‘TIMEOUT’ with Paris High senior volleyball player Hannah Gibbons
Last season, the Paris Lady Wildcats volleyball team rewrote the program’s history books in several areas behind the cohesive play and strong leadership from their seniors. This year, the Lady ’Cats have just one 2021 graduate to be on their roster. Paris senior Hannah Gibbons is a middle blocker and the program’s lone senior at Paris High School.
In the beginning, she possessed talent and had the drive. Hannah became a student of the game in more recent years to her own admission. With that, she is grateful she realized the importance of the intellectual side of volleyball.
“When I went to North Lamar, I started out by playing Little Spikers,” Hannah said. “We would just be lucky if the ball went over the net at that point. At least now we are doing a lot better than that. I feel like I understand the sport a lot more now. I know that you have to place the ball and it isn’t just about swinging at the ball as hard as you can. There’s a level of knowledge to it and I didn’t learn that until Coach (Ashley) Green really helped me see that aspect.”
Learning from those who came before her
The lone Paris senior Hannah Gibbons was more of a leader by her actions as a junior. With four seniors on the team leading vocally, Hannah’s game did the talking for her. Hannah was an unstoppable front-line force with 20 kills, 13 blocks, and 5 digs in the Lady ‘Cats’ regular-season match at North Lamar last year. Green called Hannah’s performance that night “the best game she’s ever played.” Hannah said a large source of motivation in prevailing through the five-set thriller was to win for the seniors. Performing for others has brought out her best in the past. Now, she wants to draw out her teammates’ strength through tough times as the past upperclassmen did for her.
“I’ve really had to rely on the juniors to help me out in leading the team,” Hannah said. “Those seniors last year made the whole atmosphere different. They knew that it was their last year and they put it all on the line. Now, I’m the only senior on the team under very different circumstances. We played around 50 games total last year and we haven’t played half that amount this year because of COVID. So I have the mindset that any game really could be my last. I’ve really tried to drill it into everyone’s heads to adopt that mindset — I think we’re getting there.”
Leading by example through tough times
Riley Bills, Skylar Coursey, Tori Weatherford, and Grace Woodby helped raise the standard significantly in their final year. Hannah believes the four seniors’ character and love for the game helped them lead the team effectively.
“The seniors last year were never selfish players,” Hannah said. “They didn’t come out here and just go through the motions. Instead, they wanted it to be fun. Even if it wasn’t a good game for us, the seniors still wanted to have fun playing. That’s something that has been hard for me to learn, but I know it can be fun too. We don’t just have to go 100 miles per hour the whole time with COVID happening. This isn’t exactly how I or anyone else pictured this season to be, but we have to make the best of it. I am grateful to the seniors before me and their resilience.”
Applying both her past and present knowledge
Sitting at 2-3 in the district standings, Hannah knows Paris may be down, but is far from out. Hannah continues to prioritize a positive yet hungry mindset with herself and her teammates.
“Our last couple of games have been rough, but this is a work in progress for all of us,” Hannah said. “We can’t let a bad game or two affect us. We’re going to have some bad games, but we will have great games after that. We can’t just let the bad games affect everything.”
Coming from a large military family, Hannah is well versed in unity within a group. With that, she has allowed this knowledge through her own experiences to translate into her work as a volleyball player after seeing the examples from family members who served our country.
“Getting through tough times on the court has really affected how I play volleyball,” Hannah said. “Coming from a family with eight people in it and a huge extended family too, we learned to rely on each other. My dad was in the military for 25 years and I have a large military history in my family. You really have to stick together with who you have with you. The same thing helped my brothers excel in sports as well.”
Looking towards the future
After she graduates this summer, Hannah has big plans to try and play volleyball in college. In order to be the best, they say you have to beat the best. Hannah said it is humbling to see her foes across the net when she ventures to the metroplex to compete in showcases with her travel volleyball team.
“A goal of mine is to play in college, and I know I’m a good player in this area with a good team,” Hannah said. “It’s a small town and everyone on our team is great. Player for player, I feel like we have the best team, but it is a different story going to huge showcases in the metroplex. When I’m 5-foot-10 going up against these 6-foot-4 middles — it’s just not what I am used to seeing.”
Finding joy in the game she loves
Whenever she needs to escape reality or any troubles in her life, Wildcat Gymnasium is Hannah’s refuge. Lacing her shoes up and going to work in the gym not only helps Hannah alleviate stress, but also improve on her volleyball craft.
“The gym is my happy place,” Hannah said. “When I’m stressed out and I get to the gym, I just push everything else in my head out of the way. I’m not worried about school stuff, family business, or any drama. I’m worried about working my hardest here and I don’t have to think about all the other stuff. It’s a big stress reliever.”
Over the past couple of years, Hannah realized how many assistant coaches Green had off the payroll and in the stands. Hannah loves the fanbase’s passion and support, but also finds humor in some of the things she hears from the bleachers.
“Parents will start yelling, ‘Run a stack!’ from the stands,” Hannah said, while laughing. “They think it’s something crazy like when Macy (McAmis) hits from the back row. I’m just thinking to myself, ‘That is not at all what we are doing here.’ Sometimes it’s funny to hear some things from the crowd like that.”
Star middle blocker and Paris senior Hannah Gibbons will lead the Lady ’Cats into another district match. This time, Paris will play at 4:30 p.m. today at Gilmer. For sports coverage, click here.