Hu admits that she was extremely shy growing up.
“I was afraid to talk to anyone,” said Hu, who has twice traveled to China. “I was an only child, and combine that with growing up in a home with two parents that had just moved from China and that we spoke Chinese at home. I was always worried there was a language and culture barrier.
“I thought I was different. Teachers would write notes home to my parents saying, ‘Chelsea is a good kid, but she needs to use her voice more and it would help to participate in class.’”
Hu discovered an outlet in volleyball. She began to play the sport in an Andover elementary school program and then played club in middle school. By the middle of her sophomore year at Andover High, she was a member of the varsity team — sooner than she ever expected.
“We were playing our rival Central Catholic,” she remembered. “I had just played well in the JV game and was sitting on the sidelines relieved there was no way I was going to play in this big game. We were behind and I heard Coach Sullivan say, ‘Chelsea!’ I looked around and said, ‘What? Why is he saying my name?’
“I went in and everyone was a little confused. But I didn’t do as bad as I thought I would. After that, Coach Sullivan told me not to go to JV practice. He said I was on varsity permanently.”
Volleyball proved to be crucial in helping Hu break out of her shell.
“Volleyball helped a ton because it forced me to communicate,” said Hu, who is looking at Ivy League schools. “I couldn’t just sit there and be silent because I had to talk. Every point you have to call for the ball. You have to communicate with teammates and the coaches. That was when I really stepped out of my comfort zone and started talking to people.”