You don’t have to do much research to figure out that Texas, small towns and football all go hand in hand. In all honestly, you can’t really have one without the other. It’s the stuff movies are made of, (think Friday Night Lights) and of course, music videos…”The Boys of Fall” by Kenny Chesney. Those stadium lights shine like spotlights down on hometown superstars every Friday night in the Fall. That’s right! There is so much excitement and deep-rooted tradition here that it almost brings tears to my eyes just writing this.
And do you know what else small towns produce? Girls. Intelligent, athletic, multi-talented young ladies with hopes and dreams that could fill the Texas sky. They create leaders, which is the exact adjective that Andrew Palileo, Head Volleyball Coach at the University of North Texas, used to describe Freshman volleyball star and Celina native, Barbara Teakell.
Barbara drove out of Celina with the MVP of District 5-4A crown…and more awards and recognition from both club and high school programs than can be listed. To say that this powerhouse athlete was a top pick for many college programs would be an understatement. Ultimately, she decided to join the Mean Green program and in the Spring of 2017, she headed out west to the University of North Texas in Denton.
When I had the opportunity to sit down with Barbara, who is 6’1″ and should be modeling, it was refreshing to see how this once home-schooled young lady has paved such a way for herself. She takes no credit of her own as a leader, whether on or off the court. Barbara admits that she learned many lessons during her first year away at college. When asked what she missed most about home in Celina, she spoke of family.
Raised by two West Texans, her family knows a thing or two about small towns and the integrity and grit it takes to raise successful human beings. They’re raising five to be exact. Barbara’s smile when she talks about her family sparkles like a beacon that makes you wish you were a part of it. She credits the strong relationship her parents have with God, as well as each other, for the bond they share as a family. Their “overcome anything” and “trust God always” mentality has been a beneficial anchor for Barbara. And that wisdom has spilled over into the core of the young lady I proudly shared a burger with.
Barbara claims her brother Barrett as her best friend. He also attends UNT and has been a significant source of support for her. She admits that her first semester away from home was a real eye opener. Her nest back home includes younger brothers Ben (15), whose name you’ll see on the Bobcats Varsity Baseball roster, and Bryson (10) who is following closely behind with his own success and passion for the sport.
Her big sister Bailey, who Barbara calls “the heart of their family” has a smile that Teakell says, “could light up the whole world.” It is her sister’s special needs, which include speech therapy, that has led Barbara down a career path to be a Speech Pathologist. The field will give her the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of people with special needs. To hear her speak of Bailey, it is obvious that Barbara is aware of the impact those she will be helping will in turn have on her.
Another lesson learned was that of faith. It is great to be recognized in your hometown for your efforts, but seeing other talent at the college level has made her realize that she’d have to work harder to maintain that status. While dealing with the typical first semester transitions like being a little homesick, being in a brand new environment and being coached at a new level, she went into her first season without expectations and humbly admitted her vulnerability. After what Teakell described as having played “average” in her first few college games, she felt she had to fully embrace the idea that she may not play as much as she had been accustomed to. “If my position on this team was to lead from the bench, because that was God’s plan, then that’s what I would do.”
You see, Barbara was going to give 110% and lead by example even if that meant not playing as much as she’d hoped to. She was going to be a team player and take a back seat if that was her role. Hearing her say this left me dumbfounded, as I realized the depth of her character at such a young age and the authenticity of her relationship with God that is undeniably rock solid. No doubt it was this attitude of gratitude that gained her the respect of her coach and team as well as the position of starter as a Freshman. Once she surrendered to the fact that she was not in control and let God guide her, the sky was the limit. It was her chance to shine.
Barbara misses home and the security of the Celina community, but looks forward to her next few years in Denton. She says that the best parts of college life have been the friendly and diverse campus. Seeing students with blue hair and nose piercings was a surprise, but is also a reminder to her about the importance of individuality. “It is the spirit of the people in Denton that make it unique.” She speaks lovingly and loyally about her teammates and new best friends, stating that, “The best part of living with 6 other girls is that we share everything.” We laughed as she said the downfall was the same, “We share everything.”
Ultimately, her first year in college was a success personally, scholastically and athletically. It is no surprise to anyone that God’s plan for Barbara did not have her leading from the bench as she had originally anticipated. The truth is, she broke records and made history with what she adamantly describes as teamwork and a chemistry between players that is second to none. The newly developed team under Palileo won their conference, which carved out a spot for Teakell on the Freshman All-Conference team, where she won player of the year of C-USA and AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) Honorable Mention.
The lessons here, the ones that I learned in a trendy booth on a rainy night in Denton, Texas, are to grip fearlessly onto who you are. Exercise the muscles of faith you’ve strengthened through the years. Remember where you’ve come from so you can determine where you’re going and when God’s plan for you gives you the opportunity to shine, THEN SHINE, if even from the bench. You’ll be in good company in the spotlight with Barbara Teakell, as she knows very well who she is because of “whose” she is.
By Jodie Brownd | Cedarbrook Media