Originally published circa 2015 for Personal Player Development Magazine with Mark Robinson. My story isn’t one filled with “success”, National Championships or Division l glory, but rather one with struggles with self-confidence, mental battles and countless “almosts”. My story starts with a gangly 12-year-old girl, awkwardly standing at 5’9” and weighing a mere 110 pounds. She came from a small farming community of 800 people in the Eastern Plains of Colorado with a graduating class of 15.
~ ~ ~ Coming from such a small school, there was no doubt I stuck out. Not only was I freakishly tall and skinny, but I also had strong features: a sharp nose, big ears, high cheekbones, broad shoulders and a tiny head. This alone made me the object many jokes and cruel comments.
Things didn’t get better in middle school when I started playing sports. Playing sports in a small town is quite different than it is in the bigger schools. There are no “try-outs” or club teams, if you want to play you make the team regardless of your skill level. In fact, our school was so small that if everyone DIDN’T go out for the team, we didn’t HAVE a team. As a basketball player in junior high I was expected to play the center position, but I just lacked the “meat” to stand my own ground. In volleyball, I simply didn’t have the coordination or control over my limbs.
Then, in 7th grade I had an opportunity of a lifetime. I was scouted by a model agent in Denver, Colorado and went on to win several modeling competitions in Los Angeles and New York. Modeling was a huge confidence booster for me because the industry loved the very things I hated. Instead of being made fun of, I was surrounded by other girls just like me and was hearing things like “You’re beautiful!” “You have such a gorgeous look!” and “You’re going to be a star!” I returned to my little town thinking I would finally be accepted. I couldn’t be more wrong. The kids alienated me even more.
By the time I hit high school, I began to “struggle” with my weight at 5’11” and 123 pounds. I was getting more into sports and my agents told me I needed to stop because I was gaining too much muscle. I loved sports, so I secretly continued to play. As a compromise I decided to just decrease my caloric intake. I was surviving off of canned pineapple and tomato soup. On that diet I didn’t have the energy to make it through practice and was often blacking out, which concerned my coaches not only for my health, but also because I was rising as a key player in both volleyball and basketball.
During the summer of my sophomore year, I attended a team basketball camp and was approached by a Division ll coach who wanted to unofficially start recruiting me. Up until that point, I hadn’t ever considered the idea of playing at a collegiate level. That brief moment triggered something in me and I started exploring my options.
During my junior year of volleyball, I was confronted with yet another choice: play varsity volleyball for my tiny school, or walk the runways of London Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Naturally I chose to go to London, but at a cost. I was forced to play junior varsity volleyball in a 1A school and it was miserable. The JV team couldn’t even get a proper bump, set, spike over the net. Being a middle hitter, I never touched the ball and I was completely discouraged in my skill set and the idea of continuing with volleyball.
I traveled to London later that year and had my first international experience at the age of 16. I had been dieting for weeks and was sickly thin, but was booking jobs. After an incredible week of runway modeling, I celebrated with a greasy plate of fish and chips. I told myself that I could eat whatever I wanted for two weeks before getting back on my diet. My body was so underfed that it clung to every ounce of nutrients and I was never able to lose that weight. Modeling was slowly fading away. I had the face to make it in the modeling world, but my body had changed.
I almost made it in the world of fashion as a professional model.
When I came back, I was ready to start my junior year of basketball at 6’0” and 128 pounds. Modeling was over and basketball had taken priority. I had improved my game and found myself in a starting position with the attention of college scouts.
That dream was cut short when during the second game of the season I crushed my right meniscus, tore my MCL and I missed the rest of the season – along with all the potentially interested schools.
I almost had been recruited to play Division ll basketball.
When I was finally able to play again, it was the start of my senior year of volleyball. During the season, I ran across a former coach from Austin Peay State University. He came to watch one season game and our regional playoffs and was convinced that I was college material. Again, the thought of playing volleyball in college had never crossed my mind. I knew I was good; making All-Conference 1st Team and taking most team kills, blocks and aces.
However, the more I researched it, the more I realized how difficult it would be. I found that everyone who had ever played college ball had previously played for a club team and I was just a lefty from a small 1A school. In any case, I took a chance and made a highlight film and sent it to about 20 schools.
I visited several campuses and had interest from two Division ll teams, one Division lll and one NAIA. In the end I chose to attend Eastern New Mexico University - ENMU in Portales, New Mexico, a small Division ll school in the Lone Star Conference on a partial athletic and partial academic scholarship.
In reality, I had no business playing collegiate volleyball. As a freshman I was so far behind the other girls that I was nearly cut, but my coach saw potential in me and recognized how coachable I was. My eyes were opened in college and I discovered just how underdeveloped I was. Every other girl on my team had played club volleyball since they were tiny whereas I never had that opportunity.
By the time I was a red-shirt junior, I was a transformed player. The incoming freshman couldn’t believe that I came in as an uncoordinated underdog. Though I didn’t see a lot of playing time, I was as much of a key personality within the framework of the team as our starting All-Conference players. I assumed the role of mentor to some of the younger girls who were struggling because I knew what it felt like to be in their shoes.
Of course there were times when I wanted to quit. I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted and I was pushed to the edge of feeling defeated. I had the raw skill to play, but struggled with the mental dynamic of the team and couldn’t quite ever cross that threshold of becoming a starter.
I almost achieved my dream of being a starting collegiate athlete.
Throughout my collegiate career, I understood what it meant to be an athlete in the business world. I knew that I wasn’t destined to continue playing volleyball in the future, but that I still wanted to be a part of that world.
After graduation, I took a leap of faith by accepting an international sports marketing internship ITMS Marketing GmbH, a marketing/PR agency based near Frankfurt, Germany. I saw this opportunity as a launch pad for my career and it turned out to be one of the most life-altering experiences of my life.
During my internship, I was treated like a full-time employee and worked as a marketing and communications specialist, first for our professional tennis players and then for the agency’s key account in the cycling industry. I soon was offered a full-time position and was responsible for all creative content, trade fairs, events and communication for my clients. During my three years near Frankfurt, I continued my volleyball career playing for a German team in the Oberliga (4th league), Turngemeinde Groß-Karben 1891 e.V. but it was cut short when I broke my ankle during pre-season and was out for six months. I never fully recovered from that injury, physically or mentally and it took me two years before I was ready to try to try and come back. Even then, I was never the same player as I was in college.
After gaining three years of international agency experience, I was recruited by the world’s largest German PR agency in Berlin to work as a consultant in the Sports and Entertainment Division. During that time, I gained a number of personal contacts in the world of European sports as well as reached out to several former athletes in the USA.
After a year, I transitioned to work as a full-time freelancer as a Marketing and Content Manager for a company who specializes in producing animated explainer videos. With a more flexible schedule and a fully healed ankle, I was ready to start playing competitive volleyball in Berlin.
I started out being recruited to play for a semi-professional team, but would have had to fully commit to get back into shape to play at that level. With a full-time job, this wasn’t possible. So, I found a home with a team in the Regionalliga (3rd league) with TSV Tempelhof-Mariendorf.
However, during the second team practice, I broke my left – and dominate – hand. After three months of recovery, I was ready to play, but was met with yet another hurdle: I had to put in a request for an international transfer and be released by the FIVB, DVV and USA Volleyball, which has yet to be cleared.
Despite my countless “almosts”, I can’t help but look back at where I started and where I am today. I always feared never being good enough, now I simply fear being ordinary.
I can look at each of my “almosts” and see how they shaped my personality as well as my professional and athletic career.
I almost made it in the world of fashion as a professional model…But instead I reclaimed my self-image and chose a path of getting my education through sports.
I almost had been recruited to play Division ll basketball…But instead I had the chance to play Division ll volleyball.
I almost achieved my dream of being a starting collegiate athlete...But instead I used the experience to take me further in my personal and professional life than I ever imagined possible....instead volleyball has become more than just a game; it’s become a way of life.
Without my athletic career, I wouldn’t have ever moved abroad, made the connections I have or even continued to play after high school.
Volleyball isn’t over for me; I have the opportunity to coach German youth teams and hope to eventually work more closely with the sport through marketing and additional youth programs.
I almost missed the biggest adventure of my life. I almost become ordinary.