Volleyball after childbirth: A challenge and a lifeline

Sep. 15—Senior Jaidah Hale has been playing volleyball since the sixth grade and has been on the Lawrence County varsity team since her sophomore year. She almost had to sacrifice all of that when she got pregnant last October.

"I didn't think I was going to be able to do it. There was a moment where I wanted to just give up, but I didn't," Hale said.

Hale said she needs the game. Playing volleyball is like a vacation for her; she said she always leaves the court more relaxed than when she got on because she loves it.

"If I needed to do something and I was mentally not there, I'd want to play volleyball. It's just my go-to," Hale said.

She gave birth the last week of June and was back for the opening of school in August.

"With me going to school, I would have to wake up, take care of (my son), go to school, come back, go to practice for a few hours and do the same thing. I wasn't sleeping," Hale said.

Her mom and godmother took over nighttime responsibilities. Hale then played in the first game of the season against Alexandria on Aug. 24, just two months out of the hospital. "It's my senior year. I had to finish," Hale said.

Despite the challenges, Hale is grateful for her child.

"He saved my life honestly," Hale said. "He got me away from people who treated me wrong."

She said her son was her lifeline, that he motivates her to get up in the morning.

"I don't feel like I have to be good for him, but I want to do good for him," Hale said. "He really is the main person in my life right now."

Robyn Hutto is head coach of the Lawrence County volleyball team and recalled when Hale came to tell her about the pregnancy.

"When she came in to tell me, it was a very emotional thing. She said, 'I'm more scared to tell you, Coach, than I am my mom,'" Hutto said.

Hutto has known Hale since the seventh grade and said she has always known her to be respectful and well-behaved on and off the court.

She said as long as Hale was medically cleared, she was allowed to play.

"Everything was volleyball, volleyball, volleyball and I had to stop her for a minute and be like, 'Hey look, this is where we are. We are going to be concerned about you and this baby and making sure that's OK. Volleyball will be here,'" Hutto said. "I wanted her to still feel involved. I didn't want her to feel excluded, left out or shunned. Tryouts rolled around and she had a note from her doctor. So within reason, I threw her out there and she attended everything we did in the summer."

There were basic limitations, like no diving during her early practices. "She was right there with us," Hutto said. But Hale's work ethic has always been known to her coach.

"In this sport, you have what we call your opposite. They also play the same position as you, just at a different location," Hutto said. "Last year, her opposite was our 6-foot middle Skye (Letson), who's now playing at Calhoun. Her and Jaidah weren't really the same size but (Jaidah) would get just as many blocks because of how hard she worked."

Hutto said she sees potential in Hale and so do other people.

"Her sophomore season, she didn't have many swings on the ball at all. Last year, she started coming into her own, creating offense," Hutto said. "Toward the end of the season, you could tell this was going to be her thing. I had a couple of junior colleges ask about her."

Hale is already back to mid-season form mentally, according to Hutto. However, she said there have been some lingering effects that she has seen Hale deal with.

"I feel like as far as seeing what we are doing, she's still involved," Hutto said. "Now, getting her back physically, I know she's had some hard days. I can tell it on her face and in her actions."

Hale said she has noticed these changes and said they have affected her.

"I can't jump as high anymore and that tore me down a bunch," Hale said.

Even through her limitations, "She's doing what she said she would do when she came to tell me that she was pregnant," Hutto said. "She was like, 'I'm going to get back, Coach.'"

Hale said she plans to "get back" to the state playoffs. The Lady Red Devils have bought into the program more this year and the varsity squad is a lot closer compared to past years, according to Hale. "Our attitudes have changed," she said.

"I want to win a state championship my senior year and I think we can. I really do. We've had a really good chance the past three years," Hale said. "We've had a state playoff appearance all three years. We just haven't made it past the first round, but I think we can do it this year." or (256) 460-1272.