UWF Volleyball’s Kenzie Chrisman shines despite health condition
Before spiking her way to the Gulf South Conference title, UWF Volleyball star Kenzie Chrisman battled with a blood sugar spike and the adversity of living with Type 1 Diabetes.
Kenzie Chrisman was nine years old and a fourth-grader in Sterling, Colorado, when she received a life-changing diagnosis: Type 1 diabetes.
Chrisman, who began playing volleyball at seven years old, wondered if she would ever be able to play again. Her doctors told her it might be hard, but she and her family were up for the challenge.
She got back on the court and went on to become an All-State standout in both high school volleyball and basketball. After deciding that volleyball was the sport she wanted to pursue, she attended and joined the team at Chadron State College in Nebraska. After two seasons with the Eagles, Chrisman’s collegiate volleyball journey led her from the Great Plains to the Florida beaches.
Chrisman’s mom, Dianna Chrisman, said her daughter’s path to Pensacola and UWF, was somewhat fated and a little humorous.
“People always ask how my daughter ended up in Pensacola from Colorado,” Dianna Chrisman said. “We joke that part of it was our bad sense of geography. We have family in the Tampa area and didn’t realize quite how far the Florida Panhandle extends when we made the initial contact with UWF.”
The fit turned out to be a good one for both the player and the program. Chrisman helped the Argos to 56 wins in two seasons, back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and a Gulf South Conference title in 2017 and 2018; ultimately setting a program record for blocks in a season in 2018 with 141. She was also chosen as an All-South Region, First Team All-GSC and GSC All-Tournament selection her senior season.
“Kenzie played a huge role in the success of our program during her two years here,” said UWF Volleyball Head Coach Melissa Wolter. “She set goals going into her senior year and pushed herself to the limit to achieve them for the team. I have great admiration for Kenzie’s toughness in fighting through dealing with her diabetes, multiple injuries and other setbacks. She is one of the toughest players I have ever coached.”
Chrisman, a standout student who earned Gulf South Conference academic honors in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, plans to graduate in May 2019 with a degree in informal education and learning. Following graduation, she will move to Sterling, Colorado where she has accepted an assistant coach position at Northeastern Junior College. She said she was inspired by her experience working with young players at clinics in Pensacola during both of her seasons at UWF.
Chrisman said she has a message for all young athletes who face the adversity of a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis and have dreams to play at the collegiate level.
“You have to tell yourself that you’re capable of doing absolutely anything you set your mind to,” she said. “Type 1 diabetes is something that you manage in your everyday life. I wouldn’t tell you it’s going to be easy, because it’s not. But it’s completely possible. Most importantly, you have to stay positive and tell yourself you can do it.”