This article originally appeared in the winter 2015 Harker Quarterly.
Earlier this year, three Harker seniors signed to play their sports for their chosen universities. Read on to find out more about their history with their sports and how Harker enabled them to follow their dreams of becoming stellar student-athletes.
Shannon Richardson’s varsity volleyball career has been filled with highlights. As a high schooler, she accumulated 853 kills, 159 aces and a .178 hitting percentage, all well above the national average. An avid beach volleyball player since the seventh grade, she first became interested in the sport after seeing it in the summer Olympic Games. “At first, it was more recreational,” Richardson recalled. “I would play in a few tournaments over the summer and did rather well, but I eventually discovered that traveling to Southern California to play was a whole different situation.”
Inspired by the tougher competition, Richardson began making more frequent trips to Southern California. She now spends a month of every summer living with friends in Hermosa Beach to be closer to the higher level of play.
Her love for beach volleyball stems from, among other things, the environment. “Naturally, things are more relaxed at the beach, so tournaments are so much fun because you get to spend time with friends, go to the water, and play the sport you love,” she said. Beach volleyball is also a lot more open-ended and driven by the players than indoor volleyball. Coaching during games is limited and practices are organized and held by players. “There are no set teams and coaches; players choose if they want to improve or not,” Richardson said. “This allows me to be passionate and take control of my own development in a fun and relaxing way.”
Because there are only two players to a team in beach volleyball, players tend to get more touches on the ball, which helps sharpen their handling abilities in other situations, including indoor volleyball matches. “I personally feel like beach volleyball improves my ball control much more than indoor does purely because you get more touches in a shorter amount of time,” she said.
A Harker “lifer,” Richardson attributes her ability to balance her academic and athletic careers to the skills she learned in school. It is also where she discovered her love for playing sports. “I am a ‘lifer,’ so I played a bunch of sports in the lower school and in the middle school,” she recalled. “You would find me on the football field, playing with the boys in the fall, then on the soccer field, the basketball court and on the volleyball court.”
Richardson also noticed similarities in preparing for tests both athletic and academic. “By playing many sports and having to stay on top of my academic responsibilities, I matured quickly and was able to take on more rigorous classes in the upper school, while playing a varsity sport and trying to get recruited,” she said.
With a stint at Stanford on the horizon, Richardson is looking forward to tackling a whole new set of challenges. “I hope that in the four years I spend at Stanford, I can become a better player and a better person,” she said. “I know that the relationships I make in my time there will be ones to treasure, much like the ones I have made at Harker.”
Signing on to play for Claremont-McKenna College was a decision of careful consideration for Johnathan Keller, who had offers from many schools, including Ivy Leagues. “However, after visiting many schools, I knew two things: I wanted to stay with the California weather, and I wanted a school where I could play as a freshman and not red-shirt or be on the bench until my later years,” he said.
In addition to its great academic programs and sunny Southern California climes, Claremont-McKenna also promised to start playing Keller in his freshman year.
Keller’s football lineage speaks for itself. His cousin Jeff Garcia was a four-time Pro Bowl NFL quarterback who now works on the St. Louis Rams’ coaching squad. Keller drew inspiration from watching his cousin on the eld as a child. “I used to think it was amazing watching him play in front of so many people,” Keller said. He started playing the sport at 8 years old and moved on to tackle football once he reached grade 6.
The talent seems to run in the family. So far this year, Keller has recorded nearly 350 yards as a wide receiver with 58.2 yards per game.
“I enjoy the competition in football and all the great memories that are made with the other players,” he said. “The football team is like a family to me.”
He credited Harker’s teachers with helping maintain his academic standing while also following his passion for football, and noted that many recruiters were aware of Harker’s academic reputation. “Knowing this,” Keller said, “they weren’t worried that I was short of any academic credits or if it would be hard getting used to the rigorous academic environment of college.”
Oisin Coveney doesn’t remember how he got started playing soccer. That’s because when he started playing, he was just 2 years old. “However, I kept playing the sport because I could be creative on the field,” Coveney reminisced. “I loved trying to dribble and beat players, and pretend I was on the best soccer team in the world.”
The rhythms of a soccer match and the potential for creativity are what Coveney enjoys about the sport. “There’s a beautiful flow to soccer where you have to constantly think about where your teammates and the opponent’s teammates are, where the ball is going to be, and how we can score another goal,” he said.
The dedication of Harker’s teachers were of utmost importance to Coveney’s success as a student-athlete. Like Keller, Coveney found that recruiters were well aware of Harker’s academic pedigree, which made the recruiting process much easier than anticipated. “With Harker, I was able to pursue my dream of get- ting into a great school and playing soccer in college,” he said.
Coveney said he is excited to join Swarthmore’s soccer team, which is a force in the Centennial Conference. “A lot of hard work will definitely be involved,” he said, “but I can’t wait to get a chance to prove myself to my teammates, my coaches and the school.”