The Benchwarmer

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Being a benchwarmer ultimately led to my verbal commitment to Binghamton University my junior year of high school.

Though the gym was a comfortable seventy-three degrees, I shivered. Whistles chirped at odd intervals across the length of the gym. Cheering reverberated across the cold walls and snapped my attention back to the volleyball court in front of me. I tugged on my jersey’s sleeves until the ends were balled up in my slightly purple fists.

Brrr…

Self consciously, I sidestepped in front of the three teammates that clapped enthusiastically beside me. I sifted through the pile of warm up jackets on the chair adjacent to them until I spotted a label with a hastily written, “#13”.

That’s me, I thought.

The number didn’t stand a realistic chance of making the regular starting lineup sheet yet, but I felt a little flutter of pride all the same.

A few months earlier, I accepted an offer as an outside hitter on the top club volleyball team in the state of Wisconsin. Though I had experience as an integral part of my previous club and high school teams, I now found myself ridin’ the pine on a regular basis. Feeling deflated, I realized I had gotten accustomed to watching the sport I loved most from the sidelines.

***

My sophomore year at Binghamton University.


Being identified as a “benchwarmer” is not an easy concept for every athlete to learn. It doesn’t matter if you’re sixteen on a club volleyball team, twenty on a Division 1 team, or thirty on a professional team. It can be an intensely emotional experience, especially if communication between an athlete and coach breaks down.

After reminiscing about my club volleyball experience, I was curious to see how my colleagues’ experiences on the bench compared with mine. Admitting they weren’t always the star player or part of the starting lineup, many launched into personal recollections that included rejection, increased motivation, shame, confusion, and bitterness.

Even though I’ve been involved in athletics since the age of five, I never considered giving the psyche of the benchwarmer much thought. To me, it just seemed like a self-pity party I threw for myself on the sidelines as an angsty teen in high school. After more deliberation, I realized my time on the bench impacted my life more profoundly than I had previously given credit to.

The semifinal game at the America East Tournament. We won the championship game and received the automatic bid to go to the NCAA Tournament in 2012.


Two social psychologists from the University of Virginia had a similar interest into the psyche of the benchwarmer and decided to study the phenomena in more detail. In their article, “The Social Psychology of the Benchwarmer”, Robert J. Rotella and Douglas S. Newburg come to the conclusion that some benched athletes “may experience [an] identity crises, the impact of which may be long-lasting and far-reaching for them”. In their report, the psychologists also offer suggestions for athletes, coaches, and sport psychology consultants to help respond to these situations effectively.

Overall this article has great intentions which I can give credit for piquing my interest. On the flip side, the authors come to broad conclusions based on a small sample size of athletes from the late 1980s. It also may have been supplemental to mention the possibility of an athlete who can learn positive lessons while sitting the bench. As always, hindsight is 20/20.

While the combination of prolonged bench time and poor communication will not likely impact the athlete positively, a lack of playing time can serve as an opportunity for some athletes.

This in mind, I can find no better example than former Ohio State basketball player, Mark Titus (of blogsite Club Trillion). He scored nine points during his entire four-year career but established a way to become indispensable off the court. He served as a practice and “pump up” player to the starters that won an NCAA Championship. His book Don’t Put Me In Coach is hilarious account of his journey “from one end of the bench to the other”. I’d highly recommend it.

On a more personal level, my experience offered opportunities to learn valuable lessons that easily translated to the workplace. Now that I’m about three years removed from the volleyball court, I have the ability to see how my role as a benchwarmer during high school impacted my life on an athletic and personal level.

Signing day, my junior year of high school.


After spending time as a six-rotation, front row and practice player through both club and high school, I decided to verbally commit to a mid-major Division 1 school as a high school junior. Overjoyed, I verballed because there was an opening for a four-year starter at this prestigious university.

The offers I had from universities with more competitive volleyball programs didn’t offer a four-year starting position like Binghamton University (NY). Though it’s nice to be a part of a winning program, I decided I’d like to have an immediate impact as a freshman. Without my time on the sidelines, I can’t say with certainty I’d make the same decision again. This is definitely a positive takeaway I wish co-authors Rotella and Newburg took into account in their article.

During my later club volleyball years, sitting on the side was tough. I felt cheated and unimportant, but I will maintain those who coached me had valid reasons for playing others before me if I wasn’t on the court. To this day, I hold no bitterness towards any of the people who impacted my journey as a player, whether I played or not. Feeling like you’ve been rejected is a hard aspect to swallow, especially at the ripe old age of sixteen, but it’s something that offers countless opportunities to learn from.

Not only has my time on the bench impacted my life athletically, but also personally. It’s nice to be an integral part of a team, but it helps to learn humility and perseverance as a player. This translates well into the professional world and your coworkers (and anyone you encounter, quite honestly) will thank you.

Squad of 2013.


As my mother told me from a young age, you’ll find ninety-nine point nine percent of the time there will be someone out there more talented than you. Sometimes you’ll be the star, other times not. Whether this is true in the athletic, real world, or both, there can be many opportunities to grow from.

If I could go back in time and tell my 16-year-old self anything, it would be to 1.) stop using so much eyeliner, 2.) invest in Apple, and 3.) let this time on the bench serve as motivation, not a sign you’re not good enough.

This isn’t to say every coach will have reasonable cause for keeping one athlete on the bench as opposed to another. As I’m sure we’re all aware, coaches are also human. Some humans have better intentions than others, but sports have seasons that end. This lesson certainly comes in handy in the real world while dealing with difficult managers and bosses. As my college sports psych professor often claimed several times per class, “sports are a microcosm of society”.

I had to include this photo, grainy or not. I’m now living in Providence so it’s a small coincidence!


In the short term, riding the pine may seem disappointing. Long term, I can say it eventually made me a stronger person and helped determine where I’d be happiest during my undergraduate degree. It’s exciting to be a starter or to feel important, but there’s also a chance to grow while off the court. What you learn through athletics often translates well into the professional world. I can definitely vouch for this!

Whenever you’re feeling bummed out about playing time, just remember you have the power to make what you can out of a situation. Sports have seasons, seasons end, you grow older and your knees and back will sometimes fail you. It’s times like these when I appreciate the lessons I learned on the bench more than I could’ve realized when I was sixteen. Though a very slim amount of players can say they aspire to sit on the bench if given the chance to be on the court, it’s not always a bad place to be.

Ride that pine with pride, athletes!

#12 was my favorite player to play against. She now coaches at University of Albany.


A Reflection on My Sister and My Time Together as Humans: She’s Old AF Now

It was March 17th, 1995 and let me tell you, it was a day that would change my world forever. The British freakin’ pound hit 2.4545 to the Dutch gilder (a record!), a few weeks ago Jodi Foster won Most Dramatic Motion Picture, and I had just belted out TLC’s “Creep” in the car on the way to the hospital. Swag money! I was three years old and had never felt so alive.

The buzz I had been feeling as I took a swig out of my ladybug sippy cup was all feels, man. It was the 90s and I had been living it big. Peep my Oshkosh B’Gosh overalls! I heard Michelle on Full House had the same pair!

I was suddenly jolted out of my haze of good vibes as my grandpa pulled me by the hand. We stepped out of the elevator and into a wide, bustling hall. Did I hear babies crying? I looked over at Grandma who was carrying a small sized one-year-old Logan (he’s now 6’4″). My little brother always bawled his face off before he threw up. We called him “Up-Chuck” at home because he literally couldn’t keep his mashed green beans down. What a waste. Green beans are so bitchin’.

“Kristin, are you excited to meet your little sister?” Grandpa asked as he patted me on the back. Grandma followed in tow, fussing over Logan.

I took a long pull on my apple juice thoughtfully, enjoying the attention.

“Yeah, yeah. Logan is all right even though he never seems to respond to the books I read him. He just farts on me instead of having an academic discussion about Barney’s ability to play the trumpet. In my humble opinion-”

Grandpa grunted, “Aww, good stuff. Good stuff.”

He pushed his way around the curtain in a room off to our left and I followed haphazardly. Where were we going? I loathed hospitals. Where were mom and dad?

I poked my head around Grandpa’s legs.

Soft pale pink walls enveloped the bed Mom was chillin’ in. Dad sat alongside her bed and was preoccupied with whatever Mom was holding in a fuzzy blanket. As we shuffled in, Mom and Dad both looked up and smiled.

“Come meet Allison Paige,” Mom said.

What.

I eyed the bundle she held very suspiciously. If this thing was anything like Logan, it was going to be quite the attention-sucker, I thought. I took a deep breath, took another pull on my apple juice (for courage), and peered over the edge of the bed.

The mini human had bugling, closed eyes and small tufts of hair strewn about her little head. Instantly, I was captivated. I would be the best big sister ever, I told myself.


Fast-forward many years later, and that little burrito in the blanket is now twenty-one years old. She’s now going to have her Senior Night for volleyball in a few days and would now make a much larger burrito. Her eyes are no longer bugling, her hair grew in, and she’s stunningly pretty now.

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Look at how fabulous we’re being! LYLAS! Sisterz!

Though I’d love to say I honored my wish to be the best big sister ever, there have been quite a few times where I know I could’ve been a better one. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, my sister and I had some trials and tribulations, especially when we were in the midst of our Chemical Romance/Fall Out Boy teenage years. She once broke into my LOCKED treasure chest to get into my diary to find out who I liked. After awhile, I sensed she knew who my crushes were (<3 Alex ❤ and ❤ Mason <3) and I wrote to her in my own diary to let her know I knew…she knew. I’d retaliate and break into her diary and make fun of her for liking ❤ Jeff <3. It was the best of times!

Even though I sometimes doubt I’ve been the best sister to her, I know I can always make her laugh and I live for it. I still brag to anyone who will listen that I once made her laugh so hard during a game of foursquare that she peed her pants. Lovingly, I then forced her to get the hose to spray off the pee from the “Baby” square. Oh, the irony.

Another one of my favorite memories of us doing hoodrat stuff is the day our brother, Logan, ripped his leg open on a tree in the backyard. Alli and I were taking disposable photographs of our cats in various doll clothing (this is something I should probably tell my therapist) when our Mom yelled at us to stay in our room. Naturally, we wanted to see what was up. Unbeknownst to us, Logan’s leg lay grotesquely cut open in the kitchen a few feet away and our Mom didn’t want us to see and accelerate the situation any further.

Naturally, as anyone else would’ve done, I grabbed Alli and we both started screaming hysterically. We ran back to our room, I snatched the Youth Bible laying on the floor, and ran into the bathroom and locked Alli and myself inside. We continued to scream in the bathtub and clutched the Bible like it was a buoy keeping us afloat.

Weirdly, Jesus himself didn’t answer our prayers and come down from the heavens to join us in the shower. I wonder why. Several minutes later, Logan was on the way to the ER and Alli and I felt as though it was safe to unlock the bathroom door and venture out.

It’s memories like this that make me feel so #blessed to have Alli.

Not only did we have the chance to scream in a bathtub together in the early 2000’s, but we had the opportunity to play volleyball together for four and a half years. I grew up as the bigger, taller, and “I got a letter from Texas my sophomore year of high school” type recruit* while she was continually told she was “too short” to play D1 (this should make anyone angry, Alli is 5’9″). Alli was always the level-headed player while I could become a different person at the flick of a switch. Alli was a solid passer, great digger, and had a great jump-float serve (when she graduated she held the record at our high school). She could also still hit a ball inside the ten foot line no problem. On the other hand, I was more of a “just blocking and hitting”-type player. I’d be angry if every ball I hit didn’t land inside the ten foot line. Alli would play six rotations, I would play three. Alli is the type of player you can always count on to both perform on the court as well as lead on and off the court. You could count on me to either play out of my mind or completely self-implode.

Though we were two different molds of players, we played for the same high school and eventually, the same Division 1 school. Not to my surprise, she enjoyed great success at Binghamton University. Her Freshman year, she earned a place on the America East All-Rookie Team. Alli’s Sophomore year, she followed up a great Freshman year with All-America East First Team honors. Her Junior and Senior season have been riddled with injuries but every time I’ve talked with her, she’s remained positive despite discouraging circumstances. She’s been a two-year captain and finishes off a storied career with 569 kills and 458 digs in just two years, holds a career high of a 19 kill match and has recorded numerous double-doubles over the course of her Freshman and Sophomore years. Her height hasn’t stopped her in the slightest and I couldn’t be more proud of Alli as both a player and my sister.

Though we’ve each gone through our own personal struggles, we each know we always have each other’s backs in the end.

So even though I once skeptically looked at a little burrito Alli swaddled in blankets at the hospital, I couldn’t be more happy to have her as my sister and best friend. In fact, I’m not even embarrassed to be Facebook official as her sister! She’s come a long way from reading my diaries and peeing on the pavement during foursquare games and there isn’t a single day that goes by where I don’t think God I have her.

Here’s to celebrating your senior year, Al Bob. Thanks for being the calming presence to my hot mess-ness. I love you to pieces!

xxx

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The happy sibz circa 2013~

*It was my sophomore year, Texas always has a huge budget and can send many, many letters out to recruits so don’t read into this and think I was ever capable of playing here. The point is that several Division 1 schools began sending me mail my freshman and sophomore year just as they did with many other players at this age.

 

 

 

 

Retired Life: Now That Volleyball Is Done, How Can I Possibly Exercise If I Hate It?! More Angst From the Mind of a 22 Year Old

Ah, the retired life. Filled with leisure, going to bed at 8pm, and drinking decaf coffee…

Or nah.

So as you (who either know me or have stalked my Instagram- @kristin_hovie omg follow me! <3) may know, my collegiate volleyball career ended late November. My fellow teammates and I swagged out for four games then fell to U-Albany, who we previously beat in 2012 to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. But do not fret! I was not upset over the loss, as I had “bigger and better plans”.

Namely, not working out for a solid month in spite. Even though I needed time off to mend a torn ab, I did not make any attempt to exercise other than chasing after a bag of Doritos that had blown away in the wind one day. I despised working out. I could not ever leave the gym without beating myself up for not working out hard enough. I never completed enough sprints, I didn’t sweat enough, and I certainly didn’t want to fight grown ass men for a rack so I could at least attempt a few futile squats. Blah blah blah blah. I made up countless excuses and believed that I either would need to nearly pass out to feel like I did something, or just not go to the gym at all.

I completely realize beating myself up and thinking in “black and white ” is flawed. Avoiding working out simply because I didn’t want to feel bad about myself (which is ironic, because not working out led me to having terrible body image anyway) was a lose-lose situation. I’ve struggled with this for awhile. Because I’m bipolar, working out can sometimes be a struggle for me. I’m not professing this to the world for sympathy- honestly, if you played a sport with me, this diagnosis makes a loooooot of sense (smacking myself during practice for not passing a ball perfectly, repeatedly running to the bathroom to cry, bouts of hyperness where I can’t shut up, etc). I say this instead, as a way to connect with others who feel the same way about working out. I know I’m writing for a very small audience here, but if I can help anyone out there, I will have considered myself successful.

This past December, I tried to make some changes. (Eh mah gawd! Here comes the turning point- buckle up!) I’m sick and tired of feeling shitty about my body and not doing anything about it out of fear that I’ll never measure up to my own or someone else’s standards. My mom has always told my sister and I to try and eat healthy foods 80% of the time, eat as much leafy greens as possible, work out, and however you look as a result is how you’re meant to be. I could work out like nuts and eat super healthy, but I’ll never, ever look like Candice Swanepoel or Alessandra Ambrosio. It’s just how I am built and I think my mom has a great point in saying what she did. (See her own blog here!)

As many college students do while home on break, I spent a shit-load of time on my computer. I then Googled various ways to exercise for inspiration. I knew I wanted to begin running distance but hated straight up running on the treadmill for 50 minutes, I wanted to commit myself to a daily ab routine, and would like to incorporate weight lifting and/or circuits as well. My search led me to several different bloggers who I follow on as many social media sites as possible. These bloggers were enough to inspire me to work out- they filled their blogs with images of running on the beach in Monaco, doing CrossFit classes in Stockholm, and skiing in Japan. They appeared to be having so much fun working out, eating good food, and traveling. Seeing their Instagram pics of their morning workouts helps me get out of bed every morning to go work out myself- and I don’t dread it in the slightest! Here are my top 3 bloggers:

1.) Janni Delér: 20 something year old Swede who travels all over the world and frequently blogs about her workouts. She has some amazing pictures too that serve as my daily workout (and also fashion) inspo.

2.) Blonde Ponytail: Jess Allen, a badass former softball player at Stanford and former softball coach at Creighton is a NSCA-CSCS cerified personal trainer who has some really challenging workouts that are NEVER boring! I often have to simplify many of her workouts because they are too hard- she has workouts you can do at home, at the gym, on the treadmill…etc.

3.) Alexandra Bring: another 20 something year old Swede who serves as my daily work out inspo. She used to be overweight, then became anorexic, and now trains HARD and has her own line of fitness paraphernalia. She has an amazing backstory. Her blogs are mostly pictures and writing in Swedish, but I love seeing how positive she is about working out.

Top left going clockwise: Alexandra Bring, Blonde Ponytail, and Janni Delér.

Top left going clockwise: Alexandra Bring, Blonde Ponytail, and Janni Delér.

As for what I do now to work out, I’ve found a workout system that works best for me so far and I always keep it subject to change. My brother gave me his cross-country team’s ab routine (here) that I do three times/week as well as their circuit/weight routine that I do twice/week (here) that also includes abs.

The Ab Routine and Circuits: I do the circuits on Tuesday/Thursdays with 45 min of cardio. I do the abs Monday/Wednesday/Friday in addition to an hour of cardio. Courtesy of Macalester Athletics.

The Ab Routine and Circuits: I do the circuits on Tuesday/Thursdays with 45 min of cardio. I do the abs Monday/Wednesday/Friday in addition to an hour of cardio. Courtesy of Macalester Athletics.

I also like to throw in some of the Blonde Ponytail’s workouts (this one here kicked my ass the other day). Altogether, I work out six times a week. Each day I do an hour of cardio (or 30 min when I have lift/circuits twice a week), 20 minutes of abs, 5 minutes of toning exercises (also from the Blonde Ponytail), and 5 minutes-ish of stretching/yoga poses. It may sound like a lot, but I like to mix up my cardio. One day I’ll swim, the next I’ll do a spin class or sprints/recovery runs. By the end, I’m usually beat and ready to go home and drink some tea and have toast with avocado.

An example of the cardio I'll do with toning exercises I do before abs. Courtesy of blondponytail.com

An example of the cardio I’ll do with toning exercises I do before abs. Courtesy of blondponytail.com

This is what I’ve found works for me. I make sure I surround myself with positive influences on social media, eat healthy 80% of the time (the other 20% I usually eat a burger and fries or Taco Bell much to my mom’s dismay), and forgive myself when I’m not able to push myself as hard as some other days. I guess we will see how this goes, I’ve always been one to make big goals for myself and not follow through all the way (damn manic stage) but this time I’m feeling a little better about myself.

I know this post was a little less funny than some of the others, but next post will be funnier, promise. I’m thinking about incorporating some of the entries of my 7th grade diary wherein I signed off as “ACE” and wrote about the angst of not knowing whether my crush knew I loved him because I made eye contact with him that one time… Until then,

KH/*ACE*

High School Teenage Angst & College Athletics: My Experiences & Advice from the Recruiting Process and 10 Years of Volleyball

My many years of volleyball all located on this crudely done…thing. See yourself? Sweet. Don't see yourself? We probably never wore spandex together on the court.

My many years of volleyball all located on this crudely done…powerpoint thing. See yourself? Sweet. Don’t see yourself? We probably never wore spandex together on the court- but we could if you wanna swag out and play bar league with me. ❤

Hey you- before you read this and start disagreeing with my extremely angsty yet good-intentioned advice, know that this is MY specific experience. Take it for what it’s worth. Though I think quite highly of myself and think of myself as a superkewlsuperfunsuperawesome person, I am not God and therefore do not claim to be right in everything I’m saying. This is just MY experience- 10 years worth. If you disagree with me- fine. If you don’t, please share this with anyone you know who could use some insight into the recruiting world.

My friends and I occasionally reminisce about the colleges we dreamed about signing with when we were young and optimistic 16 year olds.

“I remember getting letters from Georgetown and UConn…I visited both and it was always between me and one other girl. The other girl always got the call.”

“I got a letter from Texas when I was a sophomore in high school…I knew they were a huge school with a big budget that could send letters to thousands of girls, but that didn’t make it seem any less real or exciting at the time.”

Then we would all laugh, half cursing and half thanking the volleyball gods who brought us to a mid-major university located in upstate New York. We were born in the Midwest, a proverbial hotbed for coaches to recruit from, and we had all signed our National Letters of Intent senior year, after verbally committing our junior year of high school.

There is a predictable formula in the volleyball recruitment world: play year round, make constant calls and send emails to at least five college programs, and panic over how much money we would be offered. After all, our parents spent nearly the equivalent of a college’s tuition on club volleyball- shouldn’t we somehow be reimbursed? It seemed only fair.

After playing a D1 sport for four years, I have finally come to terms with the fact that fairness is not reality in this particular world. The recruiting process is fraught with disillusions. Luckily, my parents took charge, and dragged me (unwillingly, at the time) through the process. As much as I wanted to play volleyball in college, I was not as eager to work the process. Fortunately, they encouraged me to look at the “bigger picture”. And because I did, I will be graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree from the 10th best public university in the nation without any debt (according to the Princeton Review).

Even though my situation turned out better than I could have ever dreamed, the recruiting process was long, painful, and full of tears for me. Sitting on the piano bench in our front room, I stressed over being 900 miles away from home in order to attain a full scholarship and a good education. I was unsure of my major. Did I want to pursue Studio Arts or English? I was under the impression that my major would determine the job I would get after college. I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I was only sixteen.

I wish I could go back and tell myself everything would be fine- great, even. I’ve learned so much from my recruitment experience and from my decision to play away from home. I wish someone would have shared the unglamorous side of playing college sports.

No one ever told me that college sports were a business, or about the significant turnover rate of college coaches. So here, I give you a list of some of important lessons learned throughout my high school and college volleyball experience. This is what I wish I would have known when I was sixteen:

  • Realize how realistic your opportunity is to receive a full or partial scholarship. Big universities like Wisconsin, USC, and Florida have fully funded volleyball programs- they can offer 12 full scholarships. The scholarships can be divided up or used whole. Mid major schools have 8 full scholarships. In volleyball, it is rare to see full scholarships given to defensive specialists or liberos. Scholarships are usually reserved for hotshot hitters and setters and are typically offered sophomore and junior year of high school. Smaller Division 1 schools tend to offer spring of junior year or into fall of senior year at the latest. Have realistic expectations about your height. There are exceptions (think Deme Morales hitting outside for Wisconsin rostered at 5’7”), but chances are, a big school will not offer a roster spot to a 5’6” hitter at a D1 school.
  • Figure out how big of a role you want to have on a team. Sitting out and warming the bench for two years during club taught me a very important lesson: playing time was crucial to me. When I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go, I eliminated anyone who told me I would not be a four-year starter. When I committed to Binghamton, I was told they were looking for a four-year starter. Both coaches told me this on my first visit. Even so, nothing is guaranteed. A coach can bring in another scholarship player or transfer who could take your spot. It’s a highly stressful situation to be in constant competition for a position. If you are recruited your senior year of high school and given no scholarship, chances are you will need to work hard just to see any court time by the time you are a junior or senior.
  • Have some perspective- you may be the best player in your area but remember once you commit you’ll be in a large pool of talented athletes. Being recruited and committing while in high school is “cool” and an honor. You may receive more attention as a result. Unfortunately, this sometimes goes straight to an athlete’s head and they become cocky. I’ve seen this too many times to count- even in myself. I am extremely embarrassed to admit this, but I carried myself as if I were better than the players on other teams I played. Playing in college deflated my head- after playing teams like Penn State and UCLA I realize I’m just one of thousands of players who were good in high school. In saying so, I have enormous respect for high school and college athletes who are grounded and realize that their scholarship is a privilege (not to say I didn’t think having a scholarship wasn’t a privilege, because I did). After all, playing in high school or collegiately only lasts for so long before you need to move on.
  • Choose a school that fits your academic needs and desires. Your primary goal should be obtaining a degree. Please, dear God, do not choose a school solely on athletics. Only the best collegiate volleyball players go on to playing professionally. Choose a school in which you can earn a degree. Volleyball has to end at some point. Athletes are often pushed towards universities that are not the best fit for them (think of the basketball players who read at a 5th grade level at UNC…yikes). In my case, I could have chosen to play at a school that had a great volleyball program and an average ACT score of 20, or an ivy league with a decent volleyball program. I chose the middle ground and could not be happier with my decision.
  • Choose which Division is best for you and where you’ll be truly the happiest. Division 1 is not for everyone. Some kids strive to go to a Division 1 school just because it is “Division 1” and miss out on opportunities to be happier and get more playing time on a Division 2 or 3 team. A kid from my high school signed to play Division 1 soccer and then later decided he wanted to play basketball instead and went Division 2. I think it is so cool that he didn’t care about the “glamour” of being able to say, “I play D1”, and did what he felt was right for himself.
  • Get to know the coaching staff but be aware that the staff is subject to change. When I first met my current head coach, I knew he cared about his players on AND off the court. If a player were injured, they would be able to resume their position when healthy. Some coaches will instead replace you and not renew your scholarship if you do not improve. Also realize your coaching staff could change. A couple months after I committed to Binghamton, I received an email from the assistant coach at the time letting me know that she would be accepting a coaching job elsewhere. I was shocked and somewhat disappointed, as she was one of the reasons I committed. I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Because college sports are a business, the turnover rate for assistant and head coaches can be somewhat fast. Assistant coaches at small mid-major schools tend to sign a contract for a short amount of time and leave after they accept another job- often a step up from their previous job. I’ve also had coaching staffs recruit me only to leave their respective school and drop me instantly. The coaching staff at any school is subject to change- I’ve seen a new coach come into a program and purge the previous scholarship players and bring in his own players. Situations like this aren’t common, so don’t worry too much, but keep this in mind while on visits and also be aware of the turnover rate. I have had two great assistant coaches throughout my career and an awesome head coach who will be entering his 17th season this next fall.
  • Everything will be okay. I find it extremely necessary to reinforce this point because it is true in 99.9% of cases. I’ve seen a previous team mate get dropped by the team she verbally committed to her sophomore year only to bounce back at another school and earn AVCA All-American honors and break countless records. The recruiting process may seem hard and test your sanity but trust your instincts and remember that college volleyball is only four (or five) years of your entire life.

Now that I’m a “retired” athlete, I can look back and gain perspective on how the recruiting process and college volleyball changed my life for the better. The recruiting process was like a game to me. I felt as though I were “leading on” several schools just so I didn’t get “screwed over”. Keep your options open, and commit once your choice school offers. Play the game by the rules and you will succeed, I was correctly taught.

Volleyball has had an enormous impact on my life, and I have no regrets. I’ve made friends from all over the world (yes, the world). I’ve learned time management.

I’ve experienced the highs and the lows: crying in bathroom stalls (multiple times), and laughing uncontrollably with teammates. I’ve traveled across America, lost an NCAA tournament game against Penn State, and created lifelong friendships and connections because of this sport.

I would not trade my experience for the world. Though I was ready to move on by my senior season, I do not regret sticking with volleyball till the end. Volleyball has provided me with the biggest life lessons of all: everything does turn out okay and someday I’ll be able to really ball out in bar league volleyball.