Shifflett Selected for NGWSD Award in Home State

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | Jan. 22, 2016, 6:04 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 22, 2016) – Alexis Shifflett (Waseca, Minnesota), a member of the U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team that has qualified for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, has been selected to receive the Wilma Rudolph Award as part of the 2016 Minnesota National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) award ceremony on Feb. 3 at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, Minn. The Minnesota Coalition for Women in Athletic Leadership puts on the yearly celebration for the NGWSD.

“I am extremely honored to receive this award,” Shifflett said. “It definitely shows how much hard work I've been putting in and it’s an amazing relief because it's finally showing and proving I'm actually making a difference.”

The Wilma Rudolph Award is presented to girls or women who have faced obstacles/challenges and used courage to overcome those challenges. The award ceremony is conducted in conjunction with the annual NGWSD, a nationwide celebration now in its 30th year recognizing the accomplishments of individuals in the promotion and advancement of girls’ and women’s sports.

Shifflett has overcome physical limitations from the day she was born with fibula hemimelia, a condition in which her right leg was much shorter than her left leg. She had part of her right foot amputated as an infant and has since worn a prosthetic foot. As a freshman in high school, she joined the Waseca (Minn.) High School volleyball team. By her junior year in 2012, she made the varsity roster as one of the team’s best setters despite wearing her prosthetic.

That same year Shifflett was introduced to the U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team and began training with the program in Edmond, Okla., as one of the youngest players on the team. Back in 2012, her goal was to play in the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. And that seems right on track as Team USA is qualified for the 2016 Paralympics and is ranked second in the world.

Fast forward to 2015. Shifflett was named the 2015 USA Volleyball Female Sitting Most Improved Player of the Year as she filled a variety of roles for the U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team beyond being a back-up setter. She entered 44 sets in 2015 and delivered in many areas. Shifflett averaged 1.14 assists per set as the main backup setter, but she also charted 0.34 aces, 0.95 digs and 0.36 blocks per set. She was perfect on 37 percent of her reception chances. A highlight to the season was helping Team USA win the Parapan American Games gold medal.

“It takes lots of motivation, but if you can believe it, you can achieve it,” Shifflett to the Minnesota Coalition for Women in Athletic Leadership as part of the selection process. “It all comes with a positive mind set.”

During the 2014 season, she played a key role in helping the U.S. qualify for the 2016 Paralympics by claiming silver at the ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships in Poland.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize Alexis as with our 2016 Wilma Rudolph Award,” said Steph Schleuder, co-chair for the Minnesota NGWSD. “The award is given to a female athlete from Minnesota who exhibits extraordinary courage in her athletic performances, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity and serves as an inspiration and role model. Early in her athletic career, she earned the respect and admiration of her Waseca (Minn.) high school community by never letting any obstacle stand in her way. That attitude has only become more impressive. She has demonstrated tremendous tenacity and dedication as a member of the U.S. Women's Paralympic Sitting Volleyball Team and we are proud to be able to recognize this incredible young woman.”

According to U.S. Women’s Sitting Team Head Coach Bill Hamiter, Shifflett has a tenacious drive to overcome her adversities to accomplish her goals, all while staying humble and providing leadership to her team.

“The Minnesota National Girls & Women in Sports Day selection committee has done an excellent job in selecting Alexis Shifflett to receive the Wilma Rudolph award,” Hamiter said. “Alexis has overcome amazing adversity in her life to reach the upper plateau of the athletic world. She has a tenacious drive to push herself to accomplish what others would never think possible. That drive has contributed to her being a setter on the U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball National Team. Alexis exudes confidence that she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. An attribute she possesses that I hold in highest regard is she accomplishes all she has while maintaining a humble spirit,” Hamiter said. “I believe she thinks everyone should be able to do what she has if they work hard enough long enough. She exemplifies that mind set!”

Volleyball has huge ties to the inception of the NGWSD, which was chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1986 to honor female athletic achievement and recognize the importance of sports and fitness participation for all girls and women. Flo Hyman, a 1984 Olympic silver medalist on the U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, was honored posthumously during the first NGWSD national celebration in 1987 for her athletic achievements and her work to assure equity for women’s sports. Hyman tragically died of Marfan's Syndrome in 1986 while competing with her club team in a volleyball tournament in Japan.

Hyman once said: “To be true to one’s self is the ultimate test in life. To have courage and the sensitivity to follow your ridden dreams and stand tall against the odds that are bound to fall in your path. Life is too short and precious to be dealt with any other fashion. This thought I hold dear to my heart and I always try to be true to myself and others that I encounter along the way.”

Since the first celebration in 1987, NGWSD has evolved into a day to acknowledge the past while recognizing current sports achievements, the positive influence of sports participation, and the continuing struggle for equality and access for women in sports. NGWSD is celebrated in all 50 states with community-based events, award ceremonies, and activities to honor the achievements and encourage participation of girls and women in sports.