It takes a heavy toll on any young athlete to excel at a sport. The hours spent training and toiling, the outings with friends missed. But Elmira volleyball prodigy Devin Gerth is having her hard work duly rewarded this year as she secures a scholarship to study in the U.S.
Gerth, a Grade 11 student at EDSS, is heading to the Ursuline College in Ohio where she will be joining the Arrows volleyball team. She will be playing in the highly competitive NCAA division two.
It will be tough, but Gerth is no stranger to a challenge. As a member of the Team Ontario U16 volleyball team last year, she’s rubbed elbows with, and battled against, some of the country’s elite young athletes on the courts.
“It was overwhelming, because I’ve never played somewhere that big,” recalls Devin of playing with Team Ontario, which took the Elmira resident to Richmond, B.C. “Plus there was the women’s Grand Prix tournament, which is like pro women playing there. So you’d see all these professional volleyball women, German, Czech, they’re all just walking around.”
Her entry into Ursuline on a scholarship is only the latest step in her volleyball career. Besides Team Ontario, Gerth has played on the Kitchener-Waterloo Predators and taken the role of captain. Gerth’s mother Sarah, a child and youth guidance councilor at EDSS, is also an assistant coach on her daughter’s team.
“As her coach, she’s a captain, so there’s a higher level of responsibility,” said Sarah Gerth.
“And she definitely fits the role. She’s an excellent teammate very supportive, and, as a mum, ever since she was little, if she wanted to master something she would work at it until she got it right. Almost perfect. And she still does that – except for math,” she added.
Certainly, for the tall athlete, an aptitude for the sport and a bit of height can help. But asked how she managed to play for Team Ontario, and her answer precludes any shortcuts.
“A lot of sacrifice. So if my friends ask me to hang out, I’ll be like, ‘No I can’t. I have practice,’” she said. And when they suggest she can always skip her practices, Gerth comes back with an emphatic, “No, I can’t.
“Just sacrificing things for volleyball, I guess,” she added. “So I miss out on a lot of school dances and stuff and parties, for volleyball. It’s just dedication.”
Even off the court, Gerth can still be found frequently on the sidelines lending her experience to others. She’s volunteered her time to help train the 9- and 10-year-old junior members of the Predators team, helping the next generation of girls excel at the sport.
At EDSS, Gerth will also be there assisting her mother with coaching the boys’ team, which she has been doing since Grade 9.
“She’s always been [coaching] with her age group and most of them are her friends,” said
“They don’t listen to me very well, but I make them listen,” added Devin.
“She hits them with the ball hard, and they tend to listen,” elaborates her mother. A ball to the face will do that.
Still in Grade 11, Devin Gerth still has a bit more time before she heads off to Ursuline, where she plans to study in the school’s psychology program. In the meantime, the young athlete will honing her skills and maintaining her grades.
Over the summer, instead of training the young Predators, this year Gerth will be working as a counsellor at the Belwood Lodge and Camp, a summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities. And then next year, she’ll be off to university.
“I’m excited but also nervous because I’ve never lived away from home,” said Gerth. She adds that she feels fortunate to have received the scholarship. “I feel like all my work’s paid off.”