Breonna Fleming was perfectly content with coasting along. Whether it was on the volleyball court or in the classroom, she knew her bare minimum was enough. Giving 100 percent seemed unnecessary.
As an incoming freshman at Temple College last year, Fleming had the ability to make an immediate impact for the Lady Leopards. Her physical talent alone could have made the outside hitter a standout during her freshman season, but Fleming didn’t see it.
Instead of putting forth her best effort in the weight room and during practices, the go-with-the-flow Killeen Ellison graduate was more concerned with staying in the middle of the pack, afraid of standing out from her teammates and taking risks that could lead to failure.
“I just wanted to fit in with everybody,” the 5-foot-11 sophomore said. “I was more focused with being average and the same as my teammates than being the best I could be. It really held me back and had me in a rocky state.”
After a year filled with conversations about effort, potential and applying oneself, third-year Temple College head coach Jordan Pickett grew tired of seeing one of her top players settle for mediocrity. Before Fleming’s sophomore season began, Pickett gave her the much-needed wakeup call that changed her attitude about volleyball and life in general.
“I told her she had a few weeks to prove to me that there was an authentic change, or else she wasn’t going to be able to play volleyball here or even go here at all,” Pickett said. “She was trying to go unnoticed and it was easy to see she was not an average player. She would avoid taking a big swing or making a big play because she didn’t want to mess up, but you can’t have that mindset because you’ll never get better. It was extremely frustrating at times.”
That meeting left both parties in tears, but the plea took root in Fleming. She knew she had to make a change and found a new sense of determination ahead of her final season at TC.
“I cried. I cried so hard,” Fleming said. “I went home and thought about everything. I told my mom and she just told me that it was on me and that I was an adult and I had to live with my choices. I think that’s whenever I stopped crying and owned up to everything. I started pushing and bettering myself.”
Fleming’s change was apparent from the Lady Leopards’ first practice of the season. Rather than groaning in displeasure like she did at times last year, Fleming took charge, urging and encouraging her teammates while bringing out their best.
Needless to say, it was a welcomed — albeit it overdue — sight for Pickett.
“Well, it’s about time,” Pickett said with a laugh, recalling her initial thoughts at seeing Fleming’s change in heart. “Her change has been huge for herself, but also this team. It helped create a united front with the other sophomores and has given a strong example of what to do for the freshmen.”
Fleming’s new perspective and dedication to improvement helped lead Temple’s turnaround. The Lady Leopards (16-15), more than doubled their wins from the previous two years, went 8-4 through the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference schedule and secured a trip to the NJCAA Region V North volleyball tournament. They begin their tournament run with a match against Hill College at noon today at Cedar Valley College in Lancaster.
Fleming has a new appreciation for the opportunity ahead of the Lady Leopards, considering it wasn’t long ago that her future with TC volleyball was in jeopardy.
Now, she’s all in.
“I’m pumped and can’t wait to have this experience,” Fleming said. “Everybody is on the same page and I believe we can win the tournament — and we will.”