After South Side alumna KiMari Houston left IUPUI after a year, she got stuck in a series of factory jobs and health aide positions, the sorts of jobs that felt more like treading water than building a future.
“I started having ideas of starting businesses, just because I didn't want to work those sorts of jobs,” said Houston, who was a volleyball and softball standout for the Archers before her graduation in 2017. “I didn't have an actual plan.”
But over at Goshen College, former South Side coach Ryan Yocom was an softball assistant coach, and he still remembered what Houston had to offer.
“It was the middle of December, and we were talking about how we needed some really strong athletes to come in,” head coach Juliaclare Plezbert said. “He's like, hey, 'I know KiMari from South Side. I think she'd be a really great fit. I don't know what she's doing, I'll give her a call.'”
Plezbert gave Houston a call, and Houston jumped at the chance to return to competitive softball – and go back to school.
On a visit to the Goshen campus before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Houston met volleyball coach Kourtney Crawford, whose office is next door to Plezbert's.
“I'm a people person, so I was like, hey, how are you! Just making conversation,” Crawford said. “And she spoke with my assistant and was like, I'm also interested in volleyball. And I got an email and she was like, here's my film if you're interested, I'd love to play.
“And I watched her film and I was like, yeah, she'd be a great piece for us.”
And just like that, Houston, 21, was once again a college student and a two-sport athlete, a feeling that she described as “a big relief.” She made it official on Monday afternoon at The Summit, as she signed her letter of intent with both Plezbert and Crawford in attendance.
“I played two sports in high school and my whole life, and I wanted to challenge myself, see if I could do it,” Houston said.
“This time, what's different is that I've experienced the bad jobs, I've experienced working in a factory, and it was dead ends,” Houston said. “It will be exciting to go to school and actually get a degree, find a career. Have something behind my name. And that's what will be different, I have that in my mind. Without school, you'll be stuck at these jobs. That's what motivates me.”
Houston said she's ramped up her fitness routine knowing that another volleyball season is not too far in the future.
“This whole summer, I've been working out, I run every day. My coaches send me my workouts, so I've been athletic every day,” Houston said.
Crawford said she has several transfer students joining the volleyball team, including a few who are returning after taking a gap year for various reasons. But Houston is a unique signing for Plezbert's softball team.
“I think that's what makes me so excited for her to be able to do both sports,” Plezbert said. “Most athletes aren't able to play two sports. But with her maturity and her ability to manage everything, I know she'll be able to do it.”