Volleyball coach battles against kidney disease


Every person grows up wanting to be something. In this case, Godwin’s girls’ volleyball coach, Chris Wakefield, grew up wanting to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force. He was set to join the US Air Force Academy at the end of his senior year of high school but was deemed unfit because of his medical condition.

Wakefield was first diagnosed with kidney disease when he was 13 years old. He has had this disease since birth, as it is genetic. Getting denied from the Air Force was the first time he was told he couldn’t do something because of his condition.

Not sure what to do with his life, Wakefield traveled down a path of depression. That all changed, however, when his friend asked him if he wanted to help coach a team at the Richmond Volleyball Club.
Because he played volleyball in high school, Wakefield was familiar with the game and anticipated getting to be an assistant.

After only two days of helping out, he was immediately hooked on coaching. That was the start to his volleyball coaching career, and he is now in his 10th season coaching varsity women’s volleyball.
While having a very successful coaching career at Godwin, Wakefield has also managed to affect many lives in the Richmond area. After revealing his disease to the community, some of the Godwin parents started a GoFundMe.

“The people that put this together are the parents of my Godwin players, I can’t express to them enough how much it means to me. I have known that group of parents for several years, and they are like family. I love them very much!” said Wakefield.

Chris Wakefield coaching Godwin volleyball

The other side of this GoFundMe resonates with the Henrico volleyball community. “I’ve seen parents that have children at other programs, even rival schools, coaches I have coached against, who all have donated. It means a lot because it shows that it’s not just about volleyball. I’d like to think it represents the lives that I have impacted in a good way, on and off the court,” said Wakefield.

This disease has transformed Wakefield’s view on life. “I live my life the way I want to live it. That’s number one. I am comfortable with who I am and what I do, and I do what makes me happy regardless of what others think. I don’t waste time looking for approval from others,” he said.
Over time, this disease has progressively gotten worse, affecting him more than years past, but Wakefield is still continuing to fight.

“Life is too short to not put your all into what makes you happy,” said Wakefield. Wakefield’s greatest burden has been the pain he experiences from kidney stones and cysts that constantly reappear. Unfortunately, this is something that he will deal with for the rest of his life.
This disease has not only had an effect on Wakefield, but also the players on his team.

“We just want him to know that we’re all here to support him if he needs anything,” said Ryan Taylor, a senior on the team.

Unity flows through the Godwin Girls Volleyball team’s blood, as this group of girls has come together to up the morale for their coach.

“We’ve been trying to support Wakefield in whatever way we can. We’ve mainly done this through the spread of the GoFundMe,” said Taylor.

While he was upset that he could not pursue his lifelong dream of joining the AirForce, Wakefield is grateful that it allowed him to find something else that makes him happy. He is fully committed to continuing coaching at Godwin this year to complete his 10th season.

“I love what I do, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything if I can help it,” said Wakefield.

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