From Court to Classroom, Carissa Barnes Excels as Islanders Volleyball Student-Athlete

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Free weights clank and clatter as Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi student-athletes begin their day with a workout session. It’s 6 a.m. on a Tuesday and Carissa Barnes ‘24, a junior kinesiology major and Islanders Volleyball student-athlete, is already awake and putting in time in the weight room. She then transitions to studying while eating breakfast and preparing for the day.

This is the schedule of a student-athlete: long hours preparing oneself physically for the demands of their sport while at the same time developing their minds through study sessions, exams, and labs. It is a hectic schedule that presents a unique challenge for Islander student-athletes, Barnes says.

“Managing your educational success as well as athletic success takes a lot of time, effort, and adds an additional level of pressure,” Barnes said. “Through practices, lifting, matches, attending class, and completing homework, I have learned to stay organized, manage my time, and accept my limitations.”

 As one of the leaders of Islanders Volleyball, Barnes has been named the Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Week seven times, back-to-back Southland Conference (SLC) Libero of the year winner, has earned an All-Conference selection three times, and is No. 1 in NCAA Division I women’s volleyball for digs per set, with “digs” referring to stopping the opposing teams’ hits from scoring.

Barnes’ accomplishments on the court are mirrored by her performance in the classroom. Barnes, who earned a spot on the SLC All-Academic First-Team, holds an impressive 3.89 GPA. She says she plans to eventually earn a master’s degree to one day become a physical therapist. Her desire to help others comes from time spent visiting her parents at work in her hometown of Weatherford, a suburb of Fort Worth. Her mother is a nurse, and father is a personal trainer; both have a passion for helping others that has been highly influential.

“My parents have been incredibly supportive of me and the team. They travel from Weatherford for every game, even away games," Barnes said. “I’m so thankful and it really means a lot to me.”

Barnes says she owes a lot of her success on and off the court to her teammates, coaches, and the Islanders athletic staff.

 “Being a member of a team helps me be a successful student because my teammates and coaches have high expectations of my performance off the court, and the coaching faculty and staff members understand that my education is the top priority,” Barnes said. “They provide me with the resources I need to further my education.”

 Barnes also leveraged other campus services to help her succeed in the classroom. Most notably, she found the tutors at the Center for Academic Student Achievement (CASA) to be beneficial to her success.

 “The tutors at CASA were a great help during my freshman and sophomore years. I went to them for a lot of my writing assignments early on,” Barnes explained. “I still stop by and seek their advice and help on more challenging subjects.”

 Nikola “Nikki” Grafnetterova ‘19, Barnes’ Scholastic Coordinator, explained some of the qualities that make Barnes a standout.

 “She is very independent. She is a woman on a mission, always with a great attitude and smile,” she said. “She is intelligent, has a great work ethic, and is organized. It is not easy to excel as a student and an athlete at this level, but because of these attributes, Carissa makes it look easy.”

 With a sweep over University of the Incarnate Word on Nov. 11, Islanders Volleyball won the SLC Regular Season Championship and earned the top-seed and a double bye in the conference tournament. The Islanders will be playing for their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in school history and second in a row. The SLC semifinals begin Nov. 20 in Houston, and each round of the tournament will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN+.