You're tall. Do you play basketball? Or volleyball?
Kids of a certain physical stature are accustomed to answering that question at every family reunion and inside each middle and high school hallway in America.
Sometimes, however, it's worded as a invitation and makes a seismic shift in the life of the person being asked. Such was the case for Reagan McLean.
“I played softball until I was in seventh grade, and then some of my friends asked me to go and play volleyball,” she said. “I tried it, not having any idea it would take over. I just loved it. I loved the fast pace compared to softball, which was so slow and not really my thing, so I got burned out pretty fast.”
Not even four years later, McLean was offered and gratefully accepted a scholarship offer to play the sport on a NCAA Division I level at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.
McLean, a 6-foot-1 senior from Great Crossing High School, signed that national letter of intent Saturday afternoon in the backyard of her family's home.
“Very relieved. I think it was last August (2019) that I committed,” McLean said of her lengthy courtship with the Thundering Herd. “The first time I talked to the coaches, they were so easy to talk to. They were so welcoming. They made me feel good about myself as a player. Just everything they described felt like what I wanted.”
McLean's duck-to-water relationship with a sport she'd never even considered is yet another tool in the arsenal of those who clamor for children to play multiple sports and try multiple positions, at least early in their development.
It's also reminder that “prospect rankings” of athletes as young as second and third grade are worth precisely the value of the paper on which they're issued.
“Marshall is certainly lucky to be getting such a great player, some of the things she does,” GCHS volleyball coach Adam Ivetic said. “She's got a really heavy arm swing, great blocker. She's one of our best serve receivers. Tough on defense, always tough on the service line. Pretty much anything you can ask a volleyball player to do, Reagan will go in there and go it for you. Clearly Marshall knows what they're doing. They know who they're looking for, and they've got a really great one here.”
McLean didn't need long to establish herself as a rising star and one of the most versatile talents in the state. As a freshman at Scott County, she joined eighth graders Olivia Bennett and Ryann Thomas as early varsity contributors on a junior-dominated team coached by Kim Thompson.
All three are D1-bound: Bennett, who now plays at Bryan Station, is committed to the University of San Diego, while Thomas, McLean's teammate at Great Crossing, has announced her intentions with Arkansas State University.
“I had two different coaches in high school. The coaching styles were very different, but both coaches were really supportive,” McLean said. “I wouldn't be where I am without both types. When I first started, they made an effort to get me in there and get me included, because they saw the potential. They've gotten to me to where I am today.”
Ivetic took over the Scott County program prior to McLean's sophomore season. The new coach said he noticed her tendencies as a leader and learner from their first meeting in the school cafeteria.
SC posted the second-most wins in school history that autumn.
“Aside from the volleyball, some of my great memories of Reagan are our chats. I remember at Scott County, we were talking up in the bleachers because I was moving her position around. Pretty much everything you could possibly do, we made Reagan do it, and she did a great job of learning,” Ivetic said. “One of my favorite parts about that was she asked questions and really became a student of the game. Seeing somebody want to learn about the game at that level just shows how dedicated she is to this sport, and it's incredible. To see somebody this young care about it at that level is really cool.”
When Ivetic took the reins of the Great Crossing start-up the next season, McLean and most of her teammates followed.
Those moves paid off with consecutive 41st District titles to launch the program and a a trip to the 11th Region semifinals this year.
“In order to be this successful in life, you've got to be a great person too,” Ivetic said. “You can tell just by talking with Reagan for a few minutes that her parents (Richard and Katrina) and the people she's surrounded by in life have done an amazing job of helping her become who she is.
“After playing all those different positions, I'd ask her, 'Where do you feel most comfortable?' It was never, 'Well, I want to do this,' or, 'I think it would be best for me if.' It was, 'What do you think, Coach? What's best for the team? How do you think we can most likely win?' It was really refreshing to coach a young person who's so selfless and really team first. That kind of leadership, it's going to take you far.”
McLean signed her NLI on a weighty day in Marshall history: It was the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed 75 people with close ties to the school's football program, inspiring the “We Are Marshall” motion picture,
Fifteen months and two full high school seasons after getting what can be a stressful life decision out of way, she still couldn't be happier to have joined that close-knit community only two hours from home.
“I loved the campus the first time I went for a visit. I loved the girls. I loved getting to meet everyone,” said McLean, who will major in nursing and hopes to work in a neonatal intensive care one day. “It was just a positive environment. There was nothing I could have asked for that would be better than that.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.