For much of the year, College Park Center is junior Michaela Wright’s second home. Here, she spends hours with both UTA’s volleyball and women’s basketball teams.
Wright is a dual sport athlete: A center for the women’s basketball team and a middle blocker for the volleyball team.
She was recruited to play basketball in the 2017-18 season as a freshman under head coach Krista Gerlich. In high school, Wright played both sports, but playing volleyball as a Maverick didn’t cross her mind.
Following her first basketball season, Wright said she found herself at open gym practice sessions simply hitting the volleyball.
She said she missed playing the sport, but she never thought being at UTA would lead her back.
Volleyball head coach J.T. Wenger said he saw Wright at these sessions, and her high school volleyball background helped her land a spot with his roster for the 2018 season. He said her athleticism lends itself to both sports.
The roster was thin at that point, and after seeing the 6-foot-5-inch athlete around College Park Center, Wenger realized she could help fill the gap within the squad, he said.
“We’re fortunate that it’s worked out for [Wright] and for the volleyball program,” Wenger said.
Gerlich was supportive of Wright’s decision to join the volleyball program. Both teams are heavily invested in Wright, Gerlich said, and she is the bridge that brings both programs a little closer together.
“You do not always get that [support], especially with basketball and volleyball, because there is a little bit of a conflict in November,” Wright said. “I really do have the best basketball coach ever to let me do that.”
Wright said there are many challenges being a part of two Division I athletic teams. The biggest issue comes when the volleyball and basketball seasons overlap.
During November, she’ll be competing at the Sun Belt Conference volleyball championships while basketball season is just getting started.
Wright said she’s dedicated to both sports, but the overlap makes her split time.
Just like any other student-athlete, she balances traveling, practicing, school work and her time management, only she does it with two teams.
Gerlich said she and other coaches have worked closely with Wright to help her schedule her time with both sports. During volleyball season, volleyball takes priority. During basketball season and during the summer, it’s basketball.
Wenger said it’s not exactly a perk for coaches, and it comes with costs. He gives up practice time with Wright during the spring and Gerlich gives up time during fall, meaning Wright misses out on parts of each sport’s season.
“She only gets to play each sport for a few months a year, whereas her teammates get to play one sport for the majority of each year,” he said. “But because of her dedication, she’s still able to succeed.”
Gerlich said there was an instant confidence boost in Wright when she first stepped on the volleyball court for UTA, and that has also translated well to basketball.
This season for volleyball, Wright has played her role as a middle blocker in nine matches. For the Lady Mavericks, Gerlich said she wants Wright to become a more physical force in the post position and finish around the rim.
NCAA rules only allow student-athletes to partake in a maximum of 20 hours of workouts per week related to the sport in season, and Wright said she regularly uses those hours up.
When she has time available outside of her mandatory volleyball training, she’ll fill it with a basketball shooting workout, lifting weights or even practicing with the basketball team. When she has filled up her 20 hours, she’ll sit and watch basketball practice to not miss anything and be prepared.
It’s been a long and difficult journey for Wright, but she said she’s just trusting the process.
“I work hard and take every opportunity that I get just to go out there and do what I can,” Wright said.