Unable to have the formal ceremony at PHS Graham Calhoun and Kyla Heckaman got their award “virtually”. Plymouth AD Michael Delp set up a meeting online with this year’s winners and the Kizer family.
“I was glad we got a chance to talk to them. I have never met them before,” said Kyla. “It was great to learn who Mr. Kizer (Noble Kizer who the award is named after) was and something about him.”
The entire COVID-19 response had left even the next school year in question, but Heckaman is hopeful for continuing into the fall with tennis and academics.
“I’ve heard from Bethel and they are planning to do everything just as normal right now,” said Heckaman. “They are installing some extra virtual software to the classrooms in case they have to use it again.”
So far as tennis goes our coach (Brad Foster) has set up a group meet with the team,” she said. “So I feel like we are moving in a positive direction.”
Staying in shape for the coming season has also had its share of challenges but Heckaman has found a way to get past them.
“I was actually able to hit some during quarantine which was great for me,” she said. “Then as soon as Plymouth opened up I was able to get on the courts there so that was exciting to me.”
The Kizer Award is named after Noble Kizer, a national figure in his time as a football player and coach but the recipients must exhibit much more than just athletic proficiency.
“Honestly they take a lot into account,” said Kyla, “And hearing everything they take into consideration it made me feel good that they felt I exemplified those things to other student-athletes. I felt really respected. I’ve been working toward getting this award since I’ve been in high school and it was really exciting to actually get it.”
Heckaman has a 4.059 GPA and is 12th in her class. Academics is a consideration for the award but just as much a consideration as she moves on to Bethel University tennis and their highly regarded nursing program.
“I was told I have to have a 2.0 average to continue to play tennis and keep my scholarships,” she said. “I’m not really that concerned except for how I’m going to balance nursing with that. It’s a demanding program. I know that others have done it so that makes me feel more confident. It’s a tough major. I’ve been told that there are a lot of resources and they will help you get through it.”
Another thing making her confident at the next level is the staff at Bethel.
“Our coach is very good,” she said He’s already started to try and set up summer things and they want us to move in a little earlier than the other students and that will give us a chance to learn from the other girls. I wanted to go somewhere that had my major and that was first of all, but staying close was in my decision process. Bethel was just a perfect fit for that.”
When I got there (Coach Brad Foster) said that he liked the way I played and he really wanted me,” said Kyla. “There was positive energy everywhere and that was very appealing.”
While Kyla made an appearance at the state finals meet in gymnastics, her senior season on the tennis court was taken away. With a season that showed enormous promise, it was especially hard.
“That was the most devastating thing for me but I’m playing after this year so its a little different for me than the other girls that this was going to be their final season,” she said. “We were going to have a great team this year. It was a little worse that we didn’t even get to prove it.”
It’s things beyond the tennis court that motivate Heckaman. Her impact on younger players and peers is not lost.
“I know that success in the sport is what pulls people’s attention first, saying that they want to be as good one day,” she said. “It’s not the athletics alone. It’s not what I built my reputation on. I want them to see that I was driven but respectful and a good person. Nothing negative. You want them to remember you as a positive person and a good person to be around.”