From classroom to court: Freshman libero Emma Halter builds teamwork outside of the gym


Isabella Firmani, Sports reporter

Emma Halter, a freshman libero for the Texas volleyball team, has jumped right into her first year at UT. Naturally, she has learned plenty from her coaches and teammates, but she’s also learned how to strengthen her skills through something a little less expected: a UGS course. 

The course, titled Building Winning Teams, analyzes successful sports teams and athletes so that students can apply the same team-building strategies to their everyday lives. 

“My hope is that someone like Emma can sit in class on Monday or Wednesday (and have) at least one or two takeaways right there at the top of her mind for how she interacts with her team, her coaches, and the way that … she modifies her behavior or her communication style,” course professor Matt Bowers said.

Bowers, who received a doctorate in sport management from UT in 2011, studies management systems for athlete development and teaches several courses in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. Halter said that she has taken Bowers’ lessons with her to the court when it comes to new struggles she faced this year.

While she has played volleyball in her home state of Indiana since childhood, moving to Texas and playing for one of the nation’s top volleyball programs entailed quite a few changes. 

“If you make a mistake, you’re in (front of) a huge crowd,” Halter said. “It can be easy to be like, ‘That was embarrassing,’ but I think the main thing to realize is … I play volleyball because it’s fun and I love it.”

Halter connected her love for the game back to a lecture from the class in which Bowers discussed six-year MLB veteran Brett Phillips and his personal brand, Baseball is Fun. The brand puts an emphasis on remembering why Phillips chose to play baseball to begin with and the joy that comes with the sport. Halter said she took that message as a reminder of how lucky she feels to be on the court with her friends and found it to be a major factor that powers her through her mistakes. 

Looking at her own college team while learning in the classroom what it needs to be successful, Halter said she has no doubt she made the right choice by committing to Texas. The players and captains surrounding her immediately became her best friends and pushed her to be better with each practice. 

“You’re competing against each other so hard every single day,” Halter said. “When you get to the game… you’re not super overwhelmed or super stressed because you’re playing against the best of the best every day in practice.”

Having been ranked as the top recruit in the state of Indiana as a two-time MVP of her high school volleyball team, Halter took little time to show her skill on the court. She has appeared in every match this season and has racked up a total of 86 digs, with her notable games being those against Iowa State, with 13 digs, and Oklahoma, when she had two aces in the second set.

Despite this season being her first with the team, Halter said she’s found a role to contribute as someone who brings a positive energy to the court and is always there to encourage her teammates throughout their matches.

“She’s somebody who brings a kind of infectious energy to the space that she’s in,” Bowers said. “That matters when you’re thinking about building teams. You need people who are those tone setters.”