Editor’s note: This story appeared in the November 2021 edition of The Daily Universe Magazine.
BYU senior Kenzie Koerber is a right side hitter and #4 for BYU’s women’s volleyball team. Koerber graduated from Chino Hills High School in her hometown of Chino Hills, California. She was a four-year starter for the women’s volleyball team at the University of Utah where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications. Because of COVID-19, the NCAA granted athletes an extra year of eligibility and Koerber elected to use her extra year to transfer to BYU. She is a three-time All-American for the American Volleyball Coaches Association and a two-time All-Pac-12 Team honoree. Although proud of her athletic accomplishments, Koerber said her faith has helped her realize she is more than just a volleyball player.
Q: Why did you decide to play volleyball here at BYU?
A: I played four years at Utah. I transferred here for my fifth year, for the COVID year. I am also a convert, so getting baptized up at Utah I just realized that it probably wasn’t the best place for me to continue to try to progress as a person and I wanted to be around more people that had the same values and same beliefs as me and same standards. I love Heather (Olmstead, the women’s volleyball head coach) and I love what she does with her program and I love being by my family, so I thought there’s no better place to go than BYU. It’s been awesome to just see the difference and how it truly feels like a family down here and that everyone is just so kind all the time and it’s just a much different vibe than what I’m used to so it’s been a good experience so far.
Q: Why did you start investigating the Church and what led to you eventually converting?
A: It’s kind of a long story, but in a shorter tense, I went through a few experiences at Utah, like a pretty bad relationship I’d say. It was pretty hard and I was rock bottom in a lot of areas in my life and I was pretty depressed. Once I finally got out of that relationship, I felt like I am at my absolute low and I need something, someone, to save me. I grew up nondenominational Christian but I was never super into it. I have a ton of family here who are members and so seeing their life and seeing their marriages, and how they interact and how they live and how much peace I felt when I was with them, made me long for that feeling. That is when I started asking questions about why do you seem to have your life together and why do you seem so at peace? And that’s where the questions started and from there, the process continued.
Q: How does your faith affect or interact with your athletics?
A: It’s actually been really cool to be down here and see how much the gospel ties into what we do as a program. Every Monday, we come in and we take a volunteer for prayer, and we pray before every game and we have devotionals on the road. It’s just awesome that the coaches really place an emphasis on our journey as disciples of Christ, and trying to progress as people and not just volleyball players. I think it’s really cool what they do on their end, and making sure that we are always tying the gospel into what we are trying to do and personally I think being here has helped me realize that I am more than just a volleyball player.
Especially in the kinds of classes I am in here versus at a public school like at Utah, you’re not in religion classes, you’re not in classes that talk about the gospel. It’s helped me realize I am very blessed to be able to play volleyball here. But it’s not who I was made to be here and I am more than a volleyball player. I think just keeping that in the back of my mind whenever I play of knowing if I have a bad game or I don’t perform as well as I maybe hoped I did, that doesn’t make me any less of a child of God. I think it’s so important to remember that and being here has really helped open my eyes to that, and help me identify less as a volleyball player and more as a child of God.
Q: What does your faith mean to you and how does it affect your daily life?
A: It’s the biggest aspect of my life for sure. I start and end every day with a prayer and between the busy life you live as an athlete, I try my best to have the Spirit with me all the time, and try to really continue to be spiritually strong and keep my relationship with God at the forefront of my life.
Another reason I love being here (at BYU) is we don’t play on Sundays. I played four years at a university that plays Friday and Sunday and it was really hard to feel anything during my seasons in the past because I wasn’t getting the spirituality, that “oomph” that I need every week. I was having to do a lot more work on my own, and go to institute on Wednesdays or whatever day I could go and go to the temple before we travel. That was a blessing to see the work I could put in on the side without going to Church but it definitely has been awesome to be here and be able to go to Church and really give a full day in all my focus to God. To not worry about volleyball for a day and not worry about school and the busy life I live because I know when Monday starts, I’m going to hit the ground running.
It’s at the forefront of my life always, it always will be. Obviously in season it’s a grind, you are really focused on volleyball but I feel that I have done a really good job of doing what I’m supposed to do, and doing what helps me feel the Spirit and helps me feel spiritually strengthened. And that’s been awesome — to compartmentalize that between busy life and volleyball.
Q: What is your biggest accomplishment? It could be as an athlete, it could be in your personal life or anything else.
A: My goal coming into college was always to be an All-American and to see that I’ve been able to accomplish that three times in my career so far, and hopefully going for a fourth this year, is something that I am really proud of.
I know that those honors come from God and it’s always the most humbling thing when the past three years, when I’ve been named an All-American, my first instinct is to thank the man upstairs because I know the talents come from him. It is such an honor and a great accomplishment and something I am really proud of, but I know that those come from team success and they come from God, and it’s a blessing for sure.