Tolefree Excels On and Off the Court

Oct. 28, 2010


Tayler Tolefree and the Kansas Jayhawk volleyball team are heading down the backstretch of their 2010 volleyball season. Tolefree, only a sophomore, plays an integral role on the volleyball team, but it’s her work off the court that makes her that much more valuable to the program.

Tolefree donates many hours to volunteering and working for organizations outside the Horesji Famliy Athletics Center. Organizations such as student-athlete advisory committee (SAAC), Jayhawk Juniors, Habitat for Humanity, the Jubilee Café and READ are the main organizations Tolefree works for and volunteers her time to.

SAAC is an organization where all student-athletes can go help brainstorm ideas for projects to do around the city of Lawrence. Tolefree has been in-and-out of the SAAC program helping with various projects around the community. Tolefree and her teammates also volunteer at the Jubilee Café, where they help serve a free hot breakfast to in-need community members. Jayhawk Juniors is another program that Tolefree and her teammates are involved in. Jayhawk Juniors is essentially a camp for elementary and junior high kids to attend, where they get to work on improving their skills with players from the University of Kansas volleyball team.

“We teach the kids basic volleyball because this isn’t a huge volleyball town, it’s a basketball town. We just try and teach them the fundamentals and the different skills that are involved,” Tolefree said. “Not only do we teach them the rules, but also how to be a good teammate, how to be coachable and just little lessons on how to be a good athlete all-around.”

A former KU volleyball coach started the Jayhawk Juniors program and that is where Tolefree found out about it. She was instantly intrigued by the sound of the program.

“I just wanted to come and see what it was like. When I came to KU I really liked being here in the atmosphere. It is really good to have a program that gets kids excited to play volleyball,” Tolefree said.

Not only does Jayhawk Juniors help kids learn about the game of volleyball, but Tolefree said that it benefits her as well. The extra court time has paid off as Tolefree is second on the team with 0.80 blocks per set and an attack percentage of .239.

“You teach the kids these lessons and you break them down to be really simple for them, but it does apply to college-level volleyball, too. Being coachable, a good teammate, communicating and the dedication to learn the skill,” Tolefree said. “Everyone says when you have to teach someone how to do something, it really shows whether you know what you’re doing or not. So teaching the kids kind of helps coach myself when the coaches aren’t teaching me.”

The READ program is Tolefree’s favorite organization to volunteer her time to. Tolefree visits elementary schools around Lawrence and reads to and talks to the students about what they are learning in school. Even though the READ program isn’t volleyball-related, Tolefree says it’s good to get out there and teach kids about the importance of education and not just sports.

“Last year we wanted to encourage the kids to do well on their state assessments and the importance of doing their homework,” Tolefree said. “The kids are really enthusiastic about it, so being able to teach kids while they are willing to learn is really cool.”

Tolefree admits that she has a lot on her plate at this time of season. The Jayhawks are working on trying to make the NCAA Tournament, not to mention the schoolwork Tolefree has as well and then adding in volunteer work really leaves little spare time for the sophomore.

“We’re getting near the end of the semester and it’s a critical time in the season, so this time of year is especially busy,” Tolefree said. “In the spring season, we’re completely done with volleyball so it isn’t as bad.”

Tolefree is only a sophomore, but her KU coaches and teammates know they have a young leader for two more years that is only going to get better, both on and off the court.