George Montilla’s day starts a little earlier than your typical college student.
Before most people have had their first cup of coffee, Montilla already has had breakfast, helped his wife Mery change and feed his two children, and even put in a few hours of work — all before arriving at Lehman for a 9:30 a.m. class.
Hectic mornings? You bet. And ones that grow more so with the arrival last month of daughter Genesis.
“Right now the baby gets up around 5, so when she gets up I get up,” said Montilla, who at 28 is the elder statesman of the Lightning volleyball team. “My wife feeds her and then we change her, and then we need to feed our 3-year old, Michael. Then it’s off to the shower.”
Montilla works as a driver for both Uber and Lyft to make some extra money while attending school. And as he wears many hats these days, he admits that juggling the roles of father, student, driver and volleyball player makes for a very full day.
“I go to class from 9:30 until 10:45, and then have another class from 11 to 12:15,” Montilla said. “Then it’s a small break, so I finish some homework. And then I have a class again from 2 to 3:15. After that I have a break for about an hour or two, so I use that to catch up on more homework, see the trainer, call home to see if anything is going on, and then I go to practice. So yeah, pretty hectic days.”
Montilla, who leads the Lightning in assists this season, gives a large part of the credit for how seamlessly his days flow to Mery, who handles all the logistics.
“Honestly I’d be lying to you if I told you I know how I make it all work,” Montilla said. “I don’t. It’s all from the support of my wife, my teammates and the coaching staff. My wife keeps a monthly calendar and she just jots down any appointments we have or any games I have and my class schedule so that’s how we coordinate. She’s the one who takes care of all the hard work.”
Mery also is the one who chased Montilla out of the house the night she and Genesis arrived home from the hospital, forcing him to go play in Lehman’s March 15 game against Medgar Evers.
“My wife is great,” Montilla said. “She was like, ‘Go release some stress and have a little fun.’ It’s great communication between my wife and I that makes it all work out.”
The Lehman volleyball team has become an extended family for the Montilla’s two young children, with Michael already being a regular fixture at games and Genesis making her debut at a recent road game in Springfield.
“Michael loves all the guys on the team and he knows them all by name, and they really do take care of him,” Montilla said. “It’s really like a family thing here, and everyone also loves my daughter. I brought her to Massachusetts when we played Springfield, and my teammates were all like, ‘Oh my God, she’s here, she’s here.’ It was pretty neat.”
As he and his Lehman teammates prepare for the City University of New York Athletic Conference tournament, Montilla thinks this could be the end of his volleyball career. Mery, he said, is scheduled to start attending Lehman in the fall, and he may have to step into a larger caretaker role.
“If all goes right I can graduate next semester and then hopefully I’m going into the master’s program in business management,” Montilla said. “I just have to see how that all works out because my wife is coming here next semester, so we’re trying to figure out if volleyball will still be in the picture for me.
“But if it turns out I can’t play, maybe I can become a volunteer coach or something like that. I just love the game so much.”
Montilla, a U.S. Army veteran who served for more than four years with a tour in Afghanistan, credits his time in the military with helping him focus not just on fatherhood, but also being a mentor to his much younger teammates.
“I’m the grandpa on the team,” Montilla said, laughing. “But I give thanks for the discipline I got in the military and all the training I learned. I think that has helped on the court because the guys look to me for leadership.”
And if this season does spell the end of Montilla’s volleyball career, just how far does he see the Lightning going in the CUNYAC tournament?
“I think we can reach the semifinals and perhaps the finals,” Montilla said. “Yeah, I think we have a very good shot.”