September 7, 2023

Defying The Odds: Berklee Andrews Inspires A Community

4 min read| Published On: September 7th, 2023|

By Kyle Coppola

Defying The Odds: Berklee Andrews Inspires A Community

4 min read| Published On: September 7th, 2023|

A student athlete at Lake-Sumter State College has defied odds and inspired the Lake County community. Despite only being born with one arm, Berklee Andrews has never let that slow her down in life.

Born in Seguin Texas to Jim and Dana Andrews, Berklee is now in her final year at Lake-Sumter State College. The 2-year college has been a great place for Berklee, not only for the academics provided, but for the sport of beach volleyball.

(Berklee jumping in the air to serve the ball known as a “Jump Serve” in Volleyball.)

Berklee was born with a condition called Symbrachydactyly. states,  “Symbrachydactyly is a condition of short fingers that may be webbed or jointed. Some or all of the fingers may be underdeveloped or not developed at all. Symbrachydactyly is a congenital condition, which means babies are born with it.”

Berklee may have been born with the condition, but for her, this has been normal her entire life. For most people, normal is having two functional arms. For Berklee she says, “This has been my normal since the day I was born. I learned to crawl, eat and function the way I know normal to be.”

(Berklee plays with a smile on her face. She enjoys every moment and makes sure to cherish the time she spends with her teammates.)

Berklee grew up with two older siblings, Brock and Kyndall Andrews, who played sports. Brock played baseball and Kyndall played volleyball. Berklee looked up to her older siblings and wanted to be just like them. So, she got into playing sports as well. Berklee learned how to excel at any sport she chose to participate in and made it her goal to get better at it. No matter what it is, when Berklee puts her mind to something, anything is possible.

A four-year letter in high school, Berklee played volleyball and softball. She never let anything get in her way of competing. While her condition may be challenging for any one of us, to Berklee it was just normal every day life. She went on to have a successful high school career and was accepted into Texas Tech for her freshman year of college, studying business.

(Berklee stands with Coach Neal Stanley who is the Lake-Sumter State College Beach Volleyball Head Coach. He is also a huge reason Berklee decided to attend Lake-Sumter State College.)

If you didn’t actually look, you would never actually know that Berklee even has this condition. Her warm and vibrant personality draws you into a conversation with her. She has a great smile and motivation to inspire anyone to go after their dreams. Berklee shows us that no matter what the challenges life brings, you can defy those odds and excel in life.

“Never limit yourself in life,” Berklee says. “If you have a passion, go for it. Once you go after that passion, embrace it.”

That is certainly what Berklee has done. She decided after playing volleyball in high school that she missed it. So she began playing with a paralympic team going into her freshman year of college.

(Berklee’s goal is to play for the USA Paralympic Beach Volleyball Team after college.)

Berklee’s coach, at that time, just so happened to be Neal Stanley, the head beach volleyball coach at Lake-Sumter State Collegee. He was so impressed by Berklee that he wanted her to come play for the Lakehawks! Berklee decided to transfer from Texas Tech, where she was just a student, to Lake-Sumter State College to play beach volleyball this past Spring.

Berklee loves her teammates and was welcomed with open arms when she transferred. The more she would compete, the more people noticed her and she inspired a ton of people. Even after competitions, her competitors would all seek her out and congratulate her. She truly is an amazing person and that has allowed Berklee an amazing opportunity for the 2024 beach volleyball season. Her passion for the game and inspiration led to the Lakehawks naming her captain for the 2024 season!

(Berklee has been voted team captain for the 2024 Lake-Sumter State College Beach Volleyball Season.)

Over the summer, Lake-Sumter State College released photos of the Lakehawks Beach Volleyball season. We got asked by the community, who this girl was who was playing beach volleyball with one arm? She fascinated and inspired our community and her story needed to be told. Berklee fully intends to continue playing beach volleyball after school is over and has big plans in store.

Berklee is going to school for business. She let us know that she has intentions to join the Team USA Paralympic Beach Volleyball team when her schooling is finished. In fact, the Official National Training Site for USA Paralympic Beach Volleyball is Hickory Point Beach Sand Volleyball Complex in Tavares!

(If Paralympic Beach Volleyball would be added for the 2032 Paralympic games, Berklee would be in the prime of her career! Hopefully we get to see olympic gold around her neck in the future!)

Berklee is hopeful that the sport is added for the 2032 Paralympic Games. The sport is not currently included in the 2024 games in Paris or the 2028 games in the USA. However, the sport does have many tournaments during the year around the globe and is growing annually. Hopefully we see Berklee representing team USA one day.

Regardless of what Berklee does, she continues to inspire and warm people’s hearts. The way she talks and the way she composes herself is everything an employer, coach or leader would want. Berklee is a leader at heart, she is a good person and we know she will succeed in anything she puts her mind to.

Best of luck to Berklee and her family on her continued academic and athletic success! We look forward to watching her during the 2024 beach volleyball season!

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About the Author: Kyle Coppola

Kyle Coppola was born in Newton, Massachusetts and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communications from Curry College in 2016. After traveling to Florida on a family vacation, he decided he could not get enough of the warm weather and made the move from snowy Massachusetts to central Florida 8 years ago.

For the last decade Kyle has gained valuable experience in social media content creation, marketing and sales, writing, video production, sports announcing and even broadcasting for local radio stations, such as FM 102.9 in The Villages and FM 91.5 in Massachusetts. Every year he volunteers at The Villages Charter High School as a play-by-play sports announcer for the football games as well as a public address announcer for the basketball games, including the annual Battle at The Villages Tournament.

Outside the office Kyle is a husband and father to two beautiful girls along with their cat. In his spare time he likes to spend time with his family, travel, play golf and swim. He is also a huge sports junkie and even bigger motorsports fan and loves to attend racing events when he can.

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