Student Spotlight: Q & A with Rebecca Martin: Tech Volleyball Setter and ISyE Senior

Jul 1, 2016 | Atlanta, GA

Senior Georgia Tech volleyball player Rebecca Martin (BSIE 2017) balances the demands of her sport – what essentially amounts to a near full-time job – with her ISyE studies. In fact, she was named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll as both a freshman and a sophomore student. During the 2015 volleyball season, Martin tallied her 2,000th career assist, making her only one of 10 Yellow Jackets to accomplish this feat. She manages to find a little time for extracurricular activities, such as participating in Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

In the following interview, Martin reveals her passion for her chosen sport, what motivates her during a hard practice, and why she chose ISyE for her major.

Did volleyball specifically bring you to Georgia Tech, and if so, why?

I decided to attend Georgia Tech because it offered a complete package including its excellent academic standards and rich athletic tradition, but volleyball was the means by which I was introduced to Tech. The atmosphere at Tech for volleyball was unlike any other campus I visited. I first experienced Georgia Tech volleyball as a spectator, and I was blown away at how much the Institute supports the sport – and athletics overall. The support from students, faculty, alumni, and fans all make playing volleyball in O’Keefe Gymnasium a unique – and loud – experience. The fervor for volleyball on campus really sold me on coming to Georgia Tech.

Describe what your position – setter – does on the volleyball team.

The setter acts like the quarterback on a football team. She is responsible for running the offense, calling plays, and distributing the ball to the hitters. The setter has the most demanding mental job on the court. Before each serve, a setter must assess the other team’s defense, decide which hitter has the best match up, and then make the set. The mental aspect of the position is one of the main reasons why I chose to play it.

What keeps you going during a hard practice or a challenging game?

One of the main things that helps me during an especially hard practice is my love for “the grind,” and knowing that I will be better for it in the long run. Growing up, I ran to stay in shape for some of the other sports I played at the time, and for training, I would run up a hill that was about a mile of gradual incline. Every time I looked up from the road when I ran, I would still see the seemingly endless hill and wonder if I would ever get to the top. Eventually I would, and the satisfaction of reaching the top made that mile of grind worth the results. My lessons learned from that hill have given me the mental strength to push through the tough practices. 

Describe your favorite volleyball-related moment so far here at Tech.

I will have to cheat and pick two favorite moments. 

In my freshman year, we had a weeknight match against Clemson at home in O’Keefe Gym. Because the match was on a weeknight, we did not have the normal student and fan turnout. However, the Language Institute in the O’Keefe Building had an event, and many of the students came to the game.  The atmosphere was similar to that of an international soccer game. Our students were chanting and cheering the entire time, with both the typical cheers at our weekend matches, as well as chants they made up on their own. The support really played a role in our success that game, and we used the home court advantage to defeat Clemson! 

The second experience was a bit more recent: this past year when we defeated Duke for the first time since November 2007, and the first time we swept Duke since November 2004. They have had very disciplined and strong teams that are tough to beat, and our team knew that this match would be a battle. It took a full team effort with many teammates stepping up, but we pulled off a historic win in front of a great student crowd.

Why did you choose ISyE for your major?

Before attending Georgia Tech, I knew I wanted to major in either business or engineering. ISyE allows me to do both. In high school, I liked my math and science classes, but I also liked by economics and business classes. The combination of technical tools and business concepts are the best fit for my strengths, and ISyE’s real-life problem solving are the best fit for my interests. 

As I have taken more classes within my major, I have realized just how versatile this engineering discipline can be.  Unlike more technical engineering disciplines, ISyE is not confined to a few industries but can be applied to problems in essentially any industry and for any company.

How do you balance the demands of your sport with your schoolwork?

Collegiate athletics have about the same time demands as a 30-hour/week job.

Our typical week during season includes morning lifting two days a week, practices every afternoon, film sessions, treatment and rehab, light practices on weekends, and of course the matches. On the weekends we travel, our team leaves Thursday nights after afternoon practice return Sunday evening after our Sunday afternoon match. This could be overwhelming, but the athletes at Tech are fortunate to have a great academic staff that help schedule classes, schedule tutoring, and give other academic advice.

In addition to the available resources, I also take time at the beginning of every week and every day to plan when I will study. I assess priorities and estimate how much time each assignment might take me to complete, and then I find pockets of time in my schedule to fit them in. My emphasis on scheduling and time management have been a large contribution to my success here at Georgia Tech.

What is something not many people know about you?

If you see me on campus, I almost always have my earbuds in my ears, and you might think I am rocking out to my favorite music. But actually, I listen to audiobooks while walking around campus! When I was younger, I really loved to read, but now that I have more time demands in college, I haven’t been able to find time to dedicate to my hobby. With my audiobooks, I’ve been able to “read” a lot of books that I normally don’t have time for. 

Where do you see yourself headed in the future?

While some collegiate volleyball players continue to play overseas professionally, I see myself joining the workforce.  As far as my plans for industry and position, I suppose only time will tell. But until I graduate, I will be focusing on finishing my last volleyball season strong, staying on top of my studies, and job searching.

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  • Rebecca Martin, ISyE senior and Tech volleyball setter (photo credit: Georgia Tech Athletics)

  • (photo credit: Georgia Tech Athletics)

  • (photo credit: Georgia Tech Athletics)

For More Information Contact

Shelley Wunder-Smith

Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering

404.385.4745