Tag Archives: volleyball

She’s In

As I’ve mentioned this summer and last fall, our oldest daughter always thought she wanted to go to a big college, but she ultimately found her ideal match at a small liberal arts college.  As a strong high school and club volleyball player, but not a superstar, she decided in 10th grade that volleyball would not be part of her college decision.  She recognized that the huge Division I schools she thought she wanted–the Marylands and Penn States–were not going to have a place for her on their varsity-level teams, so she would play intramural ball if it fit her schedule.

Packed for College

Packed for College

But then she fell in love with the small schools.  And then a Division III coach reached out to her to see if she might be interested in playing.  She was flattered….and interested….but in the end she chose another D III school for academics and campus climate–without having made any volleyball contact there.  She told me she wanted to focus on getting used to college life and exploring her new world for a year, but that she would probably try to walk on as a sophomore.  As a former high school and club coach–proudly, my daughter’s first coach–and as her fan through 100s of matches, I knew she would probably be able to make that happen–IF she still wanted to after a year….a big IF.

A few nights before she left for college, we had dinner together–just the two of us–and I went out of my way to remind her that she should only come back to playing at a competitive level down the road if she really missed it:  not just the rush of a big point, but also the grind of a long practice on some random weekday in October.  She was sure she wanted to play sophomore year, but I had my doubts….Anyway, time would tell.


High School Days

Fast forward to her 8th day on campus, a Saturday–I get a text:

(paraphrased) I thought you would want to know that I met a girl who’s on the volleyball team and I have messaged the coach.

Uh, what?!  Then, Monday:

Could you send me the Youtube link to the highlights you put together from last year’s playoffs?  Coach ____ wants to see them since I can’t try out until Wednesday.

Whoa….Now she’s casually mentioning the coach by name?  And she has a tryout?

Wednesday’s text was exactly 2 words:

I’m in.

So here I am, genuinely surprised.  And proud.  And, most of all, happy that she really is making her own choices.


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Filed under Activities & Sports, College, School, Transitions

Dealing With (A) Loss

My daughter’s high school volleyball career ended in the state semifinals last week.  And dealing with that has been another in a string of dad-challenges as her senior year unfolds and her college days approach.


Playing at Penn State, age 12

When she was only 5 or 6 years old and I was a high school varsity volleyball coach, I started teaching my little girl to pass a ball.  In 3rd grade she played on her first recreation league team, and in 4th grade I became her coach, first in the rec league, and then on club teams.  Even after I stepped into the background to cheer as she played for other coaches, I remained my daughter’s personal advisor, unwavering fan, and honest critic.  We spent hundreds of hours together reflecting during rides home from practices and matches, and in recent years she actively sought me out during down-time at tournaments for advice when she felt she was struggling.

Last spring my favorite player hung up her club uniform, in part because she wanted to end her competitive career representing her high school as the team’s libero through her senior season this fall.  And that season turned out to be the ride of a lifetime:  They finished 19-3.  Regional champions.  State semifinalists.  Just 3 points short of a trip to the state championship game…and that was the end.

We are both making peace with the playoff loss–a match, honestly, that her team probably should have won…but that’s just sports.  The most difficult loss is not that match; it’s accepting that a connection we shared for 9 years will never be quite the same.  9 years of tryouts.  And practices. And matches.  And tournaments.

PPC ph-hs-3-volleyball-county-championship-1024.jpg

Protecting the floor as a senior. Photo by Nate Pesce, October 24, 2013. Used with permission.

Wins.  And Losses.  Good times.  And struggles.  All now part of our history.

I realize the end of the volleyball season is only one milestone in a senior year that is slowly preparing our entire family for this time next year, when my daughter will be living on a college campus.  And whether it comes down to a graduating senior’s final game, final competition, or final performance, I doubt we are the only family working through this type of change.  So, to borrow from The Player in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, I suggest that we–the parents of high school seniors and our seniors themselves–need to “look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else.”  ‘Somewhere else’ is going to be great–but so was the scene we just left, and getting used to moving forward is going to take a little time.


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Filed under Activities & Sports, Transitions

Savoring Time


Serving at 17

Over the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday weekend, I took my 17 year old daughter to Richmond, Virginia for her first major tournament of this year’s club volleyball season.  Thousands of girls from elementary school 12 & unders through college-bound 18 year olds compete every year over 3-day holiday weekends from January through May.  This is nothing new for our family:  some combination of us has accompanied at least one of our daughters to these travel tournaments for the past 7 years.  (Our now 14 year old played club volleyball for 3 years before deciding to focus on swimming.)

But this year is different.

Most girls do not come back to play for their club teams as 18 & unders during their senior year of high school.  Clubs that routinely run 3-6 teams of 15, 16, and 17 year olds often run only 1 or 2 teams of 18s because many girls who are not planning to play for their colleges close out their club careers in 11th grade.  Why?  The biggest reason is that the club season is difficult to balance with senior year commitments and events, and the tournament schedule runs right up to, or even beyond, graduation.

hitting at psu

Flying at 15

My own daughter loves volleyball above any other sport or activity she has ever tried.   But she has also thrived in 3 years of high school drama courses, and she has never been able to go out for one of her school’s shows.  After her high school volleyball season ends next November, she plans to focus on drama (along, of course, with school, college applications & decisions, and being a senior) for the rest of the year without the commitment of 3 volleyball practices per week, local single-day tournaments every 2-3 weeks, and 4-6 multi-day tournaments requiring overnight travel.  So she is 95% sure this is her final year of club and right now she is comfortable with the feeling that it is time to walk away.


Looking young at 14–3 quick years ago.

As I watched her matches in Richmond, I thought about how much her volleyball career has meant to my daughter…and to me.  As a former high school volleyball coach, I was fortunate to be able to coach her teams for her first few years of club.  And now, long after I sent my favorite player on to play for other coaches, I still regularly remind her that I will always be her biggest fan…and critic.  But these days I (usually) wait for her to ask for my feedback or instruction.  We both understand that they aren’t our matches anymore–they are hers.

So I savored this year’s January tournament, and I thought about how we are headed into a season of likely ‘lasts.’  Good times, challenges, and even disappointments have added up to a great ride for both of us since she was 10.  It’s true that I am very much aware that there are far fewer of these days ahead than behind.  But even though it is almost time to turn the page, we’re not quite there yet.

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Filed under Activities & Sports, Appreciation