It all came full circle for Kelly Reeves on Sept. 8.
That was the day she took the court in Pauley Pavilion to start her first home volleyball game as a Bruin, instead of sitting in the crowd with the spectators, as she did when she went to UCLA volleyball and football games as a child.
“For so many years I was in the stands watching, idolizing all these great athletes,” Reeves said. “And then Wednesday night, I was out on the court, and it was just awesome, it was so amazing.”
While the freshman outside hitter helped UCLA defeat Pepperdine in the Bruins’ 2010 home opener, her mother Jeanne Reeves was in the audience, watching the daughter she raised, the star athlete she trained. Throughout her daughter’s already exceptional volleyball career, Jeanne Reeves has been there to coach her and share the experiences she gained in her own world-class volleyball career.
Like her daughter, Jeanne Reeves is a proud Bruin. She played volleyball at UCLA from 1979 to 1982 and also played basketball for two years. After her playing days, Reeves was selected for the U.S. Olympic team and won a silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. She then played professional volleyball in Italy before returning to UCLA as an assistant coach for the women’s team. As an assistant coach, she was part of national championship-winning teams in 1990 and 1991.
Reeves played volleyball with her children, and her daughter began playing club volleyball at age 12. She coached her daughter’s club team, the Encinitas Wave, and put in extra time with her. Kelly Reeves, a San Diego native, said she enjoyed being coached by her mom and having her around for extra feedback.
“At home she would critique me and really give me input on what I need to work on, and having her voice there and telling me what I need to improve, or change my swing or keep attacking, I loved it,” Reeves said.
It was her mother’s stories about the Olympics that motivated Reeves, who has played on the junior national team, to forge her own path to success on the volleyball court and become an Olympian herself.
“My mom was a very hard worker, and she’s been there and she knows what it takes,” Reeves said. “And hearing stories from her, and how they would practice eight hours a day, and going through all the training, and that kind of fired me up and made me want to do that, because I love volleyball, and that’s what I want to do in the future. I want to go to the Olympics, I want to go on and play overseas, and just play volleyball.”
It also doesn’t hurt that athleticism runs in Reeves’ family. Her father, Mike Reeves, ran track at Oregon, and her two brothers, Jake and Connor, the latter of whom is a sophomore at UCLA, also play volleyball.
The elder Reeves said she offered to step down as coach if her daughter preferred it, but the mother-daughter duo stayed together on the volleyball court throughout the younger Reeves’ progression. She even asked for extra coaching.
“It was all her,” Jeanne Reeves said. “It was all her wanting to do it. Her wanting to go in the gym extra and go play and do it, and it was her asking, not me telling, so that’s a pretty cool thing.”
When the time came for Reeves to choose where to spend her college career, she tried to keep her options open and make an independent decision. Reeves, who was born at the UCLA hospital, considered other schools far from home, like Texas and Nebraska, but knew UCLA was for her after visiting the campus and attending a men’s basketball game against USC. She felt “at home” during her visit, and decided to come to UCLA on her own accord.
“She thought long and hard about where she wanted to go, and UCLA wasn’t necessarily in the top in the beginning, because she didn’t want to be me or try and live up to me,” her mother said.
“But in the end, I think when she went and looked at everything else, and she looked hard at UCLA, she felt she belonged there, and my feeling is, “˜You’re not following my footsteps, you’re creating your own path.’”
Reeves has made plenty of progress. She is already starting, and after nine matches, is third on the team with 60 total kills and fifth in kills per set with 2.5. Coach Mike Sealy said Reeves’ consistency is special for a young player.
“It’s rare that a freshman can go in and be that steady to where she’s staying in every single match,” Sealy said. “It’s never like we need to take her out.”
Senior outside hitter and team leader Dicey McGraw added to the praise, saying Reeves is mature beyond her years.
“She does not act like a freshman whatsoever,” McGraw said.
“She’s so fun to play with, she brings fire, intensity, desire.
She makes me a better player, and I’m a senior and she’s a freshman. It’s just so great to be alongside of her, and she’s almost like, I look up to her, and she’s younger than me.”
Now that her daughter is playing for a new coach, Jeanne Reeves plans to continue providing her with support and guidance. She thinks she has what it takes to continue excelling in UCLA and beyond.
“If she wants to go the distance, I think that she can go the distance,” she said. “A lot of it’s going to depend on your mindset and your health. … The Olympics, is ““ a lot of it’s timing and luck, what years you get in and who’s surrounded by you. But I picture Kelly will make a good run at it, whether it’s Olympic, professional indoor or professional beach, I think she’ll make a run for it.”