8-year-old is the Notre Dame High School volleyball team's saving 'Grace'
Matt LevinsThe Hawk Eye
The Notre Dame High School volleyball team really doesn't need any help.
Over the course of the last 2 1/2 seasons, the Nikes have a combined 69-15 record and a pair of Class 1A state championships to their credit.
The Nikes also have two coaches -- Mike Davis and Susan Reid -- with college coaching experience and another -- Meghan Baker Stephens -- who was a star player for the Nikes in her high school days.
Notre Dame has plenty of stars, from Class 1A Player of the Year Gabby Deery to Class 1A all-tournament team captain in 2020 in Katy Stephens and a host of all-state, all-district and all-conference players.
But ask the Nikes who the most valuable person on the team is and to a person they all say the same thing: Grace Reid.
At 3 1/2 feet tall and maybe 60 pounds soaking wet, Reid barely can be seen through the forest of comparative giants in the Notre Dame huddle.
But boy does she make her presence felt.
Reid, the eight-year-old daughter of Susan and Kyle Reid, has been to every practice, every match, every tournament Notre Dame has played in the last two seasons. She even sat the bench during the Nikes' state tournament run last year in Cedar Rapids.
Grace Reid is both a coach and a best friend to the players. She is a bubbling ball of energy, keeping the players loose and even doing drills with them. And if they make a mistake, you had better believe that Grace Reid will let them know immediately.
In a sense, Grace Reid has become the heart and soul of the Nikes, the glue that holds the team together, the one who brings an instant smile to their faces and reminds them that there are far more important things in life that volleyball.
Yep, Grace Reid is the Nikes' most valuable asset.
"I like helping them and being with them and hanging out with them. I like to pepper with them," Grace Reid said between matches Saturday at the Notre Dame Invitational at Father Minett Gymnasium. "They are teaching me hitting, setting, a lot of things. They are all my best friends."
"She calls them her best friends. They enjoy it just as much as she does," said Susan Reid, a sparkle of pride gleaming in her eyes as she speaks of her daughter while watching her interact with the team. "I think she reminds the girls a lot that it's just a game. We're here to have fun. But she's super competitive, too."
"We like having her around," Davis said. "The girls enjoy her. She sits on the bench and she keeps score. If I have any questions about the score, I know who to go to and she's always spot on. It's fun to have her around."
Grace Reid lets her light shine bright
No matter the outcome on the court, a few words of encouragement and a big hug from Grace Reid brings the players back to reality, smiling from ear to ear.
"Grace is amazing. She's the best cheerleader we have on the bench," said Deery, a University of Iowa volleyball recruit. "She's a coach and a teammate. She is here at every practice, every tournament, every game. She's in the locker room hyping us girls up. She's like a little sister."
"Grace has been a really special part of this team the last couple years," senior middle hitter Abby Korschgen said. "Last year she sat bench with us at state. She's been through all of it. She's been to all of our practices, all of our games."
Swimming or volleyball?
On a hot, humid, sweltering early September Saturday, Grace Reid got invited to a pool party with some of her second-grade class members at Notre Dame Elementary School. For Grace Reid, that was never even an option.
"Today she chose to come here instead of a pool party with all of her second-grade friends," Korschgen said. "She loves it and we love her being on the team with us. It's a good connection to play for something else."
Susan Reid was not the least bit surprised when she got ready to leave for the tournament Saturday morning and Grace was right by her side.
Miss a tournament? Not on your life.
"Today's she had a choice to go swimming all day with her friends or come to the hot gym and she chose to come here," Susan Reid said, shaking her head and laughing as Grace sat in front of a large fan in the gym with some of the players. "She's one of our biggest fans and supporters."
Helping others put volleyball in perspective
Grace Reid's value was no better felt than last year when Katy Stephens had to sit out after having knee surgery. While the rest of the team practiced, Grace Reid kept Katy's mind off things by playing pepper with her, laughing and smiling all the while.
"I think it was really a godsend because she was able to keep me occupied, keep me busy, away from overthinking everything," said Katy Stephens, who was home from the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday watching her sister, Taryn, play for the Nikes. "She's just really such a good support. She's always there for everyone and is always cheering super loud. I think everyone really kind of sees her as a big part of the team because she sits there and keeps score and she's always cheering everyone on and she's always everywhere we are. I think that also make everyone else always be at a higher level because they know that there is always somebody who is looking up to you."
"It kind of kept Katy distracted from the seriousness of not being able to play her senior year. She helped Katy keep it in perspective," Susan Reid said.
Grace Reid is also a task master
Not all is fun and games with Grace. She knows when it's time to have fun and when it's time to get serious and get down to business. She can be just as tough on the players as the coaches.
"She's coaching us and telling us, 'Come on, get that ball up. What are you doing?' She also has that friend aspect, 'You've got this' or 'I'm here for you.' She's always happy and always cheerful," Deery said.
"She makes us warm up real hard," Korschgen said. "She'll yell at us if we're not doing it right. She even brings a whistle to practice to blow at us. She's there all the time, wanting us to get better."
"It's almost to the point where she's not afraid to boss the girls around," Davis said. "If one of the girls is doing something wrong, she'll speak right up and tell them."
Rally for Reid Night
Tuesday night will be a different kind of night for Grace Reid and the Nikes. The seventh-ranked Nikes host eighth-ranked Holy Trinity, but the night is about much more than volleyball.
Notre Dame is having its annual "Rally for Reid Night" to help raise money and awareness about childhood cancer. The Reid Foundation was formed in the memory of Reid William Gleeson, who died from Medulloblastoma on Oct. 13, 2020 at the age of five. Reid Gleeson was Grace Reid's cousin, and this is an emotional night for the family, friends players and coaches. Reid William Gleeson's mother, Megan, is a graduate of Notre Dame High School.
Grace Reid has helped keep Reid William Gleeson's light shining, and this is a night to remember and help strike out cancer.
"I think it will be a good match, but at the same time it reminds us it's just a game," Susan Reid said. "The back of one of our shirts says, 'We play for more than wins.' We always keep perspective on our team that at some point volleyball is going to be over and there are many things much bigger than this game. I think it will be special. We're excited to have Holy Trinity be a part of that. I think it will be a good night."