Lady Panthers ‘pink out’ for breast cancer awareness
By Lance Catchings
In the month of October, the Liberty Hill volleyball team wears pink jerseys in support of breast cancer awareness and research. On Oct. 12, the team held its annual Pink Out game in support of the cause. Over the years, Head Coach Gretchen Peterson has stressed the importance of the family atmosphere in her program and that is exactly why the cause is so important to her, the players and everyone involved with the program.
“We have done a pink game going on 10 years in a row, dating back to when we were still at the old high school,” Peterson said. “It got started because a former player of ours had a mother who was a breast cancer survivor. Her mother really spearheaded the entire thing for us. She got all the other campuses involved, including our junior high programs. She did a really great job, because it was a cause close to her heart, so it became close to ours, because it was one of our kids’ moms. After that, we had another player come along who unfortunately lost her mother to cancer. The pink jerseys were purchased for us by her father in memory of her mother and his wife. We hate that happened, but it is a way that we can pay tribute and try to raise money until they can find a cure.”
Breast cancer is something that affects people all around the world, and Peterson believes it is important that her players learn there is a world outside of the volleyball court where people are going through tough situations. It is important to her that her players leave the program as not just better athletes, but as better women.
“Volleyball is not forever, it is fleeting,” Peterson told her players. “We want them to enjoy it, soak it up, and love every minute that you’re here. It is the stuff that is going to be here forever that you need to invest in. Those are the lessons you learn by being on a team, your family and what you are going to do 20 years down the road. Those are the things that are lasting. You are not always going to be able to go out and play volleyball. There will come a day where you will just be too old and your body isn’t going to let you do it. We try to get them to understand there are a lot of lessons we want them to learn while they are with us outside the court. We want them to grow up to be strong and intelligent women. It’s great that they are good at volleyball, but at the end of the day, that is our biggest goal. We want to have strong women that can take care of themselves and take care of their families and do what they need to do once they leave.”
Pink Out night also gives the Panthers an opportunity to showcase their family-first mentality, which they take advantage of by recognizing the Liberty Hill Junior High volleyball players before the game.
“Before the varsity started warm-ups, we brought them out and talked about each of the four teams at the middle school level and the success they are having,” she said. “Many people may not realize the junior high district is different than our district. They play all 5A schools except for Taylor. They play all the Georgetown junior high schools, Elgin and both Huttos. They are playing much larger schools with really great talent. The benefit for that, we see every day in the way they are prepared and the advancements that they make. We always make sure we highlight that on a night like Pink Out night, as well. They are playing 5A schools and doing a great job at it. They play a vital role in us being successful at the high school level.”
As she looks at where the program is today with Pink Out night, Peterson is thankful for how much support they have garnered from the community. Peterson and her athletes feel proud of what they have helped build for the younger players that are eager for their opportunity to be a Lady Panther at the high school level.
“All of our kids in Liberty Hill love being a part of Liberty Hill athletics,” Peterson said. “As a head coach, it is such a great thing to have and know kids want to be a part of the programs that we have here. We have great junior high coaches that do a great job of preparing them, and they really get them to understand their goal is to be ready for high school. They do a great job of grooming them for our level. Our girls are always excited when they get to high school. We have great numbers that turn out for tryouts, and we have a lot of school pride.”
This year, the LHHS volleyball team, in conjunction with cheer, dance and football, as well as the junior high sports, raised almost $2,000 by selling t-shirts for Pink Out. The money will be donated to Dell Children’s Cancer Center.