JB has often said that he believes people see themselves as if they were twelve years old. Even if they are five times that age now. I think there is really some truth to it. That picture above was in junior high. Seventh grade. Those are just days that were so "yucky" for me. I loved high school. I have good memories of my early elementary years. But I didn't love junior high, and I think, if I am honest, I often do still see myself as the girl in that #11 jersey even though I don't quite look like that on the outside anymore. This picture represents drama to me and quite honestly, doesn't feel me with the warm fuzzies. But let's talk for a minute about my first year of volleyball. I was decent. I don't have great recollection of that first year, but I know that I wasn't a superstar or anything like that. I contributed. I was a good team player. However, it was during my seventh grade year that I started playing club volleyball. Believe it or not, I can't find a single picture of my days playing club. I don't remember ever bringing a camera and that was before the days of digital photos. So even though I would play on that club volleyball team for five seasons, I don't have a picture. Club volleyball would start after basketball season ended -- at least for me. Many other girls started immediately upon the conclusion of high school volleyball. But I would play high school volleyball from August through October. Then I would play high school basketball from October through February. And then I would jump over to club volleyball from February through the August. (During the summer months I would also play AAU basketball, but more on that another day.) Club volleyball was a community team with paid coaches. You travelled and participated in tournaments all over the country. I played on the Boca Raton team even though it was a bit farther from my house than a few other teams simply because of its reputation. Club volleyball was expensive. It was a stretch for my parents. As I advanced in the program, the owner would really work with my parents so that I could keep playing. It was a sacrifice for my parents -- one they were making in the hopes that it would pay for my college education. In a way, it actually did, as even though I ended up choosing to play basketball in college, I know my volleyball helped me become the basketball player I was. So my first year of club volleyball paralleled my seventh grade season at school. I was decent. I contributed. But as the season went on, it become obvious to everyone that I was improving quickly. Everyone except the coaches (who were fired after this season due to their lack-of-coaching-prowess.) I remember feeling frustrated. I remember my Dad would just tell me to be patient. I started on the B team. This was the more inexperienced team. I played a lot on the B team, but as the season wore on, I had improved enough to be moved to the A team. It wasn't a judgment call. It had become an obvious call. However, the coaches were hesitant to bump the starting middle blocker out of her spot and move me there. As someone who has coached, I truly can relate to not wanting to rock the boat. I was patient, and the lessons I learned from that season stuck with me. I refused to make waves. I refused to complain -- not to my parents, not to my teammates, and not to my coaches. I just hung in there, kept practicing hard. And I waited. Eventually, I was moved to the "A" team. Our team went to the junior Olympics. I can vividly remember being taken out of a match to have someone replace me in the back row at one of the junior Olympic tournament games. After the game, the coach pulled me aside and told me that she was sorry. That she had made a mistake. I think I played nearly every second of every match from that point on in the tournament. Eighth grade volleyball was better than seventh grade. What I had learned in club had carried over, and I was definitely a better player and one of the better players on the team. My club season in eighth grade went much better. I was now a valuable member of the club team which would become important because eventually, as we all got older, they would eliminate the "B" and "C" teams and only allow members of the "A" team to be a part of their club. Because I was a valued member, I was also given the ability to start club season late so that I could play high school basketball. This was vital to me because playing both sports at the same time was just too much for me. (I tried it for short periods and would be unbelievably exhausted.) While my club team started practicing during my high school basketball season, I would join after the season was over. They knew I would be in shape and ready to go and I was a 6'3" middle blocker (not easy to come by.) So they let me slide. My club volleyball coaches were two women. I liked them, but man they were tough. Demanding. Fierce. It was intense. Nearly all the time. In ninth grade, I played varsity volleyball. The picture below was of that team. My father was the coach. I had played 8th grade basketball with most of these girls and with my father coaching me, so this wasn't anything new to me. I started on this team in the front row, but from what I can recall, I wasn't good enough to play back row for this team yet.
Some interesting things about the photo above. JB's sister, Elizabeth, is in the back row far left with her hair covering her number. The gal who made the quilt that is on my couch for my wedding is #9 (she is currently in the Peace Corps). All of these girls were seniors in high school except #5 who I believe was a junior. Everyone but #9 played basketball as well so we spent a lot of time together. Playing varsity sports at a younger age, transformed me. It transformed me because I gained the confidence to walk with my head high and not try to be shorter than I was. I stopped caring that some of my "friends" picked on me. I had all these older girls that were my friends. They included me. They looked out for me. They helped me to become the person I would become, simply by taking me under their wing. I desperately needed that. I was a 6'3" girl who was far from physically mature and all knees and elbows. I stood out in a crowd. They helped make that okay. Even at this age, I knew that while the world saw being tall as a good thing, it made people stare at me. They pointed at me. I worried that I would never have a boyfriend. Never get married. I didn't think I fit into the world around me. Anyways, volleyball continued for me. I would play each season with my high school team and then play each subsequent season with my club team. My high school team was always pretty good. We usually would finish as district-runners-up every season. We were almost always the second-best-team in the county. And I, subsequently, was always voted the second best player in the county by the two newspapers in our area: The Miami Herald and The Sun Sentinel. This was before online news. So hard copies of newspapers were the huge thing. Each year I would finish second in the running to a girl named Carolyn Cowling from American Heritage. I am not sure why I remember her, but I do. Probably because she beat me out every year. I went through my scrapbook and found one of the all-county pictures. I think this was for the Miami Herald. Carolyn is in the back left. That's me -- front and center as always.
During the course of my four years of high school I was a member of the All-Tournament-Team for the Glades Day Tournament (Freshmen and sophomore year). I made the All-Conference 1st Team (all four years). I made the All-County 1st Team Sun Sentinel (all four years). And I made the All-County 1st Team Miami Herald (all four years). Here's another picture of one of the teams I was on. I think this was my junior season. These gals were all my age or just one year older. By this time I was playing with girls my age.
Back row of this picture from left is: My Dad, Courtney (now living in South Carolina with her husband and two children), Rachel (who is a nurse in South Florida), Lisa (who reads my blog and has a husband and three gorgeous children), and Kelly (from Steg family). Front row from left is Marlea (I think she still works in South Florida), me, Laura (who is married and has a few step-children I believe), Angie (who works in D.C.) and Denise (who recently took over the head coaching at our old school and has two children I believe.) I would play "all the way around" on my high school team, even setting my senior year with Rachel graduated. However, my club team was much more specialized and competitive and I therefore only played front row. As my senior year started, my Dad asked me to make a choice. If I was going to play basketball in college, he didn't want to spend the money on another club season. So I thought about it. I thought about it all through my high school volleyball and basketball seasons. I thought about playing two sports in college, but it would be difficult to double-up with basketball in college since it is such a long season. I loved volleyball. Loved practicing it. Loved playing it. Loved it a lot more than basketball really. But I was better at basketball. I wouldn't be limited to just playing the front row in basketball. In addition, at the time, basketball was a much bigger sport across the nation. Volleyball was just coming onto the scene. Volleyball didn't rake in big crowds or school support. So I chose basketball. I will always wonder if I made the right decision. I'm not sure. But I made it. And I chose and still choose not to look back. The only time I ever considered doing anything different was in college, when talk of me red shirting emerged. (More on that later.) When that occurred, I discussed playing on the college volleyball team at WKU. But I let it die. Basketball was all-consuming. I couldn't add something else to my plate. I wonder if the reason I feel like I love volleyball so much is because I didn't play it in college. I'm not sure. I know I did burn out on basketball, and maybe, my memory is slightly warped because of that. I'm not sure, but either way, this post represents six years of my life -- fun times for sure! And lots of memories both on and off the court. I learned a lot playing club volleyball with all the public school kids. It took me out of my Christian school bubble. Believe it or not, the girls on my club team were pretty clean-cut. They swore. I think they drank some. But I never heard talk of drugs. They were athletes. While they did expose me to a different world, it was limited exposure. There were also always a couple of girls from Lake Worth Christian on the team who were my roommates and a little more "my style" of friends. But I got along great with the girls on this team. Believe it or not, there was never drama on my club team. It was really just fun. We traveled all across the country. We were good. We had fun. So that's that. Volleyball in a (rather large) nutshell. Next post will be basketball. Stay tuned!