By Cosy Burnett
Cosy Burnett is a top 2013 volleyball recruit from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. She plays outside hitter and opposite for La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) and Coast Volleyball Club in San Diego. She has competed in the California State Finals and at Nationals for the past five years. She recently committed to play for BYU. In the latest installment of her blog, she shares her experience at the 2012 USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships.
The only things keeping me cool as I walked back to the hotel last Friday in 95-degree heat were the ice packs secured to most of my moving body parts. We were so close to that championship court at the USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships in Columbus, Ohio! Literally, we had our last game on the court right next to it. Fifth place! My thoughts were flooded with the “what ifs,” which only made me more upset.
I pushed open the doors to the hotel and looked around the lobby. Teams were scattered, waiting for their rides with tear-stained faces, glum looks and exhausted parents. I talked to some of my friends wearing bronze medals, and they were just as dejected as the others. One of their dads summed it up the best. “Only one team really goes home happy,” he said.
So why do we do this?
Why do thousands of people spend thousands of dollars, travel thousands of miles to a hot Midwestern town over the Fourth of July, and spend their days navigating through a convention-hall maze packed with volleyball thrill-seekers tripping over half empty water bottles if only one team really goes home happy?
I thought about this on the flight home and came up with the following reasons to explain our insanity:
1. Level of play
It is there and only there that we can really face the best teams from across the country. Teams rise to their greatest potential and the competition is thrillingly fierce. It’s at the GJNC where you test your physical strength and mental stamina to see if you have what it takes to reach that middle podium and have the gold medal draped over your sweaty uniform. When you get there, you know that you have beaten the best, which now makes you the best.
2. Always something new
The organizers do a good job of trying to keep things light at GJNC with photo-op corners and goofy mascots roaming the courts. My favorite thing is observing the crazy volleyball culture, which we’re all a part of. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s always something new. This year, I witnessed a volleyball mom taking her role to a new level. We were refereeing and I was doing books while my teammate was keeping score. After about 10 points, we realized that one of the moms was showing us the score on her iPad from across the court to make sure we were on task. I dared my teammate to flip the number for the wrong side. … Instead we snapped a photo.
3. National end-of-season party
We seem to completely take over a town, and we did in Columbus. The restaurants, stores, hotels, pools, ice cream shops and even airports are full of volleyball families. It’s like a big end-of-year party wherever we go. I see girls I met at volleyball camps, tournaments, recruiting trips, etc., and it’s so fun to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. Whether it’s celebrating a new college commitment (shout out to Grace!) or seeing a girl you spent hours on the sand court with two summers ago, it’s a great closure to the club season. It represents the lifelong friendships, which are such a big part of this experience for me.
So, it’s true that only one team goes home with a gold medal, yet most of us bring home something even more valuable. Every year, I come home with more than an overpriced T-shirt and bruises from unknown origins. Every year brings new experiences. There are tough losses, amazing wins, and with each point played, each kill, each error, we come home as a new person. Coaches always talk about how we have those “learning games.” I believe that every game is a learning game. We learn what it takes and if we have it or not.
Read the previous installment of Cosy's blog – on rookie sensation Kacey Nady – here.