Faced with ample uncertainty this season, Nevada two-sport athlete Kayla Afoa was tasked with an impactful decision for her future.
Afoa balanced responsibilities for the Nevada women’s volleyball team and women’s track and field team as a junior last season. Both sports take place during the fall, but COVID-19 postponed all fall sports —excluding football— until the spring.
Without a fall sports season, Nevada’s two-sport star can’t compete for the foreseeable future. If a season occurs, Afoa has decided to play women’s volleyball for her senior year and won’t compete in track and field.
“I was thinking about it for a long time,” she said. “With everything going on with COVID-19 and not knowing what’s going on with volleyball or track is tough. I just made the ultimate and difficult decision that I wouldn’t be doing track anymore being that it’s my senior year. Those were some of the factors that went into my decision.”
Afoa dedicated countless hours into both sports, and COVID-19 only sped up the process to make her decision. She ran a personal best of 8.19 seconds in the 60 meter dash and placed 12th at the New Mexico Team Open in the long jump with a distance of 5.31 meters in 2019.
The track and field spring outdoor season was canceled in March due to COVID-19 concerns, adding more uncertainty for Afoa as she made her decision.
“There’s just a lot of uncertainty with it all,” she said. “It made sense for me to narrow things down and focus on what I need to do.”
Despite Afoa’s choice to stick with one sport this season, she has the full support of head track and field coach Shantel Twiggs.
“We support her decision no matter what happens,” Twiggs said. “Kayla has a tremendous work ethic and she competes so hard every single day. … I’m not sure what’s in store for the future, but she has our full support.”
With more time to focus on women’s volleyball, Afoa has big expectations for the upcoming year. She led the Wolf Pack in kills and digs while posting 17 double-doubles last season and was named to the Mountain West All-Conference team.
Since joining the women’s volleyball team as a freshman in 2017, Afoa has become an impactful presence on the floor. She’s dedicating her final season to becoming a vocal leader and lead by example for a young Wolf Pack squad.
“It’s becoming more of a leader and inspiring everyone to be better in hard times like these,” she said. “That’s an important goal for me to strive towards is to make myself and those around me better.”
Along with her impressive play in both sports, Afoa values her education at the university. She was named to the All-Mountain West Academic team twice. To be eligible for selection, student-athletes must complete at least one academic term while maintaining a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 and be a starter for their respective team.
Academics and studying alone can be a challenging task for students, adding two sports to the equation makes things more difficult. By not participating in track and field, Afoa is confident she will have more time to focus on her strengths as a student-athlete.
“I believe that it will give me more time to focus on one thing,” she said. “I don’t have to juggle everything at once with two sports and school. This will ultimately be the best decision for me.”
Plenty of uncertainty lies ahead for fall sports this year and beyond. If and when a season takes place, it will take time to develop chemistry and practice as a unit. Afoa has made sure to keep in touch with her teammates during the delay.
“It’s important to keep our connection strong and make sure our chemistry remains intact,” she said. “As long as we keep in contact and stay ready for the unexpected, I’m confident in our chances.”
Afoa has racked up the accolades during her stellar career at Nevada. Her dedication and work ethic towards both sports and academic prowess has left an everlasting impression on coach Twiggs.
She will stick with women’s volleyball for this season, and her difficult decision will be what is best for her.
“Her efforts of being able to balance both sports with everything else is so impressive,” Twiggs said. “This is all her and her ability to do it. She’s doing this because she wants to, and she’s communicated with us the whole way.”
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Isaiah__Burrows.