CEDAR RAPIDS — Author Harper Lee wrote, in Go Set a Watchman, “She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father.”
Roger Teeling’s love of his daughter, Brynn, was just this. Roger supported Brynn in any decision she made, including a tough one she made before this fall.
Brynn was one of the two senior managers for the state champion Xavier volleyball team in 2020. Brynn transferred to Xavier as a sophomore and had been a player on the team until this year when she decided to transition into the role of a manager.
“I have played volleyball for so long that I have gotten to the point where I am burnt out on playing,” Brynn said. “Instead of completely quitting, I decided to be a manager to stay involved because I love the game.”
Brynn’s mom, Shannon Keller, said seeing Brynn be part of something that is bigger than herself has been her favorite thing about Brynn’s volleyball experience.
The greatest role model Brynn has looked up to while fulfilling this position has been her dad, Roger. Tragically, in March of this year, he died unexpectedly from complications with a brain tumor.
“Losing someone during a pandemic is even harder (than normal) because it is complicated to process,” Brynn said. “During a time when nothing feels normal, it was really easy for me to be in denial for a long time. It is finally starting to set in now that we are in school.”
Although Roger is no longer here, Brynn knows he is always cheering her on.
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“My dad was my ultimate cheerleader, so I use him as my inspiration,” she said. “He was always there for me, so I try to do that for my teammates.”
The inspiration Brynn has from her dad shows through her actions on the court.
“One time I was having an extremely rough tournament and after every game Roger was there to give me a fist bump and tell me to keep working,” junior volleyball player Bella Musick said. “I see that in Brynn. She is always there, good game or bad game, to help us pick our heads up and to keep working.”
Soraya Teeling, Brynn’s stepmom who had been married to Roger for 12 years, said Brynn and Roger shared a special bond.
“Roger and Brynn shared a passion for sports. They were buddies,” Soraya said. “He never missed a game and it was effortless for him to be in her presence. I saw the most joyful version of him when she was near.”
When Roger attended one of Brynn’s games, everyone knew.
“My dad always yelled, ‘Let’s go!’ He had such a booming voice it filled up the whole gym,” Brynn said.
Even when he was not vocalizing it, his pride for Brynn was glowing on his face.
“He was so proud of her. He was always on the edge of his seat and quietly smirked with every kill or serving streak she had,” Soraya said. “I think his favorite was when the tournament had no place to sit so he could nervously pace or lean against a wall. Her joys and successes were air to his lungs.”
Through this very difficult time, Brynn, her younger sister Elena, Soraya and the rest of Roger’s family have been very grateful for the outpouring love and support they have received. Soraya said shortly after Roger died, 30 to 40 cars drove by to drop a smile, card or flower for Brynn. They also received countless cards with Hy-Vee gift cards letting them know they were in their prayers. Baskets were dropped off and there were many texts checking in on them.
“The Xavier community loves without expecting accolades for their kind gestures. They just love,” Soraya said.
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In the face of this adversity, Brynn has not cowered away by any means. She has been the definition of strength and faith and has been an inspiration to many, not only in volleyball, but in how she lives her life.
“Brynn has had a year that very few adults could handle, let alone young adults that are learning how to navigate challenges in life,” Xavier volleyball coach Austin Filer said. “There will always be hills and valleys when you lose a loved one.
“Brynn made the decision to be selfless and commit her time to our players and program. She comes in every day with a smile on her face and an attitude of being a servant.”
The Xavier volleyball team took inspiration from Roger and Brynn’s strong bond and honored him by having #TeelingTough on their warmup shirts.
“I was very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to meet and spend time with Brynn’s dad,” senior manager Grace Zaugg said. “I did not know him for very long, but he taught me so many life lessons. He was overall an outstanding guy.”
The memory of Roger Teeling will forever live on through his daughter and best friend Brynn and the amazing impact she has had on the lives of those around her, especially the Xavier volleyball team.