So today is national volleyball day…because apparently, that’s a thing. So I didn’t think I could let this day pass without acknowledging what this sport has done for my life.
It’s pretty hard to put into words the impact volleyball has had on my life, especially considering that is part of my vocation in life presently.
I started playing volleyball as a little girl, in large part, because my big sister Jennifer did. I wanted to be just like her and do just what she did, so it was a natural fit. When it became very clear she was really good at it, that was all the motivation I needed to work at it so I could be just as good as her too.
I can still remember going to watch her play at McAuley when I was a freshman and she was a senior and how insane I would feel in the stands cheering her on and watching her bounce balls between people’s feet who were standing on the 10 foot line…because, yes, that happened. When I think about it I still feel that same exhilaration I felt as a 14 year-old sitting in those stands cheering her on like a crazy person.
Jen was so good and so dynamic and fun to watch. My love for the sport grew from watching her teams play and motivated me to be on a team that was that good someday and to be the person making the big plays.
Another fond memory I have of watching Jen play was when she was a freshman at Iowa. I was all of 15 years old and I definitely got in a heated conversation with a college kid about how Jennifer was “hands down the best player on the team”. This guy disagreed and I had to tell him all of my reasons why he was incredibly wrong.
The memories I have playing this sport I love are vast and diverse.
They range from the time me and my teammates ran 47 suicide sprints in Robinson Gymnasium when it was 98 degrees outside…and by the way, Robinson didn’t have air conditioning. I still have flashbacks to hearing the word “again” and feeling like my legs were going to give out on me but standing next to my teammates refusing to give our coach at the time the satisfaction. We practiced for 2 hours after that by the way. It was awesome.
Or the time we won a state and national championship when I was a junior in high school…
Or the time we didn’t win a state championship…
There are so many memories…so many learning experiences. So many things I am grateful for and so many things about playing sports that are just plain awesome.
So in honor of this day and in honor of all the people I played with and against…. I have these things to say.
First, to my former teammates who I won and lost championships with…thank you for the role you had in forming me into the person I am today. Thank you for putting up with my crazy socks and my singing of Copacabana on our trips. It’s still one of my all time favorite songs and it brings me right back to Second City road trips and Chinese fire drills (Mary O’Connor and Anne McCord…I’m looking at you).
To my former college teammates. Thank you for the fun, the friendship and the blood, sweat and tears. I cherish my time as a Jayhawk and all of you are a part of those fond memories.
To my former opponents who challenged me to be my best and to work hard so my teams could beat yours…thank you. I like people who challenge me.
To my former coaches…all of you. Thank you for not excepting anything less than my best. Thank you for pushing me past where I thought I could be pushed. Thank you for doubting me at times…because I do believe that doubt is what made me who I am.
To all of the people I coach against. Thank you for becoming my friends and colleagues and for awarding me an opportunity to continue to compete. You all have an important and difficult job and I thank you for doing it the very best of your abilities.
To all the other “people” I’ve met because of this beautiful sport. The tournament directors, athletic directors and officials, parents of players from other teams, college coaches I’ve come in contact with through the recruiting process…you all challenge me every day to be my very best for you, for our girls and for our incredible sport.
To all of the young women we have coached…I love you. Truly. You were my first children and will always be part of our family. We are always here for you and we cherish you all.
To my parents…the biggest thank you must go to you. For all the time you sacrificed taking Jennifer and I to our practices, games and out of town tournaments. For all the money you spent putting us in club volleyball so we could pursue our dream of playing college volleyball. For all the support and love you gave us when we had our best…or worst game. Thank you for teaching and encouraging us both to be self advocates and making us deal with our own problems rather than solving them for us (this is a gift I didn’t truly appreciate until later in life). Thank you for being good sport parents (yes, Joe Bell did collect stat sheets and would whip them out on unsuspecting people at times) but…neither one of you yelled in the stands at coaches, refs, other players, or us. I can now appreciate how hard it is to sit in the stands getting bleacher butt having the stress of watching your own child perform and wanting them to do well and for their team to win that I have kids of my own. You did this well and you missed nothing we ever did. We had the best support from you both and I’m so grateful for that. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Volleyball has awarded me so many incredible moments…
From winning a state title as a player to doing it as a coach.
From signing my own letter of intent to watching our own girls sign letters of intent and live their dream of playing college volleyball.
From making some of my best friends to growing my network of friends now as a coach.
And without a doubt the most important thing volleyball has done for me is introduce me to the best man I’ve ever known and my now husband and partner in crime…Bryan Dorsey. So Jill Dorsey deserves a shout out because if she didn’t want to be a Jayhawk and didn’t bring her big brother to watch the Jayhawks play back in 2000 he may have never even known I existed. One day I’ll tell that story but it was KU Volleyball that brought Bryan and I together. For that I will be eternally grateful.
As much as I loved being a player and competing and I miss competing at that level but coaching has enriched our lives in so many more ways.
We’ve watched our players win awards and state titles but more importantly we’ve been with them when their hearts were broken or they married their best friend…we’ve seen them become mothers and we’ve been there when they buried someone they loved. And they’ve done the same for us. Our girls have come back to coach with us. I will never forget how our girls rallied together to pray to Our Blessed Mother Mary when our dad died at sub-state volleyball and was miraculously saved. I will never forget how two of our players, at the time, still in high school, showed up at our house about a week after Fiona was born and Gaga had had a heart attack with their moms, with food and demanding that we let them spend the night so they could hold our newborn Fiona so Bryan and I could get some sleep after a pretty stressful week.
I’ve met some of the best people I know in this sport and I’ve helped mentor some of the best kids I’ve ever known. These “kids” who we coached grow up and become our friends and our family.
I’ve watched our own children fall in love with this sport and the people we coach. I’ve seen their confidence grow simply because one of our players gives them the time of day and every single time it brings a tear to my eye.
This sport has blessed me in so many ways…
But perhaps the most important thing volleyball has done for me or did for me (other than introducing me to my hubby of course), especially when I was a kid…was it gave me an outlet, something I think is incredibly important for young kids. When I was sad or lonely or feeling less than I could go to practice and play a sport I loved with people I loved and trusted and all of that would fade away. It was and continues to be my sanctuary. A place I could let all my frustrations or worries go and simply just be good at something I happen to love.
In addition to this volleyball gave me strength, both physical strength (there was a time I couldn’t wear pants…seriously, my quads were intense) and more importantly emotional strength. It taught me how to win and how to lose with grace. It taught me how to work with others, even some I didn’t particularly get along with. It taught me how to fight for what I wanted and it taught me that sometimes when you fight your face off and try your hardest you still don’t get your way…and that this, isn’t the end of the world. It taught me how to love myself and my body, whatever it looked like (something I continue to work on everyday). It taught me to love exercise and to love to be active. It taught me so many things and for that…volleyball will always be the most awesome to me….
I’m going to close with this…this past week one of my official friends, Mark Karle died unexpectedly. This man had battled cancer and kicked it to the curb and something else entirely took his life. I never once went to a match where he didn’t make at least one call I questioned. But he never once climbed off that referee stand and treated me any differently. He was an awesome man who loved his family so much. I loved to hear stories about his kids and granddaughter all of whom, he was very obviously very proud of! In his passing, his family knew how important this sport was to him and instead of flowers they asked money be donated to the Mark Karle Memorial Volleyball Scholarship to be given to a deserving high school volleyball player who plans to go on to play at the next level. I can’t think of a better way to memorialize him. I will miss seeing him climb up that ladder and blow that whistle to get the game going. I will miss his laugh and the hug I would always give him whenever I saw him. He was a stud. A good man, good friend and he loved volleyball. Our community will miss him. Thank you for being part of my volleyball story Mark!
Below are just a few memories in picture form. I could have posted pictures all night long!
One of my most recent favorite volleyball memories, this December at the AVCA National Volleyball Convention. I was presenting and needed demonstrators to help show my drills. When I texted former players they not only showed up, some of them flew in/drove in (Hanna Forst, Morgan Voorhes) from a different state specifically just to help me. It was so much fun to have all of these former greats on my court again.
So many beautiful faces above of young women we had the pleasure of coaching over the years at Rachel Gray Joshi’s wedding! Such fun!