Kaitlyn Burkett’s final season with the Colorado Buffaloes volleyball team has been a tough road paved with more defeats than Burkett would like. The senior setter said she’s ready to try something a little less hectic.
“I’m just going to try to enjoy being a normal college student for once in my life,” Burkett said. “I am excited about that.”
At 7 p.m. Wednesday against the Texas A&M Aggies, Burkett will don the white, black and gold of the CU volleyball uniform for her final home game at the Coors Event Center.
Burkett, 21, said she has attended CU volleyball and basketball games since she was a child. She said her dream was to play at the Coors Event Center and being out there for the last time will be a dream comes true. However, she said ending her four-year career as a Buffalo will be bittersweet.
“I think it’s going to be very emotional,” Burkett said. “I mean just playing competitive sports since I was five, for this to be it is kind of going to be crazy. But I think it’s bittersweet too. It’s time to move on and pursue new things in life.”
Ellen Henry, 21, a junior sociology major and former CU volleyball player, is one of Burkett’s closest friends. She agrees with Burkett’s sentiment.
“It’s really bittersweet,” Henry said. “I think she’s ready to be done. But then again, she’s going to miss a lot because she has been playing sports literally since she could walk. It will be a big change for her.”
Burkett grew up in an athletic environment as her father, Michael, was a high school basketball player and coached his daughter in basketball during her four years at St Mary’s Prep in Colorado Springs. Burkett’s mother, Erin, was a youth volleyball coach.
Kaitlyn Burkett had an affinity for sports from a very young age and according to Erin Burkett, 49, her daughter demonstrated a natural talent.
“She was always begging to bump the volleyball in the backyard all the time,” Erin Burkett said. “She was really lucky her sister was very athletic. They [would be] playing volleyball or basketball all the time. She had to work hard to keep up with her sister.”
Kaitlyn Burkett frequently accompanied her mother and older sister, Kelsey, to their mother’s practices. She said she was a bit older when she began playing volleyball seriously.
“When I started playing volleyball, I was probably five and shagging balls for my mom because she was a coach,” Kaitlyn Burkett said. ”I would just go to the gym with my sister and play. Ever since I was young, I was always playing all types of sports.”
With her Buffs standing at 7-20 overall with a 2-16 record in the Big 12 Conference this season, Kaitlyn Burkett said the switch in the coaching staff may have affected the season’s performance as players had to transition to a different style of play.
She also noted the departure of several seniors last season as well as other players during this season that may have impacted team morale.
Burkett’s mother agreed.
“I’m really, really proud of her to be able to go with it,” Erin Burkett said. “This year’s been a rough year [and she’s been] able to stick with it through the adversity. Kaitlyn has [had] a calming effect in a really emotionally and physically hard year.”
After the season ends, Kaitlyn Burkett, a communication major, said she will try to find a job and measure her options in the workplace. Henry said her friend is thinking of continuing her involvement in athletics, among other things.
“She said she was looking forward to hanging out with me more,” Henry said. “I think she wants to be a [physical education] teacher. Kaitlyn is great with kids. She could wear sweats to work every day, so I think she would love that.”
But before Kaitlyn Burkett can join the real world, she reflects on her time as a Buff and said it has been a fulfilling experience.
“I’ve gotten everything I could have ever imagined and more out of this, and so it’s definitely exceeded my expectations,” Kaitlyn Burkett said. “I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person because of being a student athlete and playing a sport, being around a team and coaches all the time, and being a leader for a team during struggling times. I feel like it’s definitely been fulfilling.”
Erin Burkett said she will definitely be in the stands come Wednesday night and said her daughters’ emotions will be conflicting.
“I think she will be a little sad,” Erin Burkett said. “She comes from Colorado, born and raised, fifth-generation kid. She will be glad that she picked CU and always had family and friends. She will be happy but sad at the same time. We are all very proud of her, and she will have a lot of family on that day to support her for her last game.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Esteban L. Hernandez at Esteban.email@example.com.