Shipper to wrap up high school volleyball career with FCA All-Star game
By Lance Catchings
Recent Liberty Hill graduate Ella Shipper will wrap up her high school volleyball career in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) All-Star game at Georgetown East View High School on June 6 with a handful of other standout Christian athletes.
Shipper has been an FCA member during all four years at Liberty Hill High School, three of which were spent as a youth leader.
“I got involved with FCA my freshman year of high school,” Shipper said. “I was in the club and then I became a huddle leader, which is like an officer, and have had that role since my sophomore year. It’s been really cool for me to be involved in. The experience for me was awesome. I got to meet people that were similar to me and had similar beliefs.
“High school can be a really hard time, in general, just finding out who you are. Being there for other people as a huddle leader, knowing you have a support group and believing there is a better plan for you if you are going through something hard is a great thing,” she said.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a sports-based ministry in over 80 countries that uses the values of integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence to unite faith and athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ. To be able to combine that mission with her love for volleyball has been “an amazing experience” for Shipper.
“FCA is a grounding experience, because there are people from all levels of team and backgrounds,” she said. “To be able to come together no matter what situation that person is in, whether they are a freshman or on varsity, is something we can share with each other. You play a sport and you come together in Christ, and that has been an amazing experience for everyone.”
Shipper was a highly touted player heading into her senior season and had plans to lead the Lady Panthers back to the State Tournament, but injuries derailed her season. Early in the season, she suffered a severe ankle injury only to return and break a finger, which required surgery. Shipper said her FCA family was there to help her through the tough situations
“There are people in FCA who have been through the same thing I went through this year,” she said. “They knew how hard it was and could relate to what I was going through. Being able to pray over everything going on this fall, it was nice to have that support from my FCA group. They were there for me when I really needed them, and that was nice to fall back on.
“With the separation of church and state, there are times where teachers can’t interact with us as much. Facilitating a group and exercising your faith, you don’t just get to normally talk to other people about it, and FCA is a safe space to let it out and get prayer,” she said.
The FCA All-Star game is made up of players from Williamson County schools that are nominated then selected by a committee of FCA leaders who set up the teams. When she found out she would get one more chance on the court, Shipper was ecstatic.
“It was great when I learned I would get to play in this game,” she said. “Once I got hurt, it was like, ‘Well, there is no more volleyball.’ It feels awesome to be able to play one last high school game. It is not the most ideal thing in the world, but it is still getting to play the game that I love. Playing one more time with my high school coach will be an awesome experience.”
Head Volleyball Coach Gretchen Peterson will also get a chance to coach Shipper’s team in the game. Peterson said she will cherish the opportunity to coach one of her players that had such a large impact on her program one final time.
“Ella is the type of player coaches dream about,” Peterson said. “She is smart, selfless, hardworking, talented and loves being part of a team. She gives her best to help others be better. She’s a natural leader, and that did not change when her season didn’t go the way she planned. She still found a way to lead the team. For her to get the opportunity to play one last time is even more special because the season wasn’t ideal for her, not even close to it. For her to get back out there one more time gives some closure in a way. The fact that it’s for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and she is such a kid of strong faith and love of Christ just all seems right.”
Following her final game, Shipper will be heading to Tuscaloosa to attend the University of Alabama. She plans to study biology on a pre-medical studies track and encourages anyone with an interest to see what FCA has to offer.