When Tabor College volleyball coach Amy Ratzlaff talks about star middle hitter Tina Frick, she does not just describe her as an exceptional volleyball player, although she could.
“She’s an amazing woman,” Ratzlaff said of Frick.
Frick’s volleyball accomplishments at Tabor were immense. In her final year at Tabor she was named Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year. In 2011, she led the conference in hitting percentage and kills per set. She was fourth in the conference in blocks.
The 6-foot-2 hitter from Durham was named a third team all-American for National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. She was 12th in kills per set for NAIA at 4.1. She was 24th in hitting percentage at .344.
Frick was one of the key players that led the Bluejays on a 12-3 run at the end of the year through conference play that led to an NAIA tournament berth.
“It was almost like it just clicked,” Frick said. “All of a sudden, we knew exactly what we needed to do. The girl beside you was playing her hardest, having one goal, one purpose.”
Frick was even heroic on the court, playing with a swollen and inflamed rotator cuff in her right shoulder for most of the season. During Tabor’s run, the fifth-year senior did not swing during practice.
The nagging injury was bad enough that a doctor examined Frick’s shoulder and audibly wondered how Frick was able to play this past season.
“Every game was worth it,” Frick said. “I wouldn’t do anything different.”
Frick said the adrenaline during matches would carry her without pain, but her twin brother, Troy, the team’s trainer could see her wince with pain after points.
“I would expect that nobody would know she had a shoulder injury,” Ratzlaff said. “She went through all practices, conditioning, and drills.”
However, Frick’s life has not been consumed by volleyball. It has been a passion, but not a job. If she had wanted that, Frick would have stayed at Wichita State University.
Frick was a highly touted player coming out Hillsboro High School. She was the second best player on her team to JuliAnne Chisholm, who is still a collegiate athlete. After four years with the Kansas State University volleyball team, Chisholm is in her second year with the KSU women’s basketball team.
Once at WSU, Frick felt like something was missing from the volleyball program. There was always a pressure to perform, as if volleyball determined more than just points on a scoreboard.
“I definitely had a lot more fun at Tabor playing,” Frick said. “The reason I transferred was I knew what Coach and the team was all about. For us, (Coach) doesn’t care about how we’re playing. She cares about every aspect of our lives.”
Frick belongs to the Mennonite Brethren Church and she takes her faith seriously. She led prayers for the team. She bought in to the religious applications Ratzlaff includes with her volleyball coaching. She attended every Bible study before games.
“She’s a very Godly woman,” teammate Holly Wolf said.
What has impressed Frick is that volleyball has never been included in pregame prayers or Bible studies.
“It’s not all about volleyball,” Ratzlaff said. “It’s about battling as women to do what we need to do.”
At times in her first three semesters at Tabor, Frick lost sight of that. She would be so focused on becoming a better player that she would worry less about becoming a better person.
Then in December 2009, her mother, Clara Frick, was diagnosed with breast cancer. With both children involved with the program and working at Tabor, Clara was often a fixture with the volleyball team.
“That was a tough time,” Tina Frick said.
The support of her teammates helped Frick during the process, letting her know that family was more important than volleyball.
“It kind of gave me a different purpose,” Frick said. “I took the focus off the way I was playing and put focus on the act of playing as praise.”
Seeing Clara in the stands at games was lasting inspiration for Tina the past two seasons.
“Before every game I thanked God she was there,” she said.
As Clara’s health improved, Ratzlaff said the incident had a changing impact on the way Tina played, which was exemplified this season.
“This year was more of a celebration for her,” Ratzlaff said.
Although a match at Sterling stands out and trips to the NAIA tournament were special, the first thing Frick talks about when bringing up volleyball is the lifelong friendships she formed with her teammates.
Together they battled through grueling offseason workouts and five-set matches. They also bonded on team retreats.
Frick’s relationship with Wolf over the past two seasons has been special. She said she wished she had two more seasons with the dynamic setter from Moundridge. In a game against Sterling, Wolf made a set bending backward from her knees to Frick. Ratzlaff said the two were equally athletic and intelligent on the court. Sharing a similar mindset, they clicked easily.
“I always knew when I would set it to her, she would put it down,” Wolf said. “She was always positive and encouraging. I know sometimes when we would lose she would always help and encourage me. She’s definitely going to be very hard to replace.”
Frick and Wolf continue to grow their friendship. They see each other often because Wolf dates Frick’s brother, Troy.
Now with volleyball behind her, Frick will try to employ the best aspects of her former sport into her profession. She graduated from Tabor with a degree in social work. She is looking for a job. She worked at an internship at St. Francis Community Services in Salina, specifically working with teenagers, last year.
What is a struggle for her, is that volleyball only affirmed her trust in authority figures. She had caring and loving parents. Her volleyball coach was repeatedly right about volleyball and life.
She will now be working with children who have been neglected or hurt by the authority figures in their life.
“A lot of these kids come from broken homes, broken families, grew up around drugs,” Frick said. “I don’t know what it’s like not to trust. I try to put myself in their shoes.”
Both Wolf and Ratzlaff said Frick is an exceptionally caring person. Wolf said she would go out of her way to find out what was going on in the lives of her teammates.
Frick said she applied that to St. Francis.
“Just a simple act of caring,” she said. “I like simple acts of love toward people.”
Ratzlaff knows Frick will be a great social worker.
“I think she would very much say that being a part of a team is one of the glorious experiences of her life,” Ratzlaff said. “I know she’s trying to create that for the people she’s working with.
“I’m excited to see how many lives she affects,” Ratzlaff added. “I’m just thankful I got to be a part of her life for three years.”