Making the grade

Mikayla Batts was voted league MVP for the South Park High School volleyball squad and carries a 3.7 grade point average in the classroom. In addition to being a captain and the point guard for the basketball team, Batts is also a SPHS cheerleader, an accomplished triple-jump specialist for the track team, and a member of the National Honor Society and Student Council.

One year ago, Mikayla Batts probably did not anticipate being named captain of the South Park High School varsity volleyball team. She probably didn’t  harbor any thoughts about being voted League MVP, or expect to be receiving offers to play the sport she loves at the college level.

Why would she have any such expectations? After all, one year ago, as a junior, Batts was not even selected by her coaches to play volleyball at the varsity level.

“I competed at the junior varsity level in volleyball for three of my four years at South Park High School, and it was disappointing to still be on JV as a junior,” Batts admitted. “But I just decided to make our JV team as good as I could, and I didn’t let it ruin my enthusiasm for the game. In the end, though, it humbled me, made me grow as a player and a person, and also made me a better leader on the floor.”

In addition to playing the setter position for the Burros volleyball team, which is comparable to playing the quarterback position in the sport of football, Batts also serves as the point guard and captain for the basketball team. As if those designations were not challenging enough, Batts is also a SPHS cheerleader, an accomplished triple-jump specialist for the track team, and a member of the National Honor Society and Student Council.

Standing just over 5-feet tall, Batts makes up for her smaller stature by out-working and out-thinking her opponents.

“I’ve matured a lot as a player, and I have learned to observe what opposing teams are doing and anticipate what they’ll do next,” Batts said. “The mental part of sports is what I enjoy most, along with trying to be a leader for the younger players.”

Having covered a number of sporting events in which Batts has participated, it is impossible not to notice that even when the intensity level is high, and she is in the heat of battle, Batts almost always wears a smile.

“I consciously smile a lot because I think it helps to relax my teammates, especially the younger, less experienced players,” Batts said. “I’d rather win, but I try to enjoy the game no matter what’s happening on the floor. I also urge my teammates to stay relaxed and have fun while they are competing.”

One shouldn’t be fooled by the smile, however, because Batts always has her head in the game, always gives 100 percent and does everything in her power to  help her team win.

“My dad was into sports when he was my age, and he played a lot of rugby,” Batts said. “He has definitely had had an influence on my approach to sports. He always tells me to ‘go fight,’ and to compete hard regardless of the circumstances.”

Batts is undecided as to what particular area of study she will pursue in college, but maintains a 3.7 grade point average despite taking a healthy dose of college level classes.

“I really like math, physics and economics,” Batts said. “Right now I am leaning toward getting some sort of busines degree.”

Earning League MVP honors for her exploits on the volleyball court has also added a new twist to her college aspirations.

“I think being named MVP did help me gain some exposure, which is sort of a challenge when you compete at a smaller school like South Park,” Batts said. “I did recently have a college contact me about playing volleyball, and I’m hoping a few other colleges might also show some interest. Volleyball is not my top priority where college is concerned, but I would love to have the opportunity to play somewhere.”

Desoite being a smaller player than most, any college coach would appreciate what Batts has done as a student-athlete for South Park. She once hit a game-winning shot with five seconds showing on the game clock against rival Custer County, so she handles pressure exceptionally well.

Her body of work in her only volleyball season at the varsity level also indicates that she would very likely be up to the challenge if given the opportunity to compete at the college level. Batts either led the league or was among the leaders in digs, assists and service aces. Throw in her ability to lead, her academic accomplishments, and her calm but competitive demeanor, and it easy to imagine that a college coach would be willing to roll the dice and give her a shot despite the fact that she attends at a small 1A high school.

Last but not least, Batts would likely earn the respect of most coaches on the basis of her mental preparation alone. In fact, coaching might even be in her future.

“I don’t know if coaching would ever be my primary job, but I would love to coach at some level one day, Batts said. ”

One thing is certain. No matter where Batts goes to college, or what career path she pursues, there will be setbacks and challenges along the way. There will be times when nothing less than hard work, tenacity, perseverance and persistance will be required to get her through.

Fortunately, Batts will be just fine when that time comes, because she already exemplifies each of those qualities in everything she does.

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