hopes to fill some of that void with her plans to become a coach. She’ll graduate from Coker in May with a Physical Education and Sport Studies degree with a concentration in coaching, and while her time at Converse has already given her an intriguing look at the administrative side of collegiate athletics, it hasn’t deterred her from her postgraduate plan.
“I have to do a few more certifications in education to be able to teach and my internship right now is in administration and I love it,” Overholt said. “I love that behind-the-scenes stuff I didn’t get to see as a student-athlete. But I’m going to coach.
“I love that high school age. I love it. I know when I was in high school volleyball, coaches impacted my life and I think helped create who I am. I love the idea of being able to do that for these girls, and that’s what I’m coaching in club now is that age group. And I love it, making those relationships. So we’ll see what happens, but I do love that high school age group.”
In her own high school career at Polk County, Overholt spent much of those playing days as a setter, quarterbacking the Wolverines on the floor and earning recognition as the Western Highlands Conference Player of the Year in a senior season in which she recorded 816 assists while helping lead Polk County to a 19-6 record.
On arrival at Coker, Overholt expected to continue to set and continue to win. Neither hope came to pass as the Cobras coaching staff soon moved Overholt to libero, the role of defensive specialist who spends matches exclusively playing the back row.
“I had my mind on setting, and the mental part of it was probably harder knowing I came (to Coker) to set, now I have to transition to be a libero,” Overholt admitted. “But it kind of fit right into who I was as a player. I talked to my coach that I had my freshman and sophomore year (Heather Claussen) and I told her ‘I’m a libero now’ and she’s like ‘I’m not surprised, you’ve always been a great defensive player.’
“And I loved it. I loved being able to make the plays where people think the ball is dead and you’re keeping them alive. I loved that role I had on the team and it brought some leadership to that I like to step into.”
Overholt recorded 1,803 digs, the key metric for liberos, in her Coker career. She set a school single-game record in her junior season with 38 digs during a match against Carson-Newman and nearly broke that in her senior season with 37 against Tusculum.
Wins weren’t plentiful – Coker’s 14-17 record in Overholt’s junior year marked the program’s best in her four years – but the life lessons proved many. Overholt relishes them all.
“Going into Coker, I knew it was definitely a rebuilding program,” Overholt said. “I knew going into it I might have to struggle a little bit. But as long as I leave the program and hope that it’s better than when I arrived, it’s OK. And I think I can say confidently that it is. We saw some hard times. It wasn’t all good and wins, but the relationships I gained and I get to say I played four years of the game at the collegiate level – I’m proud of that and I’m glad I was able to have the opportunity to do that.
“This might be because we didn’t always have a winning record at Coker, but (I learned) that there’s a lot more in life that matters than just volleyball. I think coming out of high school, I would say I had my identity in volleyball and based myself off of that. Freshman year, it was kind of breaking me down. But It’s like, Kara, your identity is not in volleyball. For me, my identity is in Christ and that’s where I get my value. So that’s what I learned.”
The day will come when Overholt shares those lessons with a new generation of high school players, perhaps sending some of those players on to compete at the college level with the wisdom gained from her own collegiate experience.
It’s a time – and career – for which she can’t wait.
“I’m ready for the future,” Overholt said. “I’m ready to take two steps forward.”