“You need to be there for your teammates…”

You might think Republic volleyball senior Taegan Thomas has every reason to be bitter. She worked hard as a high school and club volleyball player to put herself in a position to be a major force up front for the Lady Tigers in 2018.

Then, before her senior season even began, she suffered an injury that would keep her out of action all year. As her teammates have struggled on the court, she’s been forced to watch from the sideline.

She could have called it a career and freed up lots of time for other activities. Instead, she stuck with it–showing up for practices and games, even after she knew she wouldn’t return to the court.

Tuesday night, the Lady Tigers recognized Thomas, their only senior, on Senior Night. Republic lost the match to Ozark, but for the first time this season, Thomas got onto the court. She played only a couple of points at the beginning of the match before returning to the bench, but she was smiling when she left the court.

“I feel like [the injury] happened for a reason and God is talking to me in a way…: ‘You need to be there for your teammates like they were there for you,’” Thomas says. And she believes the injury has mellowed her.

“This put me in a position where I’m not as angry as I used to be when I was on the court,” she says. “Now I’m a lot more supportive, and I think…being on this team has helped me grow as a person.”

Coach Piper Wright says Thomas has been “incredibly committed,” even though she couldn’t be a contributor on the court.

“I think she knows there’s nothing you can do about [the injury]. The only thing you can control is your attitude,” says Wright. “And she’s been a huge support to the girls who are out there.

“She’s been a support to me–kind of like an assistant coach. You see the game so much differently sitting on the bench. So it’s been really neat to see her step up into that role.”

Thomas agrees that she’s come to understand the game better as a sideline observer.

“As a volleyball player, I feel like I”m better at seeing the court and seeing what other people are doing, and how to make them better,” she says. “It’s not just like I’m worried about myself anymore. I’m worried about everyone on the team, what they can do to be better, how you can get to that point, [and] how we can develop as a team.”

Thomas says she could see herself coaching a club volleyball team in the future, if she got the opportunity.

“[It] would probably be older girls who can take the pressure and can take the hard work and effort that it takes to be a good ball player–to want it as much as I want it,” she says.

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