Sports are an integral part of many people’s lives. Whether it be your favorite pro team or even a local high school team, one thing that stands alone is the excitement and enthusiasm that surrounds the game. Here at UMBC, student-athletes work hard to capture the interest of the student body and to represent their school in a positive manner. When people go to the games, usually the only thing they see is the athlete playing the sport. People tend to forget that these kids are also students.
Being a student-athlete can be a difficult challenge as they balance being on a team and in school. It is difficult to imagine how exhausting it must be to finish up with a two hour practice session and then have to run off to make sure you are not late for that 3 p.m. class. Kristin Watson, the star senior-libero for the UMBC Volleyball team has shown that not only can she handle this stress but also thrive within it and produce impressive results, both in the classroom and on the court.
Watson grew up in Bowie, MD and has always had a love for volleyball. From the early days of first picking up a volleyball to the days of recreational play, Watson knew that she could one day make a difference and be a star for not only herself but her family as well. In high school, Watson pushed her volleyball talents to new heights as she ran away with a plethora of awards. She earned Prince George’s Gazette Player of the Year at Eleanor Roosevelt High School and was also named All-Met Honorable Mention by the Washington Post during her senior year. She even won team MVP twice while helping lead the Raiders to a regional championship in 2012.
In addition to playing volleyball in high school, she even dabbled in a little bit of tennis, showing that not only can she dominate on the volleyball court but the tennis court as well.
As the daughter of two school teachers, education always came first for Watson. She never let her success in the sports world deter her from excelling in the classroom as she was named to the National Honor Society and the French National Honor Society.
With her high school career coming to an end, it was time to look into which possible colleges would want a student with her academic prowess as well as the athlete that lies just below the surface. UMBC gained a new star when she put in her application to join the school, as she would impress both academically and athletically while majoring in math and minoring in media and communication studies.
“I applied and got in my senior year of high school and once my coach saw me play and offered me a spot as a walk-on I figured I had this opportunity to play Division I. I wasn’t getting a lot of offers so I just jumped on it because it’s always been a dream of mine,” said Watson. She wasted very little time in making her mark as she recorded 19 assists, 11 aces, and 90 digs in her first season for the Retrievers. As the years went on she got progressively better; in just her second year she was named America East Defensive Specialist of the Year, All-Conference First Team and recorded 497 digs, putting her fourth all-time in a season in UMBC history. She also led the league with 5.56 digs/set in conference play, she set a career-high in digs with 41 in five-set win at Albany, which also tied a program high in digs.
Watson has already had an impressive start to her 2018 campaign. She was named MVP of the Charm City Challenge two weeks ago and earned a spot on All-Tournament Teams for three consecutive weekends early this season in the Charm City Challenge, Maddie Bingaman Memorial Tournament and Lion Invitational. The accolades have just kept piling up for Watson as she became one of the cornerstones on this Retriever team.
This senior year holds much promise for Watson—not only did she amass her 1,000th career dig this year, but she was also able to join the USA Olympic team tryout over the summer. Watson considers it an experience she will never forget. “It was an awesome experience and to be able to volleyball at that type of competitive level takes it up a notch, it help me put things into perspective and bring it back,” said Watson.
When it came time to be honored for her 1,000th career dig Watson could be seen in awe of her accomplishment and how all her hard work and training led her up to this moment. “Once I earned the libero spot that was a personal goal of mine but I never told anyone, from sophomore year I had that goal in mind it’s just crazy to actually see it happen,” Waston explained. “I’m putting all my passion out there for my teammates with my teammates, and even when I’m having a bad game I know they have my back,” Watson continued.
When her time comes to an end at UMBC, Watson hopes to possibly, one day, coach at either the club level or collegiate level and show the kids how to play the game with the passion and love that she has always played with. When it is all said and done, Watson will be remembered forever for all the blood, sweat and tears she left on the court, as well as with her teammates and coaches who all love the game and the sacrifices that go with it.