Jaymeson Kinley’s impact on the Butler volleyball program goes beyond her talents. Photo by Claire Runkel.
JIA SKRUDLAND | SPORTS REPORTER | email@example.com
2021 and 2022 Big East Libero of the Year. 2021 and 2022 All Big East Team. 2022 AVCA East All Region Team. Butler volleyball career record holder of 5.29 digs/set. Butler volleyball single season record of 618 digs in 2022 and second with 610 digs in 2021. Butler volleyball single season record of 5.42 digs/set in 2022 and second with 5.40 digs/set in 2021.
These are the accolades and accomplishments that redshirt senior Jaymeson Kinley has garnered throughout her Butler volleyball career — and still counting.
Even with such a lengthy list of accomplishments, Kinley prefers to think of herself as someone beyond the awards.
“I think about [the recognitions] when it’s said, when people ask me about it or something’s posted about it,” Kinley said. “For the most part, that doesn’t really define me because every year I’m also working towards new goals, new things to do. [They’re] great accolades to have, but that’s not the center of my focus. The center of my focus is being a great leader, being a great teammate and playing the best that I can every single game. It’s good to fall back on, but I’m always wanting more.”
The 2023 season is roughly halfway through, and Kinley has the opportunity to break another record for total career digs, sitting 235 digs behind Katie Daprile’s record 2,009 total digs that was set in 2010.
Kinley was introduced to volleyball at a young age. She attended volleyball camps during her elementary school years and started playing club volleyball at seven years old. It also helped that she lived only 10 minutes away from the University of Kentucky where she was able to watch the level of play she desired to reach one day.
She credits her two older sisters, Keyton and Chandler, as the people who sparked her interest to take her game to the next level. They played Division 1 volleyball at the University of Oklahoma and Northern Illinois University, respectively, inspiring her to follow in their footsteps.
Her journey to Butler was not the typical one athletes desire to have. Kinley left Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee after her first semester and spent a year in the transfer portal. Her positive mindset and drive through the uncertainty paid off in the long run.
Since arriving at Butler in the spring of 2020, Kinley has become synonymous with the Butler volleyball program.
It is safe to say that Kinley’s leadership and desire to be a great teammate is felt throughout the entire program.
Head coach Kyle Shondell joined the team in spring 2023 to lead this new era of Butler volleyball. Although Shondell has only recently gotten to know Kinley as a player and person, he has already seen the impact of her multifaceted leadership style, and was able to pinpoint the quality that best represents her as a leader: her voice.
“Sometimes you have players that will lead by example, meaning they do a lot of things the right way,” Shondell said. “They’re proculture in terms of their style of play. They’re going after every ball; they’re doing their job on the court. Sometimes you have players who lead by their voice, lead by volume and say the right things. J is that unique blend of both.”
Volleyball is a sport that relies heavily on communication to ensure that everyone is on the same page both on and off the court. Junior middle-blocker Destiny Cherry has played alongside Kinley for the past three seasons. She also echoed how special Kinley’s presence is to the team.
“Since I’ve gotten here, she’s been one of the main voices on the team,” Cherry said. “She is so great because she not only speaks for us, but she makes sure she listens to us. When she’s talking, she knows who she’s communicating with because a lot of people communicate differently. I’m one that’s ok with yelling, the rah rah and screaming, but some people on our team are more reserved; they want quiet, softer communication, and she’s good with adapting to those things.”
First-year Reese Bates is the only other defensive specialist on the team, so the two constantly work and play alongside one another in the backcourt. The guidance and mentorship from Kinley has helped her understand what it takes to be successful at the position at this level.
“I’ve just learned so much from her on and off the court every single day,” Bates said. “She’s just one of the best teammates I could ever be blessed to have, and she helps in every way possible. I learn as much from her as I can, especially with her being two-time Big East [Libero] of the Year. She’s just a great role model to look up to.”
Kinley credits her older sisters with teaching her how to help lead — a quality that is crucial this season with such a young roster.
“Having two older sisters and seeing how they acted and reacted in certain situations and how they like to talk to me or their friends shaped how I lead, how I talk to people or how I lead with my voice and my body language,” Kinley said. “Just watching them grow up and be leaders and seeing it, even at this age that I’m at, seeing them still doing the same things really just helps me a lot on the court.”
Shondell is grateful for the opportunity to coach someone who is the kind of player and person that Kinley is.
“She’s special,” Shondell said. “I’ve been able to coach and be in the gym with a lot of really, really great liberos. She’s close to, if not the best, I’ve ever coached or ever seen, and that’s just talent. Who she is as a person is just so cool. The way she helped us establish a culture where we welcome freshmen and we welcome the idea of growing this program, building it up, she’s just special.”
While they are not the only thing she is going to be remembered for, Kinley’s on-court accolades have cemented her spot in Butler volleyball history. To achieve the accomplishments she has earned takes perseverance and belief. Cherry admires her commitment to the team every day.
“Her work ethic,” Cherry said. “She is quite literally a dog. I know we’re the Bulldogs and everything, but she is a dog. She is so ready to give 100% of herself every single day, every single practice, every single minute. Just being able to step into a gym and immediately feel that Jaymeson Kinley is in there with you [is special].”
Kinley knows there is going to be a day in the not-so-distant future where the final whistle blows in Hinkle Fieldhouse and her time as a Bulldog comes to an end. She hopes that when that day comes, her teammates will help build on her legacy and follow in her footsteps.
“We have [a lot of] freshmen that I’m trying to put a lasting impression on and a lasting influence on and keep the culture strong,” Kinley said. “When I leave, I know that the culture will stay. I’ve kind of instilled things in people that can carry on and help Butler be just as successful when I’m gone.”
More often than not, athletes are often characterized by their sport and performance. Kinley values that Butler volleyball taught her that she is more than just a volleyball player. Being a volleyball player is a fraction who she is, not solely who she is.
“I’ve learned that honestly, you can do anything,” Kinley said. “It’s crazy because at my old school, I just felt like I was one person. I played volleyball, and that was it. Here, I feel like I can be a leader. I can be a great teammate. I can go talk to people. I can go student teach. I can go be a part of the community. I can be a great volleyball player. I think they shaped me to be a great person and not just an athlete.”