Amidst the sounds of shoes squeaking against the court and hands hitting the volleyball, a cry can be heard from across the gymnasium: “Vur!”
Alin, Selin and Lara Gurdikyan call “Vur!” (“Hit!”) to each other from across the court. Although born in South Florida, the three sisters grew up in Turkey. After years of playing volleyball there, they moved back to Florida at the start of the school year. They now find themselves playing this familiar sport in unfamiliar surroundings.
“The sport is the same everywhere, but when they got here they were confused,” girls’ varsity volleyball team captain Rebecca Smitherman said. “There are certain things that are different technically, and [Coach Smitherman’s] coaching style is so fast that they didn’t know what was going on [at first].”
“[Coach Smitherman] wasn’t going to take one or two. She knew if she was taking one, she was taking all three.”
However, these initial barriers didn’t get in the way of the girls’ talent. They shared how their previous experience with the sport prepared them to join the team here.
“[Our] mom used to play volleyball in Turkey, and when we were seven years old, she just threw us onto the court,” Alin Gurdikyan said.
Even with their background in volleyball, the Gurdikyans still felt apprehensive when trying out for the team, but their captain assures that the trio had nothing to worry about.
“[Coach Smitherman] wasn’t going to take one or two,” Smitherman said. “She knew if she was taking one, she was taking all three.”
Being a part of a sports team has been known to foster close connections between peers, and despite the obvious preexisting bonds, such a growth has certainly been present with the triplets since they joined.
“As much as they work hard, they also play around a lot,” Smitherman said. “For those who have played a sport with a sibling, it’s either complete butting heads or a total love scene. And [the triplets] are always on top of each other, hugging each other, so happy that they all made it.”
Alin and Selin are both on the varsity volleyball team while Lara is on junior varsity. At every JV volleyball game, Alin and Selin can be found cheering Lara on from the sidelines as they watch. The three girls may not get to play together on the same team, but they say that their relationship was unfettered by the separation.
“We were always close, so it didn’t change anything,” Selin Gurdikyan said. “We have a really good connection and it gets stronger and stronger.”
The triplets have even spent their vacations working with each other, practicing in preparation for the school year. Alin and Selin spent their summer training while helping Lara build on her skills.
“We have a really good connection and it gets stronger and stronger.”
As involved as they are in the program, the volleyball team isn’t the extent of the girls’ new experiences in Cooper City. Many people experience culture shock when moving to a new country, and the disparity between the school systems in Turkey and the U.S. added to the stress. Though they were born in the country, the sisters found that not everything was as they had expected.
“[It was] confusing [at first] because we didn’t know where to go, and the buildings are a bit big,” Selin Gurdikyan said. “[And] we don’t have lockers. We should have lockers.”
While the Turkish school system is more rigorous and focuses on core academics, U.S. school systems offer more freedom to students to choose their own classes. The triplets have found that the unique curriculum offered at CCHS has presented them with opportunities they had never seen before.
“I joined hospitality and tourism class… and we don’t have those kinds of classes in our schools,” Lara Gurdikyan said. “[In Turkey], the school chooses the classes for you.”
This shift between education systems will surely be a challenging adjustment, but the girls still hold optimism for their futures.
“It’s like the American Dream.”
“In America, we are here for school… it’s actually a little bit tense for us, because we are new,” Alin Gurdikyan said. “But…”
“…we will get used to it,” Lara Gurdikyan finished.
Despite the many differences that they’ve had to adjust to, the girls see the change in scenery in an overall hopeful light.
“It’s like the American Dream, actually,” Selin Gurdikyan said. “Because we were always watching the TV shows, and [now] it [has] happened. I think it’s exciting.”
Photo by Casey Chapter