Virginia ‘Athlete of the Year’ bound for Blacksburg with eye on fitness, nutrition
There was a time when Julia Estes struggled to achieve a balance between her academics and her athletics. She would do homework on the bus, do homework waiting for the bus, do homework on the court, do homework wherever she could.
“You have to use the time that you have,” Julia recalls.
She ran track and played volleyball, basketball and soccer throughout high school, often going above and beyond to improve her game. In addition to daily practices with her school teams, Julia would often attend two sports practices in one day — heading straight over to club volleyball in Warrenton after basketball let out.
On other days, she would work individually with a private trainer from Christendom College’s volleyball team in Front Royal.
But all of her hard work would pay off — and in a big way — bringing rare statewide attention to Rappahannock High School, and Estes in particular.
On May 15th, The Allstate Foundation and the Virginia High School League named the just-graduated Rappahannock High standout, who is now preparing to enter Virginia Tech, the Group 1A “Female Athlete of the Year.”
The Allstate Foundation/VHSL Achievement Award is the Virginia High School League’s signature program for acknowledging the achievements of students dedicated to both athletics and academics. Each year since 1992, 19 high school seniors have received this award in recognition of their successes in the classroom and on the athletic field.
This year, Julia became one of those recipients. The prestigious award includes a $1,500 scholarship and is a nod to all of her achievements both on and off the playing fields.
In an interview with the Rappahannock News, she notes that sports have been a part of her life for as long as she can remember (she began playing soccer at the age of three). Due to her parents’ encouragement and her brother’s own success as his soccer team’s keeper, soccer became the first sport she fell in love with.
Since then, athletics have been an integral part of Julia’s identity. Perhaps due to her drive and dedication, she has gained recognition far and wide.
Over the years, Estes has been an All Conference athlete in all four sports, and she has been inducted into the 1A State Hall of Fame in Portsmouth. Julia believes that following the example of older teammates, like Shelby Burnett (Class of ’14), helped lead her to this success and eventually taught her how to strike the perfect balance between athletics and academics.
Having served as team captain for all of her sports teams, Julia is no doubt now the example younger girls are looking up to.
Reminiscing on her athletic career, she cites positivity and leadership as two skills she will take away from the athletic stage. Leading up to Rappahannock volleyball’s 2016 defeat of Mathews for the 1A state title, Julia suggested creating posters with encouraging messages. Every day before practice, the girls would look at these posters in order to remind themselves that winning the state championship could be possible.
“One thing I would always tell the girls is that you have to believe,” she says. “We didn’t talk about losing because we didn’t believe we could.”
Indeed, Julia did believe. She recalls how she used to write inspirational Mia Hamm quotes on the walls in her room, and stresses how important it is to her that she be remembered as more than an athlete. She says, “I want to be remembered as someone who is positive and encouraging, and most importantly, as a good role model for younger kids.”
Julia believes that both her desire to be a positive role model and her drive to succeed originated from her family. Before every game, her aunt would text her little notes of encouragement. She indicates that her parents were always nothing but supportive of her athletic endeavors — they never questioned her decision to play two sports at once or to join a competitive club volleyball team. Instead, they only urged her to improve.
Her father often told her, “You’re good, but you could be great.”
Perhaps due in part to her family’s support, it appears Julia’s future is nothing but great. Now that she has graduated, Julia plans to study human nutrition, fitness, and exercise at Virginia Tech. She has already contacted the club volleyball coach at the school, hoping to play for Tech’s club team. Eventually, Julia wants to become a physical therapist.
She says, “I love Virginia Tech, and that’s where I wanted to go.”
While Julia is excited to head off to Blacksburg, she will never forget the coaches or the teams that shaped her high school experience. She wants to thank her coaches, especially volleyball coach Courtney Atkins, for pushing her so hard to reach her full potential.
In addition, she wants to thank her teams.
“I am going to miss the camaraderie of a team the most,” Julia notes. “It’s good to be surrounded by people working towards the same goal as you. When you’re playing a sport and have a team with you, it’s like nothing else. Even today, our volleyball team shares that state championship. It’s just a great feeling to know that those other girls worked as hard as you did for something, and you all wanted it just as bad as each other.”