espnW: Emily Young
Our record of 15-15 hit the .500 mark we needed to qualify for the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament. Despite the number of losses, our team still had a high RPI (ratings percentage index) ranking due to our grueling non-conference and Pac-12 schedules. The question was would that be enough for us to be selected from among the field of 323 Division I teams?
On Sunday after practice, our team gathered in the Galen Center locker room to watch the NCAA selection show. I knew in my heart that we didn’t just complete our last practice. I didn't care whom we would play in the first round as long as we were one of the 64 teams selected. “Put us up against Penn State,” I thought.
I definitely exhaled when I heard USC announced on the television. It was almost like being in a video game, where you reach the life reboot just in the nick of time. Just like that, you've got more time on the clock and another chance to win the game. Everyone in this tournament is 0-0. It’s a clean slate, new life, and our team is gearing up to battle, one game at a time.
The Women of Troy take on Coastal Carolina today at 4:30 p.m. in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Good luck to everyone else in the tournament. Battle to the finish!
For the past three years, I watched as each class of seniors went through what has been termed “a series of lasts.” That is, the last year of Division I sports, marked by the last spring season, the last double days, last match at Washington, Cal, Stanford, etc. -- and eventually, the last match of their collegiate career.
It’s undeniable each class of seniors left a legacy on the USC women’s volleyball program. Now, as a senior, with my time marked on the clock, I’m faced with the question: What legacy will I leave?
Senior year is often painted as this magical year where you have the best time of your life. However, for many NCAA athletes, senior year can be a rude awakening that your college career is over. A lifetime’s worth of reps and training to compete at a high collegiate level suddenly comes to an end in just four short months. Standing at this crossroads, I would jump back to freshman year, and do it all over again in a heartbeat, but maybe -- just maybe -- this rude awakening is the enlightenment to greatness.
I’ve already completed my last spring season, last double days, and last preseason opening tournament. My days are numbered, but with each day, my aspirations grow. Last weekend, at the Bankers Classic tournament, in Stockton, Calif., I set a career high in match kills with 10. I was in the flow, that untouchable feeling, for just a brief moment in time. But when it’s over, you want more.
After our five-set win over Pacific to clinch the tournament title, I exchanged smiles with my two fellow seniors, Hayley Crone and Hannah Schraer. We’re bonded as teammates, captains, sisters and by our goals for our last season. No words were even necessary. I knew in that moment, that we had defined what legacy we want to leave in our final season. This season would be termed: “a series of bests.”
One of the greatest benefits of being a student-athlete is the ability to have an impact on the lives of young children and the opportunity to serve the greater community. Last weekend, our team partook in two great events: our USC Athletics’ SCORE Initiative and Swim With Mike.
On Friday, our team paid a visit to Pio Pico Middle School, which had recently won its district’s girls volleyball championship. The USC SCORE Program -- which stands for Serving the Community through Outreach, Recreation and Education -- pairs each of USC’s 21 varsity teams with a local elementary or middle school in order to deliver educational messages to children and to mentor students in one-on-one settings through sports.
For the educational component, our team discussed physical health, academic integrity, team building and community responsibility with the 150 children involved in the Pio Pico after-school program. We received some great questions, such as, “What do you do when a teammate isn’t playing their best?” This and many other great questions allowed us to explain the importance of teammate support and encouraging each other to play their best.
After speaking to the after-school program students, we had a chance to organize volleyball drills and games with the Pio volleyball teams. As soon as we got into the gym, the Pio Pico teams pleaded with us to play them in a match. We happily obliged and they were pretty darn good as winners of their conference!
I had a lot of fun at Pio Pico and hope we inspired their volleyball team to continue achieving both on and off the court. They all promised to work hard and to come watch us in the fall.
On Saturday, our team attended Swim With Mike, a fundraising swim-a-thon that provides scholarships to individuals who have suffered a serious accident or illness.
Swim With Mike is close to the hearts of the USC community because it originated in 1981 with USC’s very own Mike Nyeholt, a three-time All-American swimmer who was paralyzed from the chest down after a motorcycle accident. The event was originally called Swim for Mike to raise money to purchase a specially equipped van for Mike. More than $58,000 was raised that day, which exceeded the amount needed to purchase the van. Mike suggested the excess funds should be used to create the Physically-Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund at USC.
To date, Swim With Mike has expanded to different colleges and has raised more than $14 million toward providing financial resources for physically challenged students who attend college. More than 141 scholarship recipients have attended schools thanks to the thousands of volunteers, swimmers, sponsors and donors.
I’m very proud to be a part of the USC Swim With Mike community. Our team signed autographs and participated in the Trojan Athletic Senate swimming relay. More than $1 million was raised this year for the USC Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund. I’ve been given so much by USC and community, and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to give back and be a part of the USC community around me.
After my first trip to Hawaii for the 2011 NCAA regionals, I knew I had to find a way to get back to Oahu. Luckily, at USC I live with two roommates who are Oahu kama'ainas (locals) who showed me and my other roomies what island life is really about -- adrenaline-pumping adventures and paradise. Shaka!
The 50th state is like no other. Its beauty surrounds you. Driving through the mountains feels as if you're in a distant, undiscovered, exotic land. Adventure lurks all around when hidden waterfalls appear magically through the trees off the highway and places to hike and climb lie in clear sight. Hawaii's adventurous landscape is juxtaposed by its calm and tranquil shoreline. Oahu's gorgeous beaches are the perfect place to relax and the water is paradise.
Hands down, the best adventure of the trip was skydiving. For as long as I can remember, skydiving has been on my bucket list. I'm a self-classified adrenaline junkie and get a thrill in pushing life's limits. I'm not afraid of heights and I have an immense love for roller coasters, but I wasn't quite sure how my body would react to jumping out of an airplane. Would it feel as if my stomach was dropping the entire time? How would the air pressure feel? What if I screamed when I jumped out of the plane? Was I actually nervous?
I anxiously waited until our group name was called and I met my tandem master, Lyle. He joked about me handing my life over to him, which I was more than OK with, and he basically said there was nothing I could do wrong that could kill us. Solid, right?
Our group strapped up and hopped in the plane. The plane climbed up over the shoreline, where we reached about 14,000 feet and could see almost all the points of the island. Honestly, I would have paid just for that view, and it is something that I'll have with me forever.
The jumping door opened and I was the first to leave. It all happened so fast I really didn't have any time to get scared or nervous. Lyle pushed us out of the plane and did a couple of flips and all I could do was smile, laugh and holler "woo-hooo" with my shakas in air.
There was never an overwhelming dropping feeling, and while you're free-falling, all you can hear is the air whipping past you. Our parachute opened and Lyle even let me steer for a while. My favorite part was pulling both of the parachute handles down to gain altitude, because I was gliding and going against gravity.
I took in all of the beautiful sights as Lyle took control of our touchdown. The rush was over when I landed, and I met all of my friends, who each told about their own experiences. By the time we reached the car, we were talking about our next adventure -- jumping off of waterfalls.
The other essential part of island life is paradise. I can think of a lot of moments when I was completely at peace this last week: riding the waves into shore while kayaking in Kailua, standing at the top of Koko Head, watching the sun set over the water. However, the ultimate paradise was being with 'Ohana, which means family.
Family is the greatest pleasure in life. When I landed at the airport, my roommate's entire family, the Howicks, picked me up, and from that moment on I was an adopted member. I had numerous aunties, uncles and new cousins, who let me color on their children's menus at dinners and play Legos with them. We had family dinners almost every night of the trip, and it was so nice to have a home-cooked meal!
The dearest moment of family fun was when we were all playing cards. After I caught on to the strategy of the card game, I bombarded Uncle Bill with cards. He lightheartedly blamed me for his bad luck. For the last game of the evening, I suggested we go counterclockwise to give him the opportunity for revenge. In a battle of the losers, Uncle Bill had everyone on the floor laughing for five minutes straight because he somehow managed to end up with the entire deck in his hand.
I'm sad to be leaving my Hawaiian 'Ohana, but I have plenty of things to look forward to in L.A. Over spring break, my first paper for my master's class, was published on Not Another Flyer, a website that highlights the changing branding, marketing and advertisement work we see in our everyday lives.
I was waiting to make the announcement that I am enrolled in a progressive master's degree program until I at least passed a class, but now that I'm published, I guess the cat is out of the bag. Also, I am really excited to get back in the gym and hear about everyone else's adventures over spring break and, of course, get back to work. USC women's volleyball has three more spring tournaments: March 28, March 30 and April 12. These will be my last indoor spring volleyball tournaments, and I want them to be the best.
Mahalo Howick 'Ohana! A hui hou!
Last week, my coach asked me if I would like to miss practice in order to attend a women’s conference. Since it was during our practice time, and I really wasn’t sure, I politely but hesitantly declined.
Luckily, I received another opportunity from Donna Heinel, USC’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for women’s sports, or known to some as a SWA (Senior Woman Administrator). She sent an email inviting USC female student-athletes to attend a women’s leadership dinner the night before the conference. It was the perfect solution -- I wouldn’t miss practice and I could adhere to my never-ending pledge to always learn something new.
Since I’ve never attended a women’s conference, I had no idea what I was getting into. These women came from so many different backgrounds. Some were authors, entrepreneurs, engineers. Others were in criminal law or were financial experts; athletes, non-athletes, USC alumnae, and the list goes on.
What did I share in common with all of these successful women? Inspiration.
Women attend women’s conferences seeking inspiration on the path of constant improvement in their personal and business lives.
There is no road map for life (to the frustration of many drivers), but if we can learn from the path set forth by others, we can find a sense of direction and even a friend along the way. I believe it is important to dispel the myth that women’s conferences are only for “women’s issues” or “women with issues.” In two hours, we discussed a broad range of topics, from friendship and finance to taking risks and what it was like to live in a house with 21 other children. (Hint: It was noisy.)
A women's conference isn't exclusively for women. The men who attended the dinner walked away with broadened perspectives as well. That being said, the advantage of modeling your personal road map after someone you see as similar to yourself is why these types of conferences are held. The more similarities you have with someone (being an athlete, having gone to USC, having an interest in business, and so on), the more clarity you can add to your own map for your own benefit.
So fellow inspired members of espnW, if you would indulge me, I would like to share what I learned from these inspirational women.
Athletes encompass the spirit of entrepreneurship: As an athlete, I’ve been learning and honing skills my entire life. Some of what I’ve learned -- teamwork, determination, drive, responsibility, competing, time management, commitment -- goes beyond the game of volleyball. These fundamental skill patterns fall in line with the special set of skills it takes to be an entrepreneur. Athletes know how to “do our own thing” and get ready for sports competitions while balancing homework and friends, so we can transfer that into another outlet. If there is not a clear path, we go left, we go right, down the lane, and we know how to score. Athletes know that failure is an option. We lift to failure, train to failure, but when game time comes, we do everything in our power not to fail. If you become a professional athlete, you are your own business. We hear as athletes that we have the skills that businesses are looking for, but oftentimes, we overlook what we can do ourselves.
Be an astronaut first: If you have multiple passions, you shouldn’t limit them. You should pursue the highest risk first. Why, you might ask, because there is no such thing as life balance. In the words of Helen Keller, “life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” If you’re going to take a risk and fail, you should do it early in life so that you can learn from it and change. Taking risks and admitting to faults will only make you stronger.
Renew your passion: Passion allows us to do the craziest things, like getting up before 6 a.m. to lift weights, spend countless hours training and still love playing your sport. When you can find that passion again, that’s when you know you’ve found a job that builds you. It's not always easy to picture what your dream job will be. What you picture it to be and what it actually is may end up being completely different from each other. Think of jobs as seasons: You have some winning seasons and some losing seasons. As you move forward, you work on your game so you can win all the time. If there is competition, you tell them to bring it. You need to move with intention and purpose and have the confidence to take on any challenge you face.
I would like to thank Heliane Steden, Andrea Armani, Juliette Robinson, Inger Miller and Margaret Bhola for sharing their road map with me as well as my fearless readers who have made it this far in my blog. You are all inspiring. I hope that one day our maps will lead us to the same place: happy and satisfied.
Summer is drawing to a close, school just started, and a new excitement surges through me. It’s officially volleyball season!
Hi, all! I’m Emily Young, a junior volleyball player at the University of Southern California. This is my second year as a contributing blogger on espnW. This season, I hope to give you inside access to all of our triumphs and challenges, and it’s bound to be a fun ride.
The story of our season starts long before this post, back to our spring training and summer lifting. We spend so much time preparing for our fall season that by the time it’s finally here, we are beyond excited for competition. For the last two weeks, our team has been doing hard two-a-day practices to get ready for our pre-conference matches.
In comparing last year’s two-a-day practices to this year’s, I noticed some differences that make this season unlike the past.
1. Our six freshmen bring a lot of talent to our team. Every year, I feel like our freshmen get better and better when they come in. Not only are they more physical, but they also have great volleyball IQ. Our freshmen have picked up our system quickly and make great decisions on the court. We’ve all heard about how impactful they were at the high school and club level, but I’m so excited to see them flourish in the collegiate game.
2. I’ve come to realize that our coaches do not like zip lining. During two-a-days, our team does several team-building exercises that get everyone out of their comfort zone. Last year, we did a zip-line activity. As an adrenaline seeker, I had a fantastic time. As for coach Mick Haley and some of our coaching staff who are not fans of heights -- not so much.
This year, our team did two activities that got us out of our comfort zones in an entirely new realm: classical music and art. Our team went to the Hollywood Bowl to see the world-famous L.A. Philharmonic perform Tchaikovsky and to hold a scavenger hunt at the Getty Center. These activities allowed our team to identify and respect the precision and work that go into music and art, all the while experiencing the great cultural landmarks in our own back yard.
3. Our schedule is harder than ever, and we are putting an emphasis on organization and recovery. Since many of our matches will be televised, we play a lot of Friday-Sunday matches in order not to conflict with football games. This means we will be on the road longer, which makes it more difficult to study and recover. We already are combating our soon-to-be hectic season by making sure each player has kept up with rehab and has organized planners and calendars through Dec. 21: the day of the NCAA championship match.
4. This year, I’m an upperclassman … scary! As an upperclassman, I’ve taken more of a team leadership role, and now it’s my turn to teach the freshmen how our drills and systems work. This will be my third time experiencing everything, and you know what they say: “third time is the charm.” So I’m looking forward to the most exciting season ever. Fight On!
I am very lucky. I have been at a magical, beautiful, place for the past two years. This place has allowed me to grow as a person and has taken me on countless adventures. That place is the University of Southern California. As my sophomore year comes to a close, it has left me to wonder: Where has the time gone? It still seems like there is so much that I want to do and now, I have less time to get it all done. Studying and playing volleyball at USC has afforded me a lot of unique opportunities over the last two years. So in recapping my first two years here, I wanted to share some of the cool things I have accomplished that are special to USC, and where I hope to go in the next two years.
Volleyball has taken me to a lot of places. Literally. In season, we travel to Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Northern California. For our preseason matches, we have been as far east as Pennsylvania, and have gone to Florida and Texas as well. In the past two years, our team has been to two NCAA regional championships: one in Hawaii, and one in Texas, along with a trip to the Final Four.
Our team has also played out of the country. Last summer, we went to Europe to play in Slovenia, Serbia, and Italy. Beyond the chance to travel to new places, playing at USC has also allowed me to forge unforgettable bonds and memories with my teammates that I will cherish for the rest of my life. These teammates are some of the most caring, fun, individuals that I have ever met. They’ve invited me into their homes and into their families. I’ve had to send off six amazing seniors, and have welcomed 10 great freshmen, six of which are arriving, this summer.
In my next two years at USC, I want to go to two more final fours and win national championships. It’s every player’s aspiration to win a national championship, but I know at USC it is a goal that we work for everyday.
Playing volleyball at USC also gave me the unique opportunity to play the first season of collegiate sand volleyball in the history of the sport. By learning how to play on the sand, my love for the game has grown. I hope to compete with the sand team in a USC jersey once more after I am done with my indoor career. I am sure to be found playing some sand volleyball this summer somewhere at the beach.
Outside of playing volleyball, I’ve been on countless adventures in Southern California. I have gone surfing, rock climbing, skied at Mammoth and jumped off a waterfall. At USC, I’ve participated in a salsa dancing class and in a sailing class where we sailed to Catalina and spent the night aboard. This summer, I intend to have more adventures. In fact, my roommates and I already have a list of things we want to do. We’re kind of adrenaline junkies.
Since USC is in the heart of Los Angeles, I have also had the opportunity to attend some really cool events from the Teen Choice Awards, to American Idol tapings, Lakers games, Kings games, Dodgers games, concerts at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Disneyland. This summer, I will be in L.A., interning, taking summer school and training for the upcoming volleyball season. I look forward to exploring L.A. more by going to museums and visiting the beach often. I also hope to finally attend a concert at the Hollywood Bowl.
USC is a really special place. I’ve met a lot of great people and accomplished a lot of great things. Although time will continue to fly, I hope to make the most of my next two years here on campus. Ready, set, go! See you all, again, this preseason. Fight on!
Last Friday, our team visited the LAC+USC Medical Center's pediatrics unit to bring some cheer and smiles to the patients, who really welcomed the pleasant change from their regular hospital routines.
When we arrived at the pediatric playroom, we were all taken aback by how the room was decorated with USC volleyball signs and by how excited the kids and nurses were to see us.
First, we visited Evan, a young boy who had injured his legs. Samantha Bricio talked with him, and they made some Play-Doh sculptures. Evan's job was to hold on to the Play-Doh as it dropped out of the machine, and Hannah Schraer and Sara Shaw would try to cut it before it broke.
With all of us in the room, the nurses thought it would be a good time to have Evan try to use his walker, since he had a whole spirit squad at his side. We cheered as he used the walker to move himself across the room. We all lit up with smiles when the nurses explained that he had been able to stand for only three seconds the day before.
Outside of the playroom, we went from room to room to visit different patients. We got to see so many patients and shared so many smiles and so much laughter that it would be hard for me to talk about them all. But I did get to meet a few patients whom I will never forget.
When we walked in to visit Ishmeray, a 10-year-old girl, we interrupted her music therapy. Although she was shy, we convinced her to sing for us. She had such a beautiful, soft, soprano voice. She sang "We Are Young" by the band Fun. Our whole team joined her in singing the chorus. At the end of our visit, we told Ishmeray that she had an amazing voice and that she should always keep singing. Alicia Ogoms and I stayed behind to color with her for a while. I realized that I was out of my league at drawing flowers, as Hannah gave me a lesson on how to draw roses. She is on another level. Meanwhile, Alicia and Ishmeray exchanged pictures, each taking an imprint of the other.
Down the hall, doctors were crowded into a room around a small toddler. They said we could wave to the patient but that we could not stay. Natalie Hagglund handed the small girl one of the USC T-shirts that we had been giving to all the patients. The little girl's arms flailed with excitement, and she started tugging the shirt she had on. With the help of the doctors, she put on her new USC volleyball shirt and smiled brightly, a newly indoctrinated member of our team.
We were able to visit only one patient in the intensive care unit. The girl's father was standing by her bed reading the Bible while her mother sat next to her holding her hand. Both parents greeted us with smiles and explained that their daughter wasn't able to speak. We offered her a T-shirt that the father held up to show her. All of a sudden, her oxygen indicator glowed red as she reached out for the shirt. Her eyes lit up and her parents were so happy to see her respond. The father thanked us and we went on to the next room.
A small boy named Xavier occupied the last room we visited. His grandmother was with him and said, "Look at all the angels walking in!" We smiled and gave him a shirt to remember us "angels" by, but the grandmother insisted on a picture. We all giggled while trying to stay still for the multiple photos that were being taken by the nurses.
As we left the hospital, my teammates shared stories about the patients we had become attached to and expressed concern for patients who did not have family who could visit them often. We definitely plan to visit our friends at the LAC+USC Medical Center again. We were so happy and grateful that we had the opportunity to bring the patients some smiles, but we were even more amazed at the wonderful job that their caregivers do from day to day.
We've finally reached the point in our spring season where we scrimmage other teams. While much of the spring focuses on individual and team development, now we finally get to some competition outside of our own gym.
Our team has a spring tournament every weekend in the month of April. This is where we get to play local teams that are not part of the Pac-12 to experiment with different lineups and plays and to add depth to our team.
This weekend, we went down to University of San Diego where we played the Toreros, UC Irvine, UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara. Since the tournament was on Saturday in San Diego, the Hagglund family invited us into their home for dinner on Friday night.
It is no secret where Natalie gets her personality. Her family is so vivacious, caring and fun-loving. When we arrived at their home in Encinitas, we were all greeted with open arms, and the jokes lasted until there were permanent smiles on all of our faces. We shared stories in their hot tub and were particularly entertained by the infamous stories of Natalie's gammy. What a hoot!
By dinnertime, we were having so much fun we could hardly contain ourselves. We probably ate about as much as we laughed and that's a lot. The Hagglund family prepared a wonderful home-cooked meal that included salad, steak, chicken, baked potatoes and their famous family cookies. Full and happy, all the accouterments of home were the perfect way to start our weekend.
Yes, this is for a class. I’m currently enrolled in a sailing class at USC called Deepwater Cruising. During the first half of spring semester, we’ve had class every week where we learn about different vessels, sailing history and the rules of water traffic. In addition to class, we spent a Saturday taking part in a dockside demo to review all the parts of the boat to prepare for our class voyage.
My voyage was a Friday-Saturday overnight trip in which five other friends enrolled in the course and I sailed out to Catalina with our teacher, Captain Lars. We arrived at the dock around 8:30 a.m. on Friday and prepared the ship for departure, and practiced raising and lowering lines. The students also prepared to use our nautical charts and parallel rulers (no GPS allowed) to draw out the navigation for our course.
When we were ready, we set sail and all took turns steering and calculating three-point bearings to determine if we were on course. We docked in Catalina, where we ate dinner and spent the night on the boat. We even brushed our teeth on deck!
The next morning, we had breakfast on the boat prepared by Captain Lars in our onboard oven. We learned about sonar and the shortcomings of navigating only by GPS since it does not show buoys, reefs, and will even cut over land, and then we sailed back to the port of Los Angeles, where we were all sad to leave the port. It was a remarkable voyage, both physically and emotionally.
A Soul at Sea
I looked longingly at the horizon
The wind strong at my face
The waves simply dancing
Keeping a rocking pace
The sun reflects off the water
Giving the world its glow
Sure, sailing takes work
But it’s the best way to go
The wood cuts through the water
Keeping us all afloat
The Atlantis, rich in history
What a majestic boat!
A connection to those before us
Who sailed only among the stars
So small in an endless ocean
Talking about who we are
If each boat had a soul
Surely the Atlantis had touched mine
I felt tranquil, at peace
Parting with troubles of time
And when we docked at port
My friends at my side
I looked back at the Atlantis
Leaving adventure behind
I've been under the weather with a virus for the past week or so, but this was an event I had to get out and see: the opening of the new USC Merle Norman Sand Volleyball Stadium!
Here's a bit of background information on sand volleyball.
The sport is in its second year as an NCAA "emerging sport." It takes 40 participating teams for a sport to become an NCAA-sanctioned championship sport and, as of this year, there are 30 schools supporting it across the country.
Last year, I had the honor of being a part of USC's inaugural sand volleyball team. It was my first time playing competitive sand volleyball, and it was a really eye-opening, fun new experience for me.
Although sand volleyball and indoor volleyball operate around the same basic rules, the style and how the game is actually played is completely different. Indoor is a lot more specialized with six positions. In sand, there are only two people on the court, so you are not bound by a position. Moving in sand is also a lot harder than moving on a hard court.
Since last year was USC's first year with sand volleyball as a varsity sport, our team drove to the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica, Calif., every day for practice and hosted our home tournaments there. Although going to the beach every day does not sound like a bad gig, fighting traffic on the California freeways to get back to class is.
The new Merle Norman Stadium is right on our campus and is right across from the Galen Center, the home of indoor volleyball and basketball teams. Having a sand volleyball stadium on campus will be great for student support and eliminates the hassle of fighting traffic and organizing car pools. Not only is the location great, the stadium itself is top notch. It has sand from the U.S. Olympic Training Center, a scoreboard and audio system, night lighting, restrooms, showers and is encircled by palm trees so it still has a California beach feel.
The opening night of the Merle Norman Stadium was stupendous as volleyball fans, students, faculty and alumni packed the bleachers. After some words from our athletic director, Pat Haden, and sand volleyball head coach Anna Collier, the ribbon was cut and streamers flew into the sky.
The teams that evening were comprised of current and alumni players from USC, including sand volleyball Olympians April Ross and Jennifer Kessy who earned a silver medal together at the 2012 London Olympics. Each alumna paired with a current USC sand volleyball player for the evening. It represented the coming era of USC women's volleyball -- current Olympians sharing the court with possible future Olympians.
Opening night was not only a great event for USC but for the growth of sand volleyball as an NCAA-sponsored sport. Sand volleyball offers so many new opportunities to young female athletes to compete in a sport they love, while gaining a valuable college education. Beyond college, there are opportunities for these players to become Olympians and to go pro. Even for players who started indoor, like me, sand volleyball allows us to play the game we love with less joint impact so it can be enjoyed for a lifetime.
Everyone is so thrilled for the new Merle Norman Stadium and supporting our sand volleyball team, which officially opened its season Sunday beating Loyola Marymount and falling to fourth-ranked Florida State. I'm looking forward to a great season. Go USC sand volleyball!
Happy Valentine’s Day, all!
Single or taken, you can always count on your sport to be your Valentine’s Day date.
Volleyball and I have had a long relationship. We’ve been together for many years and we spend countless hours together. I devote a lot of myself to volleyball, to the point you can basically say that we are married.
My best Valentine’s date with volleyball happened in the eighth grade. At that time, I had just recently devoted more time to volleyball, but still didn’t know where that relationship could take me in life. I was a confused eighth grader, taller than all the boys, and thought Valentine’s really only mattered to the girls who had boyfriends.
That evening, we had volleyball practice, and it seemed to drag on slowly, as boyfriends waited patiently with flowers for the older girls’ practice to be over. When we finally finished practice, we shagged all the balls and brought them to the closet. There, our coach was standing with a rose and chocolate for each of us. It was the most sincere and thoughtful Valentine’s gift I have ever received.
From then on, I realized what an amazing Valentine volleyball can be. I am lucky to play a sport that I love, surrounded by great individuals who support and care for me. Thank you to my team, our fans, my coaches, and staff. I love you with all my heart.
So in honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share this poem with you.
Valentine’s Day is not for lovers
Cupid’s arrow has not yet struck
This holiday is about sending out Valentines
And using some of love’s luck
And to you, on this Valentine’s Day
What greatness should I send?
What is the measure of gratitude
A Valentine for a dear friend
Neither chocolate, nor flowers, nor cards
Will express what you mean to me
I care about you with all the meanings
This poem is meant to be!
Hi, everyone! While I have been getting settled in the swing of the new spring semester, it has become increasingly unsettling to overhear the misconceptions about our offseason. According to some of my peers, the offseason is a time when I don’t practice, or participate, in any volleyball related activities. Part of me wants to shake these people and say, “Every good athlete is made in the offseason?” I suppose I should thank them. They’ve actually inspired me to take some time to explain what actually happens during this so-called “offseason.”
During the first half of the spring, we have an eight-hour NCAA CARA week. CARA stands for Countable Athletically-Related Activities, so this includes time with coaches and strength trainers. Within this eight-hour CARA week, only two hours with our coaches are allowed to involve volleyballs. That rule, however, does not include the time players practice on our own.
From Monday to Friday, our volleyball time block lasts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Our actual activities typically start at around 10:15 for those who need 15 minutes to get to the gym from a morning class (me). All activities end by 1:30 and we hit the showers in time to get to 2 p.m. classes. So if you have been doing some simple math, you may be wondering how 10:15-1:30, Monday through Friday, ends up being eight CARA hours. Not included are our personal warm-ups, and any breaks and transitions. It is an understatement to say that our CARA time is constantly micromanaged so that we are always 100 percent NCAA compliant.
So enough about the rules of offseason! Here are some of the things that we do throughout the week!
Prehab is derived from the word rehab, which is short for rehabilitation. Rehab is generally done after an injury to rehabilitate the muscle groups. Prehab, on the other hand, is done pre-workout and pre-injury. During this time block, players are charged with targeting individual muscle groups in order to strengthen them and prevent injury. With the help of our athletic trainer, we all have specialized programs for the muscles we should be targeting to be biomechanically strong. For me, I do extra work on stretching my hip flexors, and foam rolling my hamstrings and calves. I’m also working on strengthening muscle groups around the shoulders for hitting and my ankles for balance.
Once a week, we get to work with the biomechanics department here at USC. We do a variety of volleyball-related activities in order to measure our reactions on force plates and overlay video of our movements from multiple angles. This time is carefully designed to discover what body movements we should work on to make our overall play more efficient. Just having your core on before you move or being in a low balanced plane can make your movements sharper and more efficient. Biomechanics also helps identify what muscles to target in prehab and weight training, and what movements to work on in practice for overall self-improvement.
SAQ stands for speed, agility and quickness. SAQ training is designed to improve all three things. Pretty obvious, right? During our sessions, we do a variety of sprints and agility drills with cones to work on changing directions quickly. Depending what drill we are doing, either a knife-edge push works best, sometimes a pivot or a crossover movement. Biomechanics helps us decide which movement works the best for each person in each drill.
Although we try to make it look effortless whenever we play, there is a lot of footwork required in volleyball: defensive footwork, blocking footwork, passing footwork, setting footwork, hitting approach, and all of the other movements in between. We spend a lot of time, each week, breaking down these movements to make them as fast and efficient as possible.
This is when our coaches can actually hit volleyballs or use them to teach us in order to emphasize the footwork and biomechanics we’ve been so busy working on!
As a team, we play volleyball to kill time before we start weights. No coaches allowed! To keep it competitive, we mix it up and do tall players versus short players in deep court. Go, tall team!
Spring is the time in the weight room where we focus on building strength to become more dynamic with power. We have more time during the offseason to fix individual techniques, improve efficiency and get rid of movement inefficiencies. We consistently lift heavier weight overall, which presents more challenges and means more ice baths. Our offseason lifting program includes more agility, speed, and jumping drills that we cannot do during a regular season without taxing our bodies too much.
In so many ways, the spring is much harder than the fall. It is harder as a student-athlete to have our time so micromanaged and it takes more mental focus to change from non-ball to ball and from skill set to skill set in short amounts of time. Also, our mid-morning time block makes my day go from school, to volleyball, and back to school, all in a short amount of time. It really requires careful planning and focus.
Being out of season also presents more academic challenges. My school course load increases in difficulty because I try to take harder classes that I do not have time for when we’re in season. However, I do get weekends to do homework, without having to worry about doing it while traveling to play Pac-12 teams on the road.
Although we don’t compete against other schools, we still work hard to become better in the offseason. USC women’s volleyball does not take the offseason off. Fight On!
It's finals week here on campus, and I have heard of some interesting rituals from drinking a bottle of Smart Water before each test to all-night cramming coffee tactics. Then, there's studying to Harry Potter music to make you feel wizardly. I thought to myself, "“wow, these people are insane!" Then, as I was writing this, I realized, I am among them.
Emily's study tactics:
1. Start the studying process, ASAP. The short-term memory has its limits.
2. Gather all pertinent information and make a study guide. Color-code the different sections just to make yourself feel like it's important. If your teacher gives you a study guide, even better!
3. Whew! You have already done more than everyone else since it's not even study days, yet. Time to start a new TV series. Have any of you seen "Homeland"?
4. Stop procrastinating and use a proper method of study that resembles each test. That means lots of practice problems for that accounting final.
5. Study days are finally here! No school and no volleyball. Did you really think I would be studying?
6. A few hours later ... what do I do without school and volleyball? Sigh ... I'll study.
7. Make a schedule to prioritize your time for each test and maintain your knowledge base.
8. Take a final.
9. Throw an Apples to Apples party on Friday. No one has finals over the next two days, anyway.
10. Convince yourself you're studying when you're actually just flipping notecards.
11. Don't stress about finals. Go to Disneyland. You've earned it -- but take your notecards.
12. It's officially short-term memory time. No, no it's not.
13. Write a blog.
14. Test day! Lay out your sweats: Comfy and confident. Now go ace that test.
With finals on the brain and procrastinating at hand, I've had a bit of time to reflect about the semester. I really did enjoy my classes this fall, and I am excited for next semester. I'll be taking two fun extracurricular classes (sailing and golf) to go along with my four business courses.
Volleyball-wise, though we fell a bit short of our ultimate goal, we had a phenomenal season. I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to work and ready for 2013. Writing this blog was also an amazing highlight to my sophomore season on campus. I've enjoyed sharing a little bit of my life (and the lives of my teammates) with my readers out there.
On top of all of that, I've had plenty of good times with my apartment roommates, teammates and friends. But as they say, there is no place like home for the holidays. When my exams are done, I'll be on a plane out to Schaumburg, Ill., to spend a couple of weeks at home, sweet home.
To all of you who might be taking finals, I wish you the best of luck. Happy holidays to everyone, and I'll see you all in the New Year. Fight on
Our trip to Texas didn’t go quite the way we wanted it to, but you can’t keep us down. Ending a season on a loss is rough for any team. Somewhere within losing a few points in a game you can't control, you lose seniors, the game itself, and the glory that comes with getting a win.
With that, a strange emotion overrides you. It feels like the deepest pains of disappointment that you could not accomplish the one thing you set out to achieve: winning a national championship. The difference between a fan and a player is that we get to do something about this feeling. You box up that emotion and call it: "I am never going to lose again."
After our match, when we got settled back into our hotel, I got straight to running on the treadmill. Our team has been in, individually lifting weights, every day this week. We’ll be back, and even stronger, next year.
So if for every team, the season ends in some kind of disappointment, why do we do it? Why play?
Recently, I got the chance to shoot a video for the USC Trojan athletic senate about a day in the life of an athlete. This video was shown at a banquet for athletes and a group of teachers and I think it effectively sums up why I play. It’s not just a day in my life; it’s a day in THE life. I have a remarkable and amazing world here at USC that volleyball has opened the door to. I'm glad I get to share a little bit in this video with you. Enjoy!!