The Bel Air volleyball team enjoyed a milestone season in 2012, winning the program's first Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference championship and qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 1999.
In the middle of all the excitement was setter Amanda Rodriguez. Now a senior captain in her fourth year on varsity, she is focused on helping the Bobcats maintain the lofty standard set last season with a largely new cast and head coach.
So far, so good. Bel Air is 5-1 in the early season with Rodriguez, an All-Metro first-team selection last year, the catalyst.
In addition to volleyball, Rodriguez has a long list of extra-curricular activites she takes part in at Bel Air. Like her position in volleyball, most are aimed at helping others.
She's the secretary for Peer Helpers, an outreach program for new students; a member of the HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) program; and a member of the varsity, speech and debate clubs.
A daughter in a military family, Rodriguez — who maintains a 3.5 grade point average — had also lived in El Paso and San Antonio, Texas, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, before spending her high school years in Bel Air.
What did you take away from last year's great season?
It's definitely a year I'll remember for the rest of my life. We had a bunch of girls that all played club, we all mixed well together and had great chemistry. It was a really great season.
What makes a strong leader?
I think a great leader takes opinions from everyone, takes everything into consideration, and the main goal and focus is to make a formula to push the team forward. A leader also has to have a positive mindset and they have to stay neutral. You can't get super angry or super happy. You have to be the balance of the team.
What's the biggest challenge playing setter?
The setters are the quarterbacks of the team, and you have to work with what you have. You want to make your hitters look as good as possible, so you do whatever you can to make that happen.
How did you get started playing volleyball, and what does it mean to you?
I played tennis first and then I wanted to play a team sport, so I jumped into volleyball. I just love the intensity of it, I love playing as a team. I love playing with all the girls and it's just a good feeling to be on the court all the time.
What have you learned from playing volleyball, and particularly being the team's setter and leader?
It's definitely something you don't just apply to the court, you apply it to life. You learn to work well with other people, you become mentally tough through situations and not just sports. You just become an overall better person.
How do you manage your busy schedule?
Definitely time management. My parents tell me that every day — work on my time management. Everything just falls into place if you make it happen. You just put everything on the calendar, spread it out and make sure you're ready for everything.
How has being in a military family helped with structuring your days?
That helps a lot. My Dad is always on time for everything. He's Army and has taught me to be respectful and punctual, so that really helps.
What's the best advice you've received?
As a shorter setter, colleges are always looking for 6-foot setters, and I've had a lot of coaches and mentors tell me "don't give up." It starts with hope in yourself, and once you believe in yourself, other people will too.
Having lived in so many different places, how has that helped you?
I was very shy and it helped me come out of my shell. I like how you see different places in the country. It helps you become more diverse and more understanding of people from other places, which some people don't get if they live in one area.