Jan 29, 2015
Serving Up Support

abbyfunk-head.jpgBy Abigail Funk

Last April, the the Brigham Young University women’s volleyball team found out that its long-time Athletic Trainer and BYU’s Director of Sports Medicine, Gaye Merrill, MS, ATC, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They wanted to show their support and came up with the idea to wear pink bracelets, signifying breast cancer awareness.

“The idea came from the athletes themselves,” says BYU Head Coach Jason Watson. “I think it had a dramatic effect upon Gaye that the girls would do that for her.”

When Merrill, a BYU graduate and employee for over 25 years, was diagnosed, she sent an e-mail to the players, telling them of the doctor’s discovery. “It was definitely a shock to all of us,” Watson says. “There was some uncertainty from the team, as there always is when you find out someone close to you has cancer. And they had questions: What exactly is it? What does this mean for her future?

“Gaye handled it so well,” he continues. “She was very open with the players and wanted them to know what she was going through. So while this was a really sad event, it was also an educational experience for our student-athletes.”

Other than a few weeks in October, Merrill continued to work throughout her chemotherapy treatments and even traveled with the team throughout the season. “We often talk about our volleyball program and our athletic program as a family,” Watson says. “Here was a member of our family who needed our support. We still wanted her to be a part of our season because she is such an important component of the team. I felt it was incredibly beneficial both for Gaye and the girls to be so connected.”

BYU made it to the final eight teams of the NCAA Division I Tournament at the end of the season, and Merrill was along for the ride. “Gaye went with us to the tournament, and we had a fun season getting as far as we did,” Watson says. “I’m so happy that she got to be a part of that. Gaye is doing wonderfully right now. We’re all thrilled about her recovery and look forward to next season with her on our sideline.”

Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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