By Mary Kate Lau, Digital Communications Intern
Outside Hitter Macey Gardner had a busy freshman year at ASU.
She made what seems like every tournament team under the sun, earned Pac-12 honors galore including leading the Pac-12 in total kills and setting several freshman records for the Sun Devils.
And she didn’t let up during the summer.
Gardner started off by traveling to China with the Pac-12 all-star team where they played against six Chinese teams in a tour across the country.
"It's so weird all of the sudden playing with these girls I used to see across the net and I'm like 'that's not how I thought you were!'" Gardner said of the team made up of 13 players representing the conference.
While the trip was a huge learning experience for the sophomore, Gardner also did something she had been waiting to do for a long time, and it had nothing to do with volleyball.
She had been looking forward to the summer between her freshman and sophomore year for a while now, because it meant she would finally be able to participate in a mission trip to the Philippines.
The trip was with a group called Student Movement for Christ International, a non-profit Christian group with a goal of teaching their beliefs to children in the Philippines.
"We went into different classes in Leyte and Cebu in the Philippines,” Gardner said. “We would walk into each class and say, 'Hey can we have twenty minutes with your students?' and they were like 'Yeah, sure,' and just walked out and we got to do this whole presentation with the chalkboard and illustrations and we got to talk to over 150,000 kids in two weeks. It’s definitely rewarding."
Gardner says she personally talked to about 3500 during her trip. And while kills, digs and aces were never brought up, she feels it made her better as an athlete.
“This trip had nothing to do with volleyball but you look back and you can learn so many things about communicating with people and being more open and willing to talk to people about your beliefs and listening to theirs and just being more communicative. It's an experience I hope all girls on any team and all guys on any team can experience this so you can bring it to the court."
It is a philosophy she luckily shares with Coach Jason Watson.
"He wants us to go out and experience these situations,” Gardner said. “I mean, I was gone for five weeks in the summer and most programs don't want you gone that long, but they're totally open to it and they want me to reach out and be active in the community."
“Our student-athletes are tremendous in their outreach within the community,” Watson said. “So there is little need for us to provide encouragement. Most are more than willing to give, and give freely, of their time.”
Watson also added assistant coach Linda Hampton-Keith has fostered a relationship with the Special Olympics and each year the whole team gets involved, interacting and teaching the game of volleyball.
“It’s an inspiring opportunity for all involved,” Watson said.
While the benefits on a personal level are obvious, Gardner thinks the profits it provides for an athlete are equally important and she is grateful for Watson’s encouragement.
"I think it helps us as a team because it pushes us as people,” Gardner said. “Yes, we're volleyball players, but we're also students, we're part of families and we're part of the community here and him pushing us in those aspects makes us better as a team because we get to experience things that others don't get to experience."