Vestavia Star Heads To Singapore
By Lee Davis
Journal Sports Writer
Whenever an athlete signs up for summer travel ball, they can count on seeing a lot of America.
In Madison Mahaffey’s case, she’s going to see a lot of the world.
The Vestavia Hills volleyball standout is the sole Alabamian on the United States girls’ team scheduled to participate in the first-ever Youth Olympic Games in Singapore slated for August 21-26.
“I still can’t believe it,” Mahaffey said shortly after learning the news. “It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Mahaffey, who plays middle blocker, is one of only 12 girls from across the nation to qualify for the roster. Because of the Olympics schedule, she will miss the first two weeks of school so she had to receive permission from the Alabama High School Athletic Association and Vestavia school officials to make the trip.
“The Association rules say you can’t play on two teams at the same time,” she explained. “But after I said I was going to be participating in the USA Olympic team, they were fine with it.”
The Youth Olympic Games will host more than 3,000 young athletes between the ages of 14-18 who will participate in nearly 30 different sports. At least 20 countries will be represented at the games.
The United States team will leave for Singapore on Aug. 9 – which just happens to be Mahaffey’s birthday. The team will arrive two days later and begin play on Aug. 22 against Belgium.
Lady Rebel softball coach Mandy Burgess said Mahaffey is a milestone player in Vestavia volleyball history.
“We’ve never had a player go international before,” said Burgess. “Madison is obviously a very good player. I couldn’t be more excited for her.”
Mahaffey, who has already committed to Louisiana State University, is no stranger to travel ball. This week, she is playing in the International Junior Division of the 2010 High Performance Championships in Wisconsin. Mahaffey has also traveled to Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Florida and Louisiana for tryouts as well as playing on Team Sting, her club team.
The last few months haven’t been a total picnic, however. In May, Mahaffey tried out for the U.S. Women’s Junior team that was to compete in Mexico for the Women’s Junior Continental Championship in July. She didn’t make the team, but most of the girls who did qualify were older girls who were already college-bound. The Women’s Junior team went on to win the gold medal on July 10.
The Olympic team on which Mahaffey is playing comprises players who are rising juniors or seniors in high school. She is a rising senior.
Mahaffey’s road to Singapore began in seventh grade, when she first went out for volleyball at Pizitz Middle School. She says she wasn’t particularly talented and spent most of her first two seasons on the bench, cheering her teammates.
But Mahaffey wasn’t content to ride the bench. She attended volleyball camps and played at the club level during the summer before enrolling at Vestavia. A spurt of growth helped, too, as Mahaffey shot up several inches leading up to her sophomore season. She presently stands at 6 feet, 4 inches and earned all-star honors as a junior. Mahaffey will make her commitment to LSU official when she signs with the Lady Tigers in November.
Meanwhile, Mahaffey’s got plenty on her plate as she prepares to make her first-ever trip overseas.
“It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said.
Indeed, it’s the experience of a lifetime. When Mahaffey stepped up her volleyball game a few years ago, she couldn’t have dreamed that her skills would one day make her an Olympian.