by Russell Cooks
Alexis Broadwater is one of the most prolific volleyball players in Sandy Creek High School history. The two-time County and Area Volleyball Player Of The Year, Broadwater is a beast in volleyball, but You are not going to believe how she made it to the top of her class.
From the age of six-years-old to, Alexis trained as an equestrian. Yes, she trained and competed in riding horses. When told that her first sport was equestrian, it’s hard to understand how the skills are transferable, but it is not skill transfer that it is critical, it is the training, the repetition, and the discipline.
In the movie “Man On Fire,” there is an exchange between Denzel Washington’s character Creasy and Dakota Fanning’s character Pita.
Pita said, “I’m tough, Creasy.”
Creasy responded, “No such thing as tough. There’s trained, then there’s untrained. Now, which are you?”
Pita replied, “Trained.”
Creasy said, “Trained. Okay. Let’s go again.”
One the themes that has been consistent in previous feature stories has been training and hard work. Whether it was Jordan Lyons and Christian Turner in “In It Takes A Village To Raise Two Champions” or Kasey Toles in “A Chip Off The Toles Block” or Dishon Lowery and Will Washington in “From Pain To Purpose,” each athlete has worked hard to master their craft.
Asked how it felt when she first started riding horses, Alexis said, “I felt like it was a new experience. I had always loved horses, and I finally had a chance to experience it. I was always excited to go to my lessons and just be in the environment.”
Bridgette Broadwater, Alexis’s mom, said, “On average, Alexis would train two-three days a week. But Alexis wanted to go everyday. If Alexis had a car at the age of six, she would have been driving herself to the barn. While I was working, my mom would take Alexis to the barn everyday. Sometimes she would ride, and other times she would feed the horses or clean the stables. Alexis just loved being around horses.”
Horses became her life.
“Alexis had horse items all over her room. It was really too much. Then she told me that she started having nightmares, and I prayed about it, And God revealed that she had too much horse stuff in her room. So, we took some the stuff out and the nightmares went away. If she wasn’t on a horse, she was pretending to be a horse. She would setup jumps in our driveway and be rider and the horse and execute the jumps,” said Bridgette.
How did she get away from the horse stables and onto the volleyball court? Bridgette replied, “ It was my best friend Leslie Fant. Leslie is volleyball coach, and she has played volleyball all her life. She was putting on a volleyball camp and she invited Lexi to attend.”
Alexis remembers that first experience well. “I was nervous but excited. I just always wanted to be play volleyball, so anywhere I could get more practice/training I was interested.”
Leslie said, “She came to my volleyball camp. She was too young to be at the camp , but I let her participate anyway. Her vision for the game was awesome. She could see things on the court before they happened. She had a very high volleyball IQ. I asked her how long she had been playing volleyball and she said, ‘This is my first time ever on a volleyball court’. That’s when I realized that she was a natural. You had this 12-year-old girl whose volleyball IQ was right up there with mine, and I had been playing volleyball for twenty-plus years.”
Leslie said to Bridgette, “You need to take Alexis to a volleyball tryout.”
Bridgette said, “Leslie is a long time friend that is more like a sister to me than a friend. I think God puts people in our lives to accomplish His purposes, and I believe Leslie Fant is one of those people to me and Lexi. I can only say thank you God for Leslie.”
Alexis was not scared by her first volleyball tryout. “I felt confident. I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt as though I was going to start a new chapter in my life. I was anxious to see what it was all about.”
Alexis was the best athlete at the tryouts, and the team started recruiting her on the spot.
Volleyball: The New Frontier
Asked when she realized Alexis was a superior volleyball player, Bridgette said, “When others started noticing her, I started paying closer attention to her, and I noticed what they were seeing. Coaches who knew the game and could spot the skills drew my attention to her.”
There’s a lot about the game that drew Alexis in. “The passion behind the game. Volleyball is so much more than what most people see. There is so much technique and precision that goes into developing the skill, and you are always learning. I learn something new every time I step out on the court. The game, like all, is a mental game, and it’s all about the perspective you take in order to finesse your game to score and create opportunities for your team. It’s such an enjoyable sport when you feel like you are playing for your team and they are playing for you. The unity with your teammates is where the passion lies.”
Sandy Creek’s head coach Paul Collins coached Alexis from seventh grade through her senior year, playing a pivotal role in her development. Alexis beamed, “Coach Collins has been a great supporter through my middle school and high school volleyball career. He has always made me feel like I was capable of doing whatever the team needed. He’s a great coach, and I simply enjoy him as a person. He has a great heart and goes above and beyond to help his players succeed.”
Her mom has also been right beside her every step of the way. Alexis said, “My mom has always supported me, but the biggest thing she has done to support me is let me be and let me make my own decisions as an athlete. She never forced me to go train or do more or less, she merely gave her input and trusted me to make the right decisions, and that helped me grow into the player I am and become a leader. She is where my confidence comes from. I know that my mom is proud of me at my worst or at my best, so I never feel pressured when I play. I just go out and give my all, and I know that’s enough for her and for me. You see, it was my mom that drove from Fayetteville to Alpharetta four days a week. We would not get home until after 11 p.m. She never complained. She just continued to grind and support me.”
Her family always means the world to her. “My grandmother, my dad, and my brother, Lorenzo, are all a part my support system. They would come and watch me play and I appreciate them for coming to my games. Like any sport, it’s time-consuming, and they willingly supported me and it means a lot to me. I value my family.”
Bridgette obviously knew the right formula for her daughter because Alexis had a stellar high school career in volleyball. She won a State Championship as a freshman and made it to the Final Four in both her sophomore and her junior year. Her senior year they reached the Sweet Sixteen. She finishes with 4,067 assists, one of just three players in state history to top 4.000 assists, and she played in more than 500 matches(games).
Coach Collins knows her impact well, saying, “Sandy Creek has been blessed with many hard-working, talented student athletes that have chosen to play volleyball during my time as head coach. Alexis has become one of the top players to have ever played for the Sandy Creek volleyball program. The overall success of our volleyball program is directly tied to the dedicated players like Alexis that love the game of volleyball and strive to be the best.”
Collins added, “Alexis became the starting setter as a ninth grader and in her first year was a very key part of the State Championship in 2012. She has continued as the on-court team leader since then. In addition to setting, Alexis is certainly the most talented all-around player on the team. Alexis can pass, hit, serve, block, and play defense. In addition to setting, she can be called upon to perform in any position on the court if needed. As one of the best setters in the state of Georgia and possibly in the southeast part of the U.S., she makes her teammates better players. An average hitter becomes an exceptional hitter because of her setting ability.”
Alexis knows the winning tradition of Patriot volleyball will continue on after her graduation. “They have some very talented athletes that are capable of continuing the legacy. They will also be a younger, less experienced team, but they definitely have potential,” adding, “I would tell them develop your character first. Volleyball is only a moment and a game, but who you are on and off the court is what you take with you, and let that be who people see and want to follow. Be the energy and confidence that makes your teammates want to play for you. That’s the only way it’s fun!”
She had her own role models when she was starting out on the team. “It was Allie Davenport (for me). She was a great leader, and I learned a lot from her. She was the key reason that we won the state championship. She was a great teammate and my mentor on and off the court.”
Coach Collins also said, “Alexis was a very confident and competent leader on and off the court and as setter she was like the quarterback of a football team. I could count on her to help incorporate or make adjustments during the match to help us win. Our opponents knew they would have a fight on their hands in every match we played because of the leadership and skills of Alexis Broadwater. As a coach, you have players you don’t want to leave, Alexis is one of those players. It will be exciting to watch her play at the college level.”
Alexis signed a letter-of intent to continue her volleyball career at Kennesaw State University.
Leslie said, “Kennesaw State has pulled out the coup of the century by signing Alexis, and they will definitely take their program to higher heights with her on the team. Alexis is the consummate competitor and she will be a difference maker for Kennesaw State”
It took a bit to sink in what lies ahead. Alexis said, “It didn’t feel real until I did. Once I signed, I realized how real everything was and how blessed I was to have the opportunity to play at the next level while furthering my education. I truly feel blessed to have this opportunity.
“I want to play. I want to just keep playing the game I love and keep getting better. I don’t have specific goals. I just want to keep thriving to be the best and get better, and if that’s what I’m doing then I’m satisfied,” added Alexis
It’s a good fit for mom too. “ I am very excited that she is so close to home so I can continue to be involved in her journey,” said Bridgette.
Coach Collins is confident she will succeed. “Alexis will be willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to be successful at the next level. Alexis is an exceptional player, and, because of her all-around skills as a volleyball player, she is capable of being an impact player at numerous positions and not just as a setter at the next level.”
Setup For Success
“Alexis is definitely someone who is full of life,” said her mother. “She is always learning new skills and in everything she does she works at it till she conquers it. Her name means to Conquer after Alexander the Great. She sets out to conquer what she puts her mind to.” In essence, Alexis was setup to succeed by the name that she was given at birth, the identification of a superior volleyball skill set by Leslie Fant, and the time, energy, and money that was invested by her Bridgette Broadwater and the rest of the family.