SAN ANTONIO — It's easy to see why Fredericksburg junior Avery Stephens stands out. 

"When people first watch Avery play it's like, 'oh, how does she do that?'" Fredericksburg volleyball coach Jason Roemer said.

For parents Todd and Genna, they know nothing in life has ever been handed to their daughter.

"What she has over so many athletes is she is so mentally tough. She won't take crap from anybody," Genna said. "Very true," Todd quickly added.

That's how it has always been for Avery.

"I have to work double as hard just to show people--when I walk in a room people are probably like, she can't play," Avery said.

She knows no other way.

"Born with one arm, born with one-and-a-half limbs basically, it's just never been something new...people always say it's a disability, it is, but it isn't. There's nothing I haven't been able to do," Avery said.

According to the CDC, roughly 1,500 newborns are limb-different. Growing up, Avery let others worry about how

She just did it.

Avery handstand
Avery Stephens was actually quite the gymnast starting at four years old. Eventually, Avery got too tall and switched sports when growing up.
Todd Stephens

"We spent weeks and weeks and weeks trying to figure out how to tie our own shoes with one hand. What was it kindergarten? She came home and said Dad look what I can do!" Todd said.

Avery said, "I was the first person (in her class) to tie their shoe. By myself. Nobody taught me."

Her father continues to reflect, "She does that all the time. Yes, she's unique in this community, but she just adapts to everything,"

Avery's volleyball coaches quickly learned this, as well.

"I remember when she came to camp as a freshman we did a drill where you play and if you make an error you're off, and it was Avery vs. six and she ended up winning," Battlin Billies JV volleyball coach Jamie Kneese said.

Roemer added, "She's just been in the gym playing and her constant desire to improve, those kids that go onto college they all have that similar trait."

She stands out, all right. 

"I just committed to Hendrix volleyball in Arkansas," Avery said. "It's a Division III school, but it's a high-level Division III school and I'm excited to play there."

Genna said, "It never crossed my mind she would be able to play in college. That was beyond the realm of possibility for me."

Avery has spent her entire life equalizing her abnormality. Now, she's learning to embrace her difference as she trains for a pair of Paralympic volleyball teams.

"I've never been around that many people like me," Avery said laughing. "It was just crazy because they were all doing the same stuff I am. They're adapting to everything else and just having fun with it."

Every town deserves an Avery because it's never about how?

"Literally nothing is impossible so I want to do that in my future. Show everybody you can do anything," Avery said.

She just does it.

Avery Stephens Tennis
Avery Stephens plays multiple sports. Avery (left) and mixed tennis partner Blake Boubel (right) lost in the 2019 state semifinals in College Station.
Todd Stephens

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