For Sadie Woods, volleyball isn’t a sport.
Woods, a junior on the Archbishop Ryan High School volleyball team, loves her sport, and has been groomed to be a top player her entire life.
Her dad had a huge impact on the sport in Northeast Philly, coaching at Our Lady of Calvary and Calvary Athletic Association. Her mom also helped coach the grade school team when her dad wasn’t around.
Her sisters, Abigail, who graduated Ryan in 2020, and Ella, who graduated in June, were also both volleyball stars at the school. Her younger brother Joey is in eighth grade, though he’s a golfer.
Woods loves volleyball because it’s an exciting sport. She loves representing Ryan, playing with her teammates, but it always comes back to family. It always comes back to her parents.
“My dad coached my team, he was usually my coach,” Woods said of her start in the sport. “He was more experienced in volleyball so he had harder drills and pushed us. I had my mom as a coach, too. She was a fun coach. She made us have fun. She would always say, ‘You got it, girls.’ She was a great coach, too. Different, but she was great.”
Woods is now doing her mom very proud as she and her teammates dedicate the season to her.
Sadie’s mom Patti Woods passed away in May, about a month after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The team has rallied around Sadie, her dad Chris Woods and the rest of her family. While losing a great woman like her mom is never easy, it has helped that she’s been surrounded by love at Ryan.
“A lot of the girls on the team knew her, they all knew her,” Sadie said. “She was always around. They all helped me a lot. The players tell me how much my mom, well my mom and my dad, helped them become good volleyball players. She loved to help people.”
If you see Sadie make a great spike or hit the deck to dig out a potential point for an opponent, you’re probably seeing she picked up from either her dad or Archbishop Ryan coach Nora Kramer, whom both Sadie and her dad credit with being a great coach and role model.
But if you see Sadie walk on the court with a big smile, offering encouragement to her teammates and just making those around her happier, that’s probably something she picked up from mom.
“She was an awesome mom,” Sadie said. “She was at everything. All my sports, she drove me to art classes, she came to all my volleyball tournaments. She was like that for everyone. She was a very fun person. She was going out, hanging out with friends. Got along with new people. I wish I could be as friendly and social as her. I think that made her a great coach, all her players loved her, she was so nice. She was a great coach. And she was the best mom.”
It’s safe to say mom would be plenty proud of Sadie, too.
Obviously she’d love that Sadie has followed in her footsteps as a leader who makes everyone around her feel good. But she’s also excelling in other avenues, including competing on the bowling team. Oh, and she’s also pretty good in the classroom. She is ranked No. 1 in her junior class.
But Sadie was happy her mom would be proud and honored to be in everyone’s thoughts this season.
“She would be really proud because this has been one of our best seasons, our team has grown closer and she knows a lot of the girls because I went to Calvary with most of them,” Sadie said.
Dad is proud, too.
“I see the way (Sadie) approaches volleyball is always positive and good natured,” said her dad Chris, who is on the board at Calvary AA and has helped grow the volleyball program to more than 180 girls. “She’s always smiling and happy on the court, always a good teammate. I mean, we’re (the kind of) parents that winning and losing is secondary. It’s about raising good kids, giving them an opportunity to have fun in a team atmosphere. And Sadie does that every time she plays.”
Just as she is there for her teammates, Sadie is there for her family.
“We are a very close family, we support each other in everything we do,” Sadie said. “My sister, Ella, plays (volleyball) for Immaculata and we went to watch her play. It was good, the team is really awesome. Her schedule is so busy and she doesn’t drive back and forth, she can’t come to many of my games, but she wants to.
“We FaceTime a couple times a week. When we talk, we talk a little about volleyball. We had the same teammates for two years. She cares about the team. We all care about each other and are there for each other. That helps a lot.”
So do memories, even ones that didn’t seem so fun at the time.
“Every summer we traveled out west, we love to visit national parks,” Sadie said. “We’re very outdoorsy people. My dad has been pushing us to do these crazy hikes. We started traveling when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and I didn’t always love it, but looking back, I loved them. I never realized how lucky I was. My mom was pushing us to do stuff, too. I’m glad she did.”
She also pushed them to do their best. And when they did, nobody was prouder.
“I work hard at school,” said Sadie, who wants to go to college and major in something in the environmental science and biology field. “Honestly both my parents stress education and I love making them proud. They never told me I had to get good grades, but I always want to. My favorite subject is art. I know that’s weird, it’s not academic, but it’s a great break where I get to draw and paint. I’m pretty good. My mom supported that. She was always proud of all of us.”
And the family continues to make her proud. That’s another way her mom’s legacy lives on through her daughter.
“I’m really proud of my dad,” Sadie said. “He’s been so great. He’s a big reason for volleyball becoming so big in Northeast. I’m proud of him and my mom.
“I’m lucky to have had great coaches, my parents and coach Kramer. I love her. She helped my mom when she was in the hospital, because she’s a nurse. We’ve been lucky to have a lot of people care.”