LaGrange Daily News readers vote to name McAteer Athlete of the Year

Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2023

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EDITOR’S NOTE: During the month of June, The LaGrange Daily News allowed readers to vote for the Athlete of the Year on its website. The athletes nominated were Athlete of the Weeks from earlier in the year. This story names the winner of the competition.

Kate McAteer is resilient.

While most will remember her in Troup County for her exploits as a Callaway Cavalier, it was the battles she fought behind closed doors that defined how people saw her. 

Following her junior year she fought through injuries that made question whether she even wanted to play volleyball and soccer in her senior season. She persevered.

When her father was sick in the hospital and ended up passing away during the closing months of her senior year, somehow she found a light in the darkness. 

Resiliency courses through her veins. 

“We didn’t even know anything was wrong because she was so positive all the time and won a ton of awards for playing soccer while she was fighting through stuff off the field that we had no idea about,” said Shelby Goins, Callaway’s volleyball coach. “Resilient is the definition of Kate McAteer.”

Life hit McAteer hard during her senior soccer season, but it was hardly, if ever, noticeable on the soccer pitch. She carved up and diced just about every defense that was put in front of her on her way to 39 goals and 11 assists in just 18 games. These absurd stats led her to being named Region 5-AA player of the year.

“That meant a lot to me,” McAteer said. “I sat down with my dad before the year started and talked with him about what I wanted to accomplish this year and that was one of my main goals.

“I didn’t know if I could do it, but he was always supporting me and believed that this was something I could do.”

At the Callaway soccer banquet earlier this year, awards were handed out and McAteer, who was completely unaware that her coaches were going to announce her as region player of the year, broke down into tears as she lived up to the promise her father saw in her.

She was able to earn this honor despite Callaway not finishing as the top team in the region. 

McAteer could have easily earned a spot on a college roster if she wanted, but injuries had taken their toll and despite the bittersweet feelings of hanging up her cleats competitively, she is also content with the legacy she leaves behind on the soccer pitch. (She also hopes to find a club team to play with at  Samford University.)

“She is an awesome athlete and an even better person,” said Jeff McGuffin, the Callaway girls assistant soccer coach. “I’m so glad life brought her to us… She’s an absolute rockstar on and off the field.”

Soccer was the sport that McAteer had known and loved all her life, but volleyball was a sport she found later in life. She gave it a go during her freshman year and really grew up as a player and a person on the court. 

In fact, one of the most prominent sports memories that sticks out in her mind is Callaway volleyball’s victory over Davidson Fine Arts in the round of 16 of the AA playoffs last fall, booking a spot in the quarterfinals for the first time in program history.

“We wanted to be the first team to put up a volleyball banner at Callaway,” McAteer said. “Whether it be a region championship or making it far in the playoffs, we knew we wanted to hang a banner. To make it that far was one of the best moments of my life.”

McAteer, always in a contrasting colored jersey as the team’s libero, cut an iconic figure when she hunched over, hand in front of her face, fought back tears as her teammate Mary Kate Baswell came over and hugged her after the team won its round of 16 match in a dramatic five set match. 

Sports have helped McAteer come out of her shell. She first enrolled at Callaway for her junior year. At first she was a quiet, unassuming young girl, but once she was playing soccer or volleyball, people saw a whole new side of her. She was fearless and a tenacious leader and it truly shined when she got on a court or a field. 

McAteer is, of course, more than just an athlete. Despite only spending half of her high school career at Callaway, she embodied what it means to be a Cavalier.

“Kate truly embodied what it means to ‘be Callaway,’” said Mike Petite, head girls soccer coach at Callaway. “Kate has stepped into leadership roles both in the classroom and extracurricular activities and, of course athletics like Kate has been going to Callaway since she was in kindergarten. 

“Kate has transformed Callaway’s women’s soccer. The way she trains, the way she plays and the way she has built relationships with her teammates has set a new bar for the program.”

Life’s journey is still just beginning for McAteer, who is about to make a big life transition. She will be packing up and moving to Birmingham in just a month’s time to attend Samford.

“I’m excited about it but also nervous about the transition,” McAteer said. “I think it will be good, and I’m excited about meeting new people and really getting my foot in the door.”

Her accomplishments at Callaway speak for themselves as she departs as one of the most decorated athletes in school history. Her athletic journey has reached its end, but the people that have helped guide her along the way are excited about the prospects that her future holds. 

“She has already overcome so much at such a young age that I don’t think there’s anything that can stop her now,” Goins said. 

The coaches and teachers McAteer has had at Callaway have really made this area feel like home, but the community at-large has rallied around her and supported her in ways that she never thought possible when she first arrived in Troup County. 

“When I moved here, somebody told me that Callaway and the community is like a family, and it truly is,” McAteer said. “Everybody is always there for you and is very uplifting. It has meant a lot to me to be a part of this community.”