January ATHLETE OF THE MONTH - Cece McCrory
There’s a joke Cece McCrory tells about the origins of her love for volleyball. Her first attempt at team sports was actually basketball in the 6th grade, and it did not go well.
“I hated the other girls getting in my face,” she says. In volleyball, which she first tried in the 8th grade, there was a net between her and her opponents.
The joke is that it’s really Cece’s opponents on the court that are thankful for the net and probably wish it could be raised a few feet higher to protect them from this middle hitter/blocker. Cece plays both club volleyball and on her school team at New Life Christian School, where she’s a junior— she’s been team captain, first for JV, now for varsity, all three years.
“I just really enjoy the feeling of hitting the volleyball and blocking people,” she says. “I just get a rush of adrenaline every time I play.”
Cece had found a sport she loves and that she is good at, but she also knew she had room to grow.
“I want to become a better setter so I can be an all-around player, so I can play all the positions fairly well,” she says. “I want to become a more consistent serve, better at setting and better at passing.”
And so it was in the summer between 8th and 9th grade, Cece began attending Players Fitness and Performance, in Frederick, getting her feet wet with strength training. She loved the environment, but it took a while for her to feel confident in giving it her all.
“I really liked the atmosphere of everyone getting pumped up and stuff, but I really wasn’t all too serious about it,” she says. “Then once I started going more in depth with volleyball, I realized I needed to get more serious about working out and getting stronger.”
It was in January of 2017, that Cece really began to “take ownership,” as she puts it, of her training.
“She was playing on a highly competitive club team. Everything just kind of clicked in and got it in her head,” says Cece’s mother, Debbie. “Her confidence has skyrocketed since then.”
It was a highly noticeable shift in the gym too, according to PFP Director of Performance Joe Pfister.
“The biggest thing that I noticed when she got in here was she was unsure of herself and she was unsure of her athletic ability,” Pfister says. “Starting out she was timid, and now, I can tell she goes all in, all out in everything she does.”
“One of the most important things for volleyball players is their vertical jump,” Pfister says, “and Cece began training for height and explosive power with box jumps, and, eventually, deadlifts.”
“For deadlifting, I went from deadlifting like 40 pounds to deadlifting 125 pounds,” she says. “That was a super big accomplishment for me in the gym.”
That’s an accomplishment Cece attributes, in part, to the support of the coaches at PFP. They had “complete faith in me that I could do it,” she says. “We added more weight on and it just felt amazing after I was able to accomplish it and knock out all the reps.”
“PFP”, Cece says, “is a supportive, family like place, not just a gym. The type of place where she can text her coaches with an accomplishment, and they genuinely want to hear about it.”
“I have been to a lot of gyms in my life and that gym has such a unique feel to it every single time you walk in the door,” Debbie says. “It’s a great feeling for a parent to know that that’s where their kid is going to be.”
This new commitment and self-confidence Cece has discovered isn’t just about her — she’s realized it’s about her leadership role on her team as well.
“When we were able to unlock her inner athletic ability, she found out that as a leader, she needed to look in with herself to then impact her teammates,” Pfister says. “That drove her down the way to become a captain.”
And Cece has been trying to pass on the keys PFP has handed to her on to the others on her team.
“Every time they train at PFP, they do a tip of the day; she takes those very seriously,” Debbie says. “They are not just for her, the person listening, they are for her and her entire team.”
One of the things Cece wanted to commit to when she decided to take ownership of her training was attending PFP at least eight times a month, “so that I knew that I was getting the most out of my workouts.” That earned Cece a place among PFP’s “Elite 8” club every month for the past year, and most recently, acknowledgment as the January PFP Athlete of the Month.
“It was a complete surprise to Cece when she found out,” Debbie says. “She never assumed that she would get it but had been hoping that one day she’d be worthy of the award.”
And yet as nice as it feels to be honored with acknowledgement of her consistency and commitment, Cece says the biggest rewards of her time spent at PFP have been a transformation in her sense of self.
“I feel like I have more self-confidence in myself and I’m feeling good about how I look,” she says. “I learned from the gym not to compare yourself to others, and so I have been able to apply that in my friendships and in school.”
Cece has also learned to apply that self-confidence to her dreams beyond volleyball.
“My ultimate goal is to own my own bakery,” she says. “I want to go to a good college, I want to go to a Christian College and major in entrepreneurship and learn all the business aspects.”
And in the meantime?
“Well as of right now my goal is to become a healthier person in general, to gain better leadership qualities that I can apply to volleyball and I can apply to real world,” she said. “To be able to benefit my volleyball team.”
That’s Cece McCrory’s why. What’s your why?