A 19-hour flight away from home, 24 year-old Corinna Stark from Germany is the oldest player to ever compete on the Lady Apache volleyball team at Tyler Junior College.
“I decided to come to the U.S. to start a new beginning,” Stark said.
Dana Hatch, TJC’s head volleyball coach, found Stark on Volley USA, a Web site for foreign athletes. After being offered a full scholarship and an opportunity to play the game she loves for two more years, Stark accepted.
“I’ve been playing volleyball for 16 years…it’s all I know,” she said.
With a B.A in Business Economics already under her belt, Stark said she is hoping to receive her Associates Degree in Sports Management while playing with the Lady Apaches.
The team is helping Stark transition to living in America as much as they can.
“She still has some trouble understanding us when we are on the court, but somehow we get the job done,” Kyle Court, freshman defensive specialist, said.
While the rest of the team shares a dorm room with a teammate, Stark has her own dorm room because she is five years older than most of the team.
“Coach acknowledges that I am older than the rest of the girls, but besides the dorm room, I don’t get treated any differently,” Stark said.
Playing in the U.S. is different for Stark because the game’s speed is slower and the rules are not the same. In Germany, a single player can only play one position, which meant Stark was not used to transitioning on the court. American volleyball would be new for her.
“She is grasping the concept of American volleyball, but she’s still very tough on herself,” Court said.
“Sometimes I have to calm down and remember these girls are six and seven years younger than me, so I have to bring my intensity level down a bit,” Stark said.
Although the youngest player on the team is 17 and from Belarus, and the oldest is 24 and from Germany, the team is still solid. They are all working together toward the same goal
“Corinna is a very positive and competitive athlete… a lot of the girls look up to her,” Assistant Coach Andrea Parker said.
Court said Corinna’s maturity and experience balances the team out.
“Sometimes when they need to get serious, Corinna leads by example,” Coach Parker said.
After her two years of playing ball and attending school, Stark says she hopes to become a volleyball coach.
“Volleyball…I can’t help it…I love it,” Stark said.