Grow and the JRLA JV and Varsity volleyball teams (courtesy of Katherine Grow)
Catching up with Katherine Grow, a UCSC volleyball alumna Grow graduated in 2013 as one of the top outside hitters in school history with over 1,000 kills and was a three-year captain.
She is now teaching and coaching at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in northwest Detroit founded by former NBA player and Detroit native Jalen Rose.
How did you come to choose UCSC?
Coming out of High School, volleyball was my passion but I didn't want to solely focus on that. I wanted a combination of volleyball and education. UCSC sold me on the community.
What was your first year like?
Kim English and Jackie McCrory were ahead of me. I came in a little shocked at the college volleyball experience, but I had Selene as a coach and the players all pushed each other to become better athletes.
Toward the end of freshman season, the second team we were really challenging the seniors in practice, we were winning some of the games so that started the foundation with the high levels of competition in practice and the community aspect we built as a unit. I came in with 8 or 9 other girls who were committed and devoted to building a program.
How did you make the transition from freshman to role player?
Come sophomore year, I was really hungry and I was tired of being on the bench. I was voted captain sophomore year and think I took that role very seriously and worked really hard. I think one of the biggest things that allowed me to get there I had a lot of opportunities at the ball to attack the other team.
Was it a surprise getting to be captain as sophomore? What was it like?
We had voted beginning of the season and I stepped into the role; we had very few junior/seniors, maybe two or three. I was the sophomore leader. From there, I was sort of the connecting unit between the underclassmen and the upperclassmen. I was able to bridge the gap by building those relationships, working with my co-captain to make sure everything was good.
You get to see your old school chums in California often?
Every time I come back, I try to visit I see a couple teammates and some friends outside of that. I saw some girls last summer I was on the team with when I was a senior and we hung out. It's quite the community.
I ran into Kelly Graves. She was like my little baby freshman I took under my wing her first year.
She had a great year, has she bragged about her NCAA swag?
(Laughs) Luckily she hasn't rubbed it in my face yet but it was all over social media so I still got it.
How did you end up in Michigan?
I did Teach for America, which places ready-people who are interested in social justice with an education into rural or urban schools that are without much teacher support. You teach in a place for two years, and after two years the core commitment is done. Through that, I was placed with Jalen Rose, so I stayed for my core commitment this is my third year and I'm just a teacher.
How much snow you have to dig out to get to work tomorrow?
Hopefully no more but we're about six inches deep. I don't think it will accumulate anymore, at least I hope not. (Laughs)
Does Jalen come by often to give 'pep talks' to the faculty and students?
He's there about once a month, if not more. He's friendly and does a lot of work outside just being there to promote the school. Last year at the NBA All-Star game he was wearing a JRLA sweater. He does a lot to get that promotion of the school out there.
What are the kids like? Are you coaching?
I actually started the volleyball program three years ago when I started here.
They're actually really great kids. I was very nervous going in at first just because I was young and I thought they wouldn't listen to me, but we built a great relationship. People were saying 'Detroit was a terrible place, don't go there', but everything about this experience here has changed that viewpoint.
They're very intelligent and very hard workers. Last year was our first graduating class and we got close to 70% into four-year universities, which was huge statement. It's so nice to see they really want the higher education and want to achieve.