Dec. 1, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
With several generations of her family having played a varsity sport at South Carolina, it’s easy to say that being a Gamecock is in Litsa Darby’s blood. The senior on the Gamecock beach volleyball team is also an honor roll student with a long history of community service and finding ways to make a difference, in and out of the sand pit.
“It really starts with my family,” Darby said. “My dad has been a huge role model in always telling me to give back. He has always told me that when I’m presented with a challenge to just go for it and try to grow. That’s when you learn the most. So any time I’m asked to do something to make a difference to represent athletics, I’ve always wanted to do it.”
A native of Mount Pleasant, S.C., Darby is the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (S.A.A.C.) and is an active member of university president Harris Pastides’ Social Compact Committee, which focuses on campus issues such as alcohol and drugs, hazing, harassment, discrimination and sexual assault.
“Since her freshman year, Litsa has taken on additional duties beyond just playing her sport,” said Erica Nelson, South Carolina’s Director of Life Skills and Community Outreach. “In addition to culminating her college career as the S.A.A.C. president this year, she also sits on two additional campus committees where she represents the voice of student-athletes and she’s played a critical role in the current canned food drive versus Clemson. She’s a special young woman and is as good of a S.A.A.C. president as we’ve had in my six years now.”
“The underlying theme for Litsa in everything she does is her tremendous work rate or work ethic,” beach volleyball head coach Mortiz Moritz said. “The kid doesn’t quit in anything. She just goes and goes. That’s one of the things we see on the volleyball court, but you see it with all the meetings and everything else that she does. She’s a great student. She so involved with a lot of different entities across campus. She does a tremendous job representing our program and the student-athletes as well.”
To have the opportunity to put the jersey on and compete at this level was something I could never pass up.
Being a Gamecock is in her blood as her great grandfather, J.C. Long, played football, baseball and basketball for South Carolina in the 1920s. Her aunt, Alexis Homer Glover, played volleyball for the Gamecocks from 1979-80, and her cousin, Christina Glover, played volleyball for the garnet and black from 2009-2012 and was also the S.A.A.C. president during her senior year.
“The opportunity to play for South Carolina was awesome,” Darby said. “Obviously, being a Gamecock just runs in my blood. To have the opportunity to put the jersey on and compete at this level was something I could never pass up.”
Darby was a member of the indoor volleyball program during her first two years on campus after twice earning PrepVolleyball.com All-American honors at Ashley Hall High School. When she found out that the Gamecocks would be adding a beach volleyball program, she dove at the chance to be a part of the inaugural team in the spring of 2014 and made a smooth transition.
“When we started the beach program, I knew that was another opportunity I could not pass up,” Darby said. “It was hard to give up indoor. I think Coach (Scott) Swanson is awesome, so it was hard to leave that, but to start something new and maybe leave my own legacy was something I wanted to do.”
“She is fast, and she is smart, and she is a ball-control kid who doesn’t make a lot of errors,” Moritz said. “That really translates well on either side of the game, whether it’s serving or playing defense. Fundamentally, she is one of our best blockers on the sand even though she is one of our smaller players. She lines up well, has good eyes, and she has a pretty good vertical on top of it. For her, it’s the cerebral way she plays the game and sees the game.”
Darby and Morgan LaVigne helped make history as they clinched the first match in the program’s first-ever home win against Oregon in the inaugural season. Darby’s drive to succeed goes beyond the athletics arena, and she is just as dedicated to making an impact on campus, especially when it comes to her involvement with S.A.A.C.
“I was put on S.A.A.C. my freshman year and just fell in love with the whole idea of how student-athletes can get involved and have a voice for their team,” Darby said. “It’s a place where student-athletes can come together, represent their team, and talk about things they’d like to do to make their experience better. After talking with my cousin about it, I thought it would be a really good opportunity to make a difference and continue her legacy and our family’s legacy in a way here. So I started taking leadership roles within the committee and then I ran for president for my senior year.”
She established some goals for her tenure as president, and with the help of the executive committee, she went right to work in making them a reality to make the organization more recognizable and prestigious. Clemson’s S.A.A.C. president reached out to her over the summer about creating a food drive competition between the two schools, and it grew to become part of the Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series.
“Anything to get involved in the community is great,” Darby said. “I just jumped in and brought it to S.A.A.C. After the recent floods in Columbia, it just became even more important and to have it part of the Palmetto Series between Carolina and Clemson is huge.”
The food drive took place from November 2–23, and South Carolina was announced as the winner at the football game with Clemson on Saturday.
“What has been awesome about the food drive is that so many student-athletes and organizations have wanted to get involved,” Darby said. “I had a voicemail from President Pastides asking what he could do to help. (Athletics Director) Ray Tanner and all of the associate A.D.’s have been involved. S.A.A.C. has had amazing ideas for this too. It started as a little food drive between the student-athletes and now it has turned into a huge thing between South Carolina and Clemson. I love getting the student body connected with the student-athletes.”
While she was proud that South Carolina won the food drive, Darby sees it as a huge accomplishment for S.A.A.C. and sees a bigger picture with the project.
“You just have to think about the overall purpose of the project, which is to help feed people,” Darby said. “Before this, I had no idea how many people were going hungry or living in poverty right here. Win or lose, I’m just happy we could make a difference.”
Between S.A.A.C., classes and everything else associated with being a student-athlete, Darby has a full plate. The public relations major also has an eye on her own future, and Darby was fortunate enough to earn an internship last summer with the Houston Texans, which is owned by South Carolina alumnus Bob McNair.
“I was with the corporate development department,” Darby said. “I fell in love with it, and I think that’s something I’d like to be involved with after I graduate. I worked their training camp, and I learned about sponsorships and corporate partners and how all those relationships work. I already knew (former Gamecock and current Texan) Jadeveon Clowney because he lived next to me during my freshman year, but I got a chance to meet (All-Pro defensive lineman) J.J. Watt, so that was cool.”
In addition to volleyball, Darby has also trained and competed in a half marathon and a triathlon – something she hopes to do again.
“The swimming was the hardest part or the triathlon,” Darby said. “So yes, I play beach volleyball, but I’m not a ‘water-baby’ at all. Those were definitely two accomplishments that I’m glad I had done. I would do another half marathon. In general, my family is very active.”
With all that she continues to take on as a student-athlete, it doesn’t sound like she will be slowing down any time soon.
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