She's serious about having fun

Shatera Kimbrough boosts the Western volleyball team with her humor as well as her skills.


As the starting setter for Western's volleyball team, Shatera Kimbrough handles a lot of responsibility. The Doves' hitters rely on her leadership and her sets to keep their powerful offense humming.

They also rely on her to keep them relaxed with a wide grin, a silly quip or some gentle slapstick. Even as last week's grueling five-game match with Poly began to slip away from the Doves, Kimbrough tried to lighten the mood.

"I was just trying to keep everybody up," said the 5-foot-5 junior. "If anybody messed up, I brushed it off. I was still laughing and making jokes and stuff. Sometimes you just have to laugh it off. You can think, `I can't believe we just did that,' but then you have to be like, `Next play. Next play.' "

That ability to laugh under pressure rubs off on the rest of the Doves, said Western teammate Brooke Wilson, Kimbrough's best friend and one of the team's top hitters.

"Shatera is a goofball," said Wilson, with a laugh. "She just likes to laugh and have fun. When Shatera is happy, it makes everybody else happy. When she laughs, she gets everybody pumped up and playing more aggressive."

Kimbrough certainly has a serious side, especially when it comes to the classroom, where she has a 92-percent average. She wants to be a doctor and she's doing all she can to facilitate that, from seeking out every academic resource to volunteering in Maryland General Hospital's emergency room over the summer.

No matter what stress she's feeling, though, the 16-year-old always seems to keep her sense of humor.

"I'm serious about a lot of stuff, but you still have to have fun. You have to go through life smiling."

It's easy to see where Kimbrough gets that fun-loving attitude. Just watch her mother, Sharon Brunswick, at a Western volleyball game. She's the biggest cheerleader, chanting, laughing and chatting with everybody around her.

The first time Western tennis coach Shirley Williams met Kimbrough and her mother two years ago, they had a rollicking good time at Pam Shriver's charity tennis tournament.

"They had everyone around us in stitches - the two of them," Williams said. "We had 40 people there just laughing with us. They just have a joy of life."

Brunswick, who moved to West Baltimore with her only child from Jamaica Queens when Kimbrough was almost 4, passed on that joy as well as a zest to experience as much as possible.

Kimbrough's school days are packed with sports, studies, clubs and community service projects. This fall, she joined the outreach program Students Sharing Coalition while continuing to be active in the Spanish Club and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

However, all of that takes a back seat to academics. Every day Kimbrough tackles advanced placement and honors courses. When the final bell rings, she heads to coach class, a sort of study hall where she can start her homework or seek re-enforcement of the day's lessons.

Every Saturday morning, she goes to UMBC for the Classic Upward Bound Program, designed to help students improve their academic skills and maximize their potential. Even if she doesn't need help, Kimbrough enjoys the quiet time to study and finish her homework without distraction.

"If I was home, I could turn on the TV," said Kimbrough, who gets a lot of academic guidance from her mother, an assistant teacher at Jeffers Hill Elementary School in Columbia.

Kimbrough even goes to class at UMBC during the summer, attending a six-week Upward Bound program that gives students an advance look at their upcoming high school courses as well as a chance to sample the college experience.

"It's basically just like school," said Kimbrough, "and you stay on campus, so it gives you a feel for college life. You have a roommate. But you come home on Fridays and go back Mondays."

For an honor student, all that extra work might seem excessive, but Kimbrough is never satisfied with less than 100. She's preparing for more demanding work in college and in medical school.

"I don't think you should just go get help when you need it," she said. "Sometimes you need a little insurance, so you can be more confident in your work."

Kimbrough shows that same effort on the volleyball court. A club veteran who made the Doves' varsity as a freshman, she has grown into her leadership role now as a junior, said Western coach Monique Butler.

"She's got a better feel for the game and her decision-making has gotten better," Butler said. "Last year when things were going downhill, she tried to make things happen. Now she's trusting her teammates more and their ability more, which is making us a better team. She realized she doesn't have to do it all herself."

Kimbrough averages 3.7 assists per game and has served 16 aces for the defending Baltimore City champions. She set up 19 kills in the loss to Poly before muscle spasms kept her out of the fifth game.

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