Relentless work paves way to college for Labor
Steamboat Springs — Maddie Labor didn’t wake up Monday intending to give anyone a lesson, but maybe she did.
About 48 hours earlier, the Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team had endured a brutally difficult defeat, losing at home in a one-set, winner-take-all regional tournament tiebreaker to a team that hadn’t even entered the day with a .500 record.
Labor took the day off Sunday, but as soon as school was out Monday afternoon, there she was, ready to work out with Steamboat Springs trainer Pio Utu, lifting and running and sweating when almost no one was watching.
By Thursday, she was sore virtually everywhere — working, ever working — despite the fact that she won’t play a meaningful set of volleyball until September.
“I like to be in that zone where you’re not comfortable with what you are,” she said. “Being sore is one of my favorite feelings, because it means I’m not settling for anything.”
How does one earn a college athletic scholarship? Following Labor’s lessons is an awfully good way to start.
Labor, a Steamboat Springs High School senior and the libero on this season’s league championship volleyball team, signed a letter of intent to continue her career at Regis University in Denver. She didn’t earn that honor by taking days off, and even though the offer was made and accepted earlier this season, she doesn’t plan on taking any days off now.
“I see a kid that’s as deserving as anyone I’ve ever worked with,” Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said. “She has stayed incredibly focused on her goals, and she’s going to continue to get better. She’s capable of playing at this level, and she’ll be a great asset to the Regis program.”
The process of finding a college has been engrossing for Labor. She said she was influenced by her older siblings — a brother who played soccer at Colorado Mesa University and a sister who played soccer at Regis and University of Nevada Las Vegas — to tackle the issue early, and she did.
Regis won a place in her heart, as it offered what she wanted on several fronts.
First, it has a solid volleyball program, with a 13-4 record this season in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, good for second in its division.
As much as that, though, Regis had what Labor was looking for academically — a path to a career in neuroscience.
She knows academically and athletically Regis will be a challenge, but that’s exactly what she wants.
“In volleyball, it’s a good, competitive program where there’s no room for comfort,” she said. “They also have the rigorous academics I wanted. I found at most of the schools I looked at, I’d have to pick between the two. But at Regis, it’s just a perfect balance.”
She sent the team’s coaching staff tapes through last spring and eventually got the offer she was looking for, taking one day to think it through before eagerly accepting.
That made it all worthwhile.
“Everything you’ve ever done, everything you’ve ever given up is there, it’s tangible and you can see it,” she said, considering the moment it all payed off. “Playing in college is not a dream any more. It’s something you’re looking forward to.”
She has played a central role on Steamboat’s varsity team since her sophomore season, truly emerging when she took on the team’s libero role as a junior. There, she was so effective she could take away major elements of the game from strong teams and was so respected around the league and state opponents would tailor their attacks in desperate attempts to avoid her.
She’s intent on bringing those same skills to Regis.
“I’m really shooting for that starting libero spot,” she said. “(The coach) said it’s something I could achieve as a freshman, but I want to blow them out of the water. I want them to say, ‘Oh yeah, it’s her, for sure.’”
That means no matter what happened 48 hours ago, there are no days off.
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