Success runs in the family

Junior Shameka Mitchell has stepped it up for the USF volleyball team this season, leading the Bulls with 139 kills in seven matches for a 5.15 average.

Impressive, huh?

Not when one considers that in high school Mitchell participated on the volleyball, softball, basketball and track teams, reaching the state playoffs at least once in all but softball.

USF coach Nancy Mueller attributes Mitchell’s multi-discipline success to a work ethic that stems from her background.

“Shameka continuously works hard every day,” Mueller said. “She’s never not worked hard for me, and I’m assuming that comes from her upbringing.”

Mitchell’s upbringing has definitely had a hand in the athlete and volleyball player she is today.

The youngest of four children, she was constantly surrounded by sports.

“Our whole family is pretty much athletic,” Mitchell said.

Her two older brothers, Freddie and Tremaine, played basketball and volleyball, both in high school and beyond. Freddie is currently a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles while Tremaine stopped playing after the junior college level.

“He was looking at four-year colleges like Georgia Tech, and some other places were looking at him. But he just found a really good job and wanted to settle down with that,” Mitchell said. “Kind of not wanting to follow in other people’s footsteps, you know?”

The Mitchell household was a competitive one. They were constantly competing against rest of the neighborhood at everything from races to basketball.

“We always had a game of baseball or something going on in the cul-de-sac,” Mitchell said. “Our backyard had little hills, and we were always playing football.

“It’s one thing I don’t understand about kids these days … they don’t go outside that much to play. I was always outside, playing in the rain or doing whatever it took to be outside.”

Not only was athletics a prominent part of the Mitchell family life, they had discipline to go along with it.

“I would say ‘yeah,’ that is a big part of it her upbringing, especially from her father,” Mueller said.

Mitchell’s father, Freddie, never played any sports beyond high school, but kept his family focused on a future in sports.

“My dad used to always have every single one of us up on Sunday mornings at 6 to run six miles,” Mitchell said. “That did a lot of things for us mentally, as well as physically later on.”

Her dad still keeps up with his children to this day.

“My dad still wakes up every morning and runs 15 miles,” Mitchell said. I coach at Tampa Prep, and he comes out and does workouts with my kids and my kids are getting (outrun) by a 50-year-old man.”

Mitchell’s determination led her to choosing USF over other schools, because the Bulls wanted her to play only volleyball.

“We saw her tools as a good runner and jumper and helped apply that to volleyball,” Mueller said. “Because she was doing three sports, her time was spread out and once she got here, she spent her time on volleyball.”

Mitchell decided to focus on volleyball as opposed to doubling in track, because it was something new for her.

“It’s different,” Mitchell said. “It’s a sport that I haven’t really played a lot of, and I was in the process of growing to love it, but I hadn’t played it enough like basketball to love it.”

Mueller and USF assistant coach Clair Roach were responsible for luring Mitchell to USF and developing her love for the sport.

“I met Nancy and Clair, and I said ‘These seem like awesome coaches. There’s no telling what I’m going to learn from these guys,'” Mitchell said. “That’s what made me actually love the sport.”

Mueller and Roach also helped Mitchell to use her physical ability to turn her into a solid volleyball player.

“Clair is my mentor,” Mitchell said. “She has done awesome things with me that I never would have expected.”

Mitchell still has two years left to love the game she chose, and her ability seems limitless.

“Shameka had all the qualities of an athlete, and we were able to take them and apply them here,” Mueller said. “Her job was to learn the skill and apply it, and now that she’s applied it she’s learning the game a little more.”

While her attention is focused on volleyball, she will remain competitive in any sport she wishes.

“I think I’m going to pick up tennis once I’m done,” Mitchell said laughingly. “I always wanted to play tennis and soccer but I never really had time.