Graci Wilkerson’s story is not one of athletic prowess but about utilizing the skills you have to help your team and to demonstrate how to overcome adversity.
“When I was 11, I decided to try athletics. I wasn’t the fastest or most athletic, but I saw some of the older girls at my school playing volleyball, so I thought I’d give it a try and played school and club ball through middle school and into high school,” said Graci.
In her junior year, volleyball coach John Hammer decided to move her to libero, a defensive position that subs in and out of the game and always plays in the back. But in her first match at the new spot, she suffered a knee injury that would end her school and club seasons.
“At first they told me I would just be out a couple of weeks but then it turned into months. I was on the bench helping out and cheering but when the season ended and our seniors were gone and I still didn’t know if I’d ever play again, I was a little down and put volleyball on the back burner. This lasted until April when I was released by the doctors. I still wasn’t sure about playing again and I even talked to coach about being a manager. But then he asked me about going to summer camp and that made me determined to get back to play,” said Wilkerson.
And that ability to overcome the injury inspired Hammer to name her team captain for this year and take advantage of her senior leadership skills for his young team.
“The kids follow and respect her lead and even though she’s not the most athletic player on the team, she makes the most out of the skills and abilities she does have,” said the head coach.
Graci is back at her libero spot this season with a shout-out to assistant coach Derra Walker who she says really helped her.
“Playing libero gives me a chance to really play defense and utilize my skills to dig and pass. I think a lot of what happens on the court centers around the work of the libero,” she said.
And she had a chance to tell her story to help freshman Reagan Essex who was out during the summer with a back injury.
“I tried to help her mentally by sharing my story and then really encouraging her as she returned to the lineup,” said Graci.
In addition to her contributions on the volleyball court, Graci Wilkerson has served as class president for the past two years, is president of Muskogee’s National Honor Society chapter and is in student council while carrying a 3.8 GPA into her senior year.