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Simone Says: Stay Strong
Updated: Thursday, October 24 2013, 10:56 PM CDT
At the school that bears the name of Governor Ann Richards, a larger than life figure in Texas politics, we found the smallest of senior night celebrations. Simone Rath might not have any teammates by her side as she's recognized, but they're definitely behind her.
"Simone is a great role model," said junior middle blocker Alexys Garza. "She's always positive and [we] look up to her. [We] want to be like her."
As coach Maura Cosgrove built the Ann Richards program from scratch, there was one constant: Simone. While she's not the tallest or the most talented, Rath might just be the brightest of the Stars.
"She rarely makes a mistake," admitted Ann Richards head volleyball coach Maura Cosgrove. "She won't get the kill, she won't get the ace but she's the glue of the team."
Six years ago, Rath first personified the most obvious trait of glue. She stuck to volleyball after being cut from the team in seventh grade.
"It made me disappointed," Simone admitted. "But in a way it made me more motivated to learn the sport."
"That's the kind of kid she is," explained Kelly Rath, Simone's father. "When she puts her mind to something, she'll figure it out."
Simone showed enough improvement to make the eighth grade squad a year later. She would evolve into a two-time varsity captain. Many teens might have given-up after failing to make it the first time around. But Simone learned a lesson in perseverance long before volleyball tryouts.
"He's got a positive outlook on life and he's succeeding," said Simone. "So I just take that as a lesson."
"He" is Rath's brother, Lucien. The 11 year old is confined to a wheelchair as he suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. There's no cure for SMA, but the strength Lucien has shown dealing with a disease that weakens him is the perfect remedy for Simone.
"If something gets you down, there's always going to be a way to get over it," Simone said. "I got over being cut in middle school. There's obviously a way to get over that with hard work. Lucien, he's gotten something he absolutely doesn't deserve."
"She says we can't really do much about it," Lucien explained. "All you have to do is stay strong."
"Simone's got such a big heart," Kelly said. "That is the underlying thing about her."
So maybe it was appropriate that the Ann Richards School didn't have any other seniors to honor on senior night: Because there just aren't any other players with a journey like Simone's.
"Simone helps me with courage and bravery," a grateful Lucien explains as he wipes back tears.
"Life isn't easy and it isn't given to you," said Coach Cosgrave. "Simone has worked hard for everything. She gets knocked down and gets right back up and keeps fighting."
by Adam Winkler