Jakyra Austin moved to Paris from Atlanta before her sophomore year. The 6-footer caught volleyball coach Wes Davis’ eye right away.
"The first time coach saw me he said, ‘Do you play volleyball?’" Austin said. "And I said, ‘No.’ Then he said, ‘Well, do you want to come out and give it a try?’ and I said, ‘No.’"
Austin had devoted most of her time to area of competitive dance and had never played volleyball. That didn’t deter Davis, who knew a potential middle blocker when he saw one.
"Coach Davis said, ‘Just come out and give volleyball a try and if you don’t like it, you can drop it," Austin said. "I still said ‘No thanks’, but when I got my schedule it had volleyball on it."
"That’s the way we do things around here," Davis said.
Austin relented and decided to go ahead and work out with the team. While her fundamentals were behind the others, it was soon apparent her athletic ability had potential. More importantly, she started to enjoy the sport.
"It was hard at first, I felt like I was messing up the team just because I couldn’t do the drills very well," Austin said. "But it was fun and I started making a lot of friends on the team."
Austin didn’t see much court time that first year as she learned the basics, but made an immediate impact on the team anyway.
"Her personality was a big plus for the team, even as a sophomore," Davis said. "She is always smiling, laughing and singing on the bus. She is a lot of fun and a great kid to have around."
Austin got more time as a junior as Paris made a strong run in the 3A State Tournament to the championship game. With four players lost to graduation, Austin is emerging as an important player in the middle of the Eagles’ lineup.
"She has improved tremendously and is going to keep getting better," Davis said. "She has those long arms and can jump and touch almost 10 feet high. She is making points on the attack and is a very good blocker in the middle."
Austin doesn’t do competitive dance now. She is a member of the Paris cheerleading squad, but is a dedicated volleyballer now.
"If I had to move back to Atlanta and had to choose between dance and playing volleyball, I would probably be on the volleyball team," Austin said. "I wasn’t too sure about it at first, but it has become a big part of my life and something I love to do."