When Blue Springs High School senior Kieley Culbertson, The Examiner’s 2010 High School Volleyball Player of the Year, was a youngster, she played basketball, soccer and volleyball.

When Blue Springs High School senior Kieley Culbertson, The Examiner’s 2010 High School Volleyball Player of the Year, was a youngster, she played basketball, soccer and volleyball.

“If a ball was involved, she played it,” said her father, Dr. Randy Culbertson.

“Naturally, I wanted her to play basketball. She played basketball and soccer when she was in the fourth grade, then she discovered volleyball. She immediately loved the sport.

“When she was 10, she was playing on a 12-and-under team, and was one of the better players.”

Today, in a world of “me, me, me athletes,” she personifies all the good things about student-athletes.

“When I played, I was pretty fiery out on the court,” said Culbertson, the vice president of business development for HCA Midwest, who was an all-state and All-American guard for legendary Raytown South coach Bud Lathrop’s 1970 state championship team. “But not Kieley. She always keeps her composure and never gets rattled. I love watching her play because she’s always in control, and she has that ability to make everyone else on the court a better player.

“And she’s a good kid – a really good kid.”

The attributes that make her a great player – keeping her composure, staying under control – have helped her in the game of life, too.

And that’s something Kieley is proud of, especially in an age where trouble seems to be lurking around every corner.

“I’ve been at parties and seen some bad things, and I’ve just left,” Kieley said when asked about life as a high school senior. “I’ve had people say or text some negative things about me – not very often, but it has happened – and I just ignore them.

“I’m not going to get involved in things like that. I’m not going to let someone who has something negative to say affect my outlook on life.

“I have a wonderful group of friends and my family is the best. My family is always there for me, and I would never do anything to disappointment them or let them down.”

When asked how she developed her approach to life under a microscope at Blue Springs High School, she had a ready answer.

“It comes from the way I was raised,” she said emphatically. “My dad and coaches always taught me to be unselfish and to be a team player. He was that kind of player, and that’s the kind of player I wanted to be.

“I think it’s team first, and everything else is second. And so far, that approach has served me pretty well.”

In the fall, she will play volleyball at Georgetown University.

Over a four-year career at Blue Springs High School, she rewrote the record book. Her 1,054 assists last fall are the highest total in the state in a single season since rally scoring was adopted in 2003.

He 10.9 assists per-game average is also the highest in state history and 52 assists in a single match is another state mark.

Yet, when people talk about Kieley Culbertson, they talk about the person, not the player.

“She’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached, and one of the greatest kids I’ve ever been around,” Wildcats head coach Katie Grusing said. “There are kids who are team players who really like to see their names in a story or the headlines. But Kieley is a team player who just cares about her teammates and what she can do to help the team win.

“She’s a leader on the court and in the classroom, and we’re going to miss her.”

Adds former Blue Springs High School activities director Tim Crone: “If they write a book about the great kids at Blue Springs High School, there should be a chapter on Kieley.”

Over the past three years, Culbertson has been the quiet and effective team leader on a Blue Springs volleyball team that went an amazing 89-17-1 with three conference titles and a Class 4 state runner-up finish in 2009.

She also was the Blue Springs homecoming queen and owns a 3.95 GPA.

Volleyball and Kieley Culbertson just go together.

“I can’t imagine not playing volleyball,” she said. “It’s been a part of my life since the fourth grade. I don’t know why I chose volleyball over the other sports I played – it just stood out and was always my favorite.”

Grusing enjoys telling one story about Kieley’s determination – not just on the court during games, but at practice. Despite handling the ball thousands of times this past season, she had just two hitting errors.

“She never made a mistake,” Grusing said, “and she’s always in the right place and she makes the girls on the front row look awfully good – not that they haven’t always been extremely talented – but when they get that perfect feed, it makes their job a lot easier.

 “I remember one practice session when I asked Kieley to make her passes about a foot to the side of a front row player. That might not sound like much, but it can make the difference between a kill and a blocked shot.

 “Every set, from that point on, was right where it needed to be.”

And she’s right where she needs to be in life, too.

“My life is so exciting,” Kieley said. “The last four years at Blue Springs have been so special, and I can’t wait to get to Georgetown. I think I’m as excited about the academic side of school as I am playing volleyball.

“There are a lot of ways kids can ruin their lives today, and I always made sure to avoid those situations.”