THE GRIND presented by Carolina Grove: From stranded in Sumter to volleyball stardom, Gamecocks' Young shines on the court


As so many families in Sumter are, Ahmarie Young is a military kid. She spent her childhood moving around the world, and those experiences eventually brought the Lady Gamecock senior to Sumter. That move to South Carolina, however, came sooner than planned.

Young was originally just visiting Sumter from her temporary home near Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany when COVID-19 struck in the spring of 2020, transforming a visit to her mom and sister into an impromptu move.

"My mom and my sister had moved from Germany because her DROS (date returned from overseas) was up, and I wanted to stay in Germany," Young said. "I wanted to come visit Sumter because I'd be moving in July. We took a military flight, so we left from base, and we had no idea about COVID or anything. It was new. They did have us sign a release form saying there was a virus going around, but that was it. We had no idea when we came that we'd get stuck."

Young is no stranger to moving around. She's lived in multiple states along with stints in Japan and Germany. Her father, Shontay, is retired from the Air Force, while her mom, Ashaunette Pollard-Young, is active duty in the Air Force. She was steeled for the concept of constantly moving and needing to make new friends at a young age.

"Being a military kid is tough. I had to mature real quick because my mom was deployed, and every birthday from 6 to 10 she was gone. I had to help my dad out with my sister, and my brother was moving out to go to college," Young said. "Moving every four years, it sucks because your friends, you get to know them for four years and then you leave them. It's kind of hard to make attachments as a military kid because you meet someone and you're like, 'Yeah, you're only going to be in my life for four years.'

"But I wouldn't change it. Seeing Japan, seeing Germany, being able to experience all that, I wouldn't trade it for anything."

But the move to Sumter was different. Young didn't have a chance to say proper goodbyes to her friends at Ramstein because she was supposed to come back home before making the permanent move. She missed out on a trip to Greece and having a big going away party with friends. She felt trapped in her early days in Sumter.

"I had to explain to everyone that I wasn't coming back, but it was nice knowing them. I didn't plan on moving for two months, and there was still things I wanted to do," she said.

One thing Young was able to cling to was volleyball. She started playing the sport around the age of 8, but it wasn't her original choice of sport. Young originally tried out for a local soccer team but didn't make the cut, so she decided to give volleyball a go.

"I had a group at my church that held a camp for young kids - I was only 8 at the time - and I was like, 'Well if I have to find another sport.' It was actually natural when I went out and played, so I just stuck with it," she said.

Volleyball wasn't the easiest choice for Young.

When she moved to Germany in sixth grade, middle school volleyball wasn't an option. Her only way to keep playing was to join a high school team. That talent jump was a challenge, but it forced her to develop quickly on the court.

"It grew my fundamentals a lot because you have to pick it up quick because these girls have been playing for years," she said. "It helped me develop a lot quicker. By the time I was a freshman, I was starting varsity, so it actually helped out a lot."

Years of playing volleyball in Germany only made Young's passion grow. When she got to Sumter, it was her top priority. Unfortunately, the world was closing down because of the pandemic, so she wasn't sure where to start. That's where Sumter High and Sumter Juniors head coach Heath Griffin stepped in.

"When I got here, my main focus was volleyball," Young said. "I was going to stay here, and I had to figure out what's going to be next. Gyms were closed. There was nothing. Thankfully, my mom found an ad on Facebook for Sumter Juniors. I came to an open gym, and that's when Heath came and asked me to come to practice with the 18's team.

"Thank God (I found the Sumter Juniors). I'm thankful every day that happened because it would've been very rough if I didn't have volleyball to get me out of that mentally. I was very focused on wanting to go back to Germany to see my friends. I didn't want to live here. I wasn't ready to just come here and be stuck. It took a long time to transition to that mentally."

Young had some time to sort out which school she would attend because by the time she got to Sumter, it was too late to transfer. As a result, she spent the remainder of the spring semester on Zoom calls with her school at Ramstein. She then caught on with the Sumter Juniors and traveled with the team to nationals.

Originally, Young was going to attend Crestwood High School. Her sister, Nadiya, enrolled at the school before the entire family's impromptu move, so Young planned to follow her. That decision quickly changed after Young spent time with the Sumter Juniors.

"Then Heath said he was the coach at Sumter High, and everyone told me Sumter High was the school to go to for volleyball," Young said. "I saw all of the girls that played for Sumter High, and I knew it was the school to go to."

Young then had to make a transition to South Carolina volleyball during a very confusing time. She wasn't able to have an offseason with the Lady Gamecocks, but she was able to get to know some of her teammates through the Juniors. That helped ease a quick transition, but it wasn't a breeze. Sumter had four practices as a team before diving right into region play. Young shined for Sumter, hitting for a .331 average with 51 aces and 92 digs, but the team missed the playoffs after going 11-13.

Last season was made more important for Young because she developed aspirations of playing college volleyball. Her teammates and coaches in Germany didn't have the ability to propel Young to an American college, but at Sumter, she was suddenly surrounded by teammates who were pushing to extend their playing careers. With a sudden desire to play in college, Young had to scramble to get coaches to notice her.

"I really did not know anything," Young said of her recruiting knowledge upon moving to Sumter. "I came here, and Heath told me he used to coach at a college and other girls wanted to play in college, and I realized I wanted to play in college. I noticed that I was a little late in the game, so I was really focused on getting film."

Young isn't quite as behind as she thinks, as the Sumter senior has already garnered attention from Johnson and Wales in Charlotte and Columbia International, among other schools. She's hoping she'll be able to catch the attention of a few more schools with a strong senior season.

"I've only been here for a year, so it's really hard to be like, 'I'm here, notice me.' I'm really trying to put my name out there," she said.

Young is excited for her senior year at Sumter. One of the main reasons is that she'll finally get some of the closure that she's been looking for during the last year and a half.

Her mom surprised her with plans for a trip back to Germany in May. The perfect graduation present.

"Thankfully, they're still there," Young said of her friends at Ramstein. "I'm so excited to go back. That's my drive for this year."