The roles will be reversed when Alexis Utz walks into school in August.
After 16 years as a student and member of an athletic team, she’ll be that person standing in front of the class and on the sidelines coaching the team.
It will be a stark contrast to what she’s been accustomed to, but Utz says she’s ready after three hectic and memorable years as a student-athlete. She will earn her degree, summa cum laude in History Education, on May 13. Utz will also earn the Exemplary Student Teacher Award and Outstanding History Graduate honor.
She will return to the Kansas City area for a job teaching sixth-grade social studies at Platte County Middle School in Platte City, Mo, in the fall. She’ll also work with the Platte County High School volleyball program as head C Team coach and as an assistant for the varsity squad.
“I’m really excited, — I think it’s going to be a fun transition to still be part of a team, just in a different role,” said Utz, who graduated in May. “I’m excited to take on that challenge and grow into it.”
Utz was a middle blocker at KWU all three years, helping the Coyotes post a 69-29 overall record, 35-13 in the Kansas Conference. They won the 2022 KCAC Tournament title and competed in the NAIA National Championship opening round.
Utz also was a member of Wesleyan’s highly successful DECA team for two years and was a top-10 finisher in Event Planning with partner Maddy Beckett in the organization’s international competition both seasons. DECA is an organized business competition that provides students with problems and asks them to present solutions. Some disciplines require a report written beforehand, while others involve an exam taken before the competition. All involve presentations with varying amounts of time to prepare, sometimes as little as 30 minutes.
Utz found DECA and volleyball to be compatible endeavors.
“You wouldn’t think academic and sport would correlate, but they overlap in so many different ways,” she said. “Problem-solving when you’re stuck in a situation and feel like there’s no way we’re going to beat this team or no way we’re going to be able to solve this case. Just thinking critically, having a positive attitude and knowing that we can accomplish it. Knowing we can solve the DECA case or we can win the volleyball game.”
Quick, split-second decision making is essential in both.
“Being able to go in front of a judge and speak confidently and with authority on the ideas that we came up with,” she said, “or in volleyball having to decide when you get set where you’re going to hit the ball – am I going to hit it deep, am I going to tip it? Thinking quickly what would be the best option to score at that time.”
Utz and Beckett placed second in event planning in the 2022 DECA International competition and were sixth in this year’s event in April in Orlando, Fla. They won each of their state competitions.
“Not only did she and (Beckett) accomplish high accolades, but she also made the team better due to her charismatic personality,” DECA coach Dr. Trish Petak said. “Her work ethic, natural drive to be her best, positive attitude, energy and love of education will make her an exceptional history/social studies teacher.
“She and her partner are the best duo I have ever coached or observed.”
Utz and Beckett are close friends in addition to teammates — Beckett a May graduate with a master’s degree in business administration.
“We’re super good friends,” Utz said. “We hang out outside of volleyball, we hang out outside of classes. Just knowing her as a person and her knowing me has made a tremendous difference in DECA. I think that’s part of the reason why we’re able to be so successful and why we have a chemistry.”
Utz is also thankful for her friendship with KWU’s eight graduating senior volleyball athletes.
“Those are friends I’m going to have for the rest of my life, and that’s something you can’t pay for, something you can’t wish for,” she said. “The relationships with those girls are something that I’ll have for the rest of my life. I’m going to miss them.”
She also formed strong friendships as a resident assistant in the residence halls.
“The relationships with those girls are something that I’m eternally grateful for, to be able to spend time with people and get to know them on a personal level,” she said. “I’ve met so many incredible people at KWU, I think that’s one of the advantages of a small school. I talk to my friends who are at (Missouri) and KU and K-State and they don’t even know their professor’s first name.
“I’m so grateful for my time at Kansas Wesleyan.”
Story by Bob Davidson