Birdie the Killer ‘Cat

Logan-Rogersville sophomore sensation Birdie Hendrickson was a MaxPreps Freshman All-American a year ago. (Staff Photo)

It is not often that a freshman volleyball player is named 1st-Team All-State at a Class 3 school. It’s even rarer for a Missouri freshman to be named to the MaxPreps Freshman All-American Team. However, Logan-Rogersville’s Birdie Hendrickson—who is now in the midst of a standout sophomore campaign—was no ordinary freshman last season.

The 6-foot-2 Hendrickson established herself as one of the top hitters in the state a year ago—regardless of class—after slamming home 368 kills as a freshman. The well-rounded Hendrickson is more than just a powerful hitter, though, as evidenced by her 255 digs, 29 kill blocks and 47 serving aces.

“Her honors were very well deserved,” said Rogersville head coach Tammy Miller. “She can play at any position on the court. We moved her position and she didn’t miss a beat. As far as a freshman being recognized as a Class 3 1st-Team All-State selection, that’s very impressive. It just goes to show that she is in a league of her own.”

Birdie Hendrickson (Photo by Mark A. Queen)

Hendrickson played a key role in helping lead the Lady Wildcats to the Class 3 Final Four in Cape Girardeau last season, where Rogersville notched a fourth-place finish.

“Birdie was an outside hitter for us,” said Miller of last season. “However, she excels at setting. We just needed her in a role as a primary passer, defender and an offensive threat at any position on the court. I never saw Birdie play like a ‘freshman.’ She accepted her role and carried our team in her ability to pass and take very effective swings at any point in the game. She loves pressure and always played very poised when we needed her.”

Hendrickson has picked up where she left off this season. After missing Rogersville’s first four games, and the Catholic game on Sept. 21, Birdie has become a stat-stuffer this season in leading the Lady Wildcats to a 20-2-1 record (after a convincing Sept. 28 win at COC-Small rival Bolivar). Actually, with Hendrickson in the lineup, Rogersville is a perfect 18-0 this season, and the sophomore sensation has saved her best for the biggest games.

(Staff Photo)

On Sept. 5, in a three-set thriller at perennial Class 4 state powerhouse Ozark, Hendrickson recorded a gaudy 24 kills to lead Rogersville to a 25-23, 24-26, 25-23 triumph over the Lady Tigers, who have owned Southwest Missouri volleyball for the past decade. Hendrickson added another 20 kills in a Sept. 14 three-set victory over Willard, which snapped the Lady Tigers’ 20-game winning streak. For the season, Hendrickson has recorded 188 kills, with a kill percentage of nearly 50 percent. She has also posted 25 blocks, 129 digs, and 15 aces, with a serve percentage north of 90 percent.

“She’s an exceptional athlete,” said Miller, who is in her 20th season at the helm of the Lady Wildcats. “Birdie is what we would consider an ‘elite’ athlete. Whatever Birdie wants to do athletically she can excel at a high level. She is very athletic, extremely skilled, understands the game at a very high level, is very poised and is highly competitive.”

Hendrickson has been playing volleyball for quite a while, and it didn’t take long to realize that she was pretty good. In fact, Hendrickson spent a good portion of her early volleyball career “playing up” against older competition.

“When I was eight-years-old I played on a 10s team, which is the youngest organized club age,” said Birdie, who also finds time to compete with the Springfield Juniors Volleyball Club during the club season. “I have always had to ‘play up’ due to my birthdate, and when I was at High Performance I was playing with, and against, girls from across the nation that were juniors when I was only a freshman—but I was the captain. I learned quickly that it doesn’t matter your age, but how willing you are to work for your team.”

Hammer Time! (Staff Photo)

“Since she was little she has always been a gym rat, and was usually outside playing ‘roof’ volleyball with her sister,” said Michael Hendrickson, Birdie’s father. “Her mother coached her from age 11 to 14 and she knew that she was good. In seventh grade, both she and her game grew a lot. She grew three inches and went from just setting to hitting, as well. She received her first recruiting letter at the end of the seventh grade, and by the end of club season two years ago, the recruiting process started.”

Birdie’s sister is Hanna Hendrickson, who also earned 1st-Team All-State honors in her senior season last year in helping lead Rogersville to State. Hanna, who is now playing collegiately at Western Colorado, has been a big role model for Birdie.

Birdie Hendrickson (#24) (Photo by Mark A. Queen)

“My older sister Hanna helped me become a better leader and role model,” said Birdie. “Having her as a teammate in both volleyball and track really brought us closer. Hanna is one of my best friends. Playing volleyball together and making it to State was an amazing experience and a memory that will last a lifetime.”

Family is very important to Birdie. Her mom, Laura, and dad rarely miss a game. And younger brother Landon is another gameday mainstay.

“My younger brother Landon is one of my biggest fans,” said Birdie. “He always gives me a big hug after every competition, win or lose. My parents are my heroes by far! Without their support, I would not be the athlete I am. My mom played volleyball in college and coached me until I was 15. My dad is a good triathlete and is always encouraging me on the track. I am very thankful that they are involved in my life.”

Like most prep sports, volleyball has become a year-round activity. Between the high school and club seasons, and the “offseason” workouts, there is little spare time, though Birdie has found time to compete in track and field for Rogersville. The travel schedules can be daunting, and the dedication to the sport can mean making sacrifices.

(Staff Photo)

“The feeling of sacrifice is mixed,” said Michael. “Family time together and family finances are definitely impacted. Birdie has sacrificed her holiday breaks, birthday parties, and other things, just like her teammates. But this is a choice we have made. We feel that the life experiences she is gaining, such as team building, leadership, travel, lifelong friendships and the opportunity to play at the next, highest level possible, is all worth it.”

Birdie did forego playing basketball last year, but did run track and high jump for the Lady Wildcats, which Birdie said helped her stay in shape while also helping with muscle balance and symmetry.

“It was a difficult decision for her not to play basketball last year, but the focus is school and volleyball for nearly nine months of the year,” said Michael. “She also runs track. It is a terrific way to condition a different set of muscles, and allows her to compete more independently.”

Another Ace? (Staff Photo)

Though just a sophomore, Birdie has already started garnering collegiate interest. There is no rush to make any decisions just yet, but there will be plenty of schools lining up for Birdie’s volleyball services when the time comes.

“For the past two summers, I have been working my way through the recruiting process,” said Birdie, who also has played in the USA Volleyball High Performance Training Program. “It has been exciting visiting schools across the nation—thanks to my parents. Every school, volleyball program and coach are different. I am still trying to figure out where the best fit is for me, but I think I’m getting closer. I want to play at the highest level at a Division 1 school. I would also like to continue to play after college either nationally or professionally overseas.”

“She’s your true elite athlete,” said Miller. “She has some high goals for herself. We hope to watch her in Los Angeles (in The Olympics) in 2028!”

(Staff Photo)

Birdie let her play do the talking as a freshman last season, foregoing a more vocal leadership to upperclassmen such as her sister. This season, though, Birdie is taking more of a vocal role in leading the Lady Wildcats. However, she also lets her play do plenty of talking. The sign of a true leader is one who knows when to be vocal and when to lead by example.

“As great of a player as Birdie is she’s just as great as a leader,” said Miller. “Many times, we see a great athlete like Birdie snub her teammates or look down on them, but not Birdie. She loves her teammates, pushes them, encourages…she leads by example. This is something that is so amazing about Birdie. She truly is a team player. She always puts the team first, but she will do whatever she can do to make sure her teammates are successful. It’s a very admirable trait that she has in her leadership ability.”

While Birdie’s stats certainly speak volumes of her on court talent, she knows when to let her teammates take control and when it’s hammer time, so to speak. For example, as exemplified by the two aforementioned wins over Ozark and Willard, Birdie knows when to take control of a match.

Birdie Hendrickson (Photo by Mark A. Queen)

“I try to set a high standard for myself and my teammates, and work to motivate them by being encouraging on the court,” said Birdie of her leadership skills. “I want to be the kind of teammate that other players want to play with. I also get pretty fired up, which can be contagious.”

“Athleticism and game IQ are her strengths,” said Michael. “She has very good court awareness and she doesn’t let much get under her skin. She’s also pretty good in science. As for weaknesses, if she could live on chips, candy and watch reality TV she would…and she’s as stubborn as a Missouri mule.”

“My eating habits probably need to improve,” said Birdie, concurring with her father about her weaknesses. “Skill wise, I’d say serving. I could definitely be more aggressive and consistent.”

While Birdie does not have much free time, she describes herself as a typical teenager. “I’m outgoing, spunky and a little goofy,” she said. “I like to hang out with friends at the pool, or go to the mall, listen to music. I guess the usual teenager stuff.”

“She is one funny 16-year-old kid,” said Miller. “Sometimes we look at her and are like, ‘Really, Birdie?!?’ She is fun to be around, and what we enjoy most about her is that she acts goofy, full of life, and silly. She has a great amount of energy and has a very contagious personality. We love being around her. She can make anyone laugh.”

(Staff Photo)

“Birdie seems to have a magnetic personality,” said Michael. “She is confident, fun loving, competitive and a comedian of sorts. What is she like at home and away from the court? She’s a typical teenager—showers are too long, wants to sleep a lot, tells her brother what to do all the time, and she’s a little OCD about organizing her ’stuff.’”

Maybe by now you are wondering where the name “Birdie” came from. It’s not her given legal name, after all. “I don’t think she knew her real name until the third grade,” said Michael, who may or may not be serious. “We debated on names for four months. Finally, in the hospital, we decided on Camille Grace. Immediately Laura said, ‘Well, I’m going to call her ‘Birdie.’’ Anyone who knows my wife knows she loves birds.”

Regardless of when Birdie knew her real name, she and her Lady Wildcat teammates have some unfinished business to attend to this season. The goal all along has been to return to the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau and make a run at a Class 3 state championship.

“Going to State was super exciting, but I believe we settled and did not perform as well as we should have,” said Birdie of last season. “Like my little brother says, ‘Contentment is the enemy of progress.’ This season, I want to have greater consistency in every skill, win conference and districts and lead my team back to the State tournament.”

With the district tournament looming on the horizon and slated to begin Oct. 16, Rogersville will be a prohibitive favorite as the District 11 host. As the games get bigger in districts (and beyond?), look for Birdie Hendrickson to take her game to another level—which is a scary proposition for any prospective opponent.

(Staff Photo)


To comment, you must log in or register.