I’ve been playing indoor volleyball since I was a kid and started beach as a teenager. It’s been such a huge part of my life for most of my life, a constant that I can rely on no matter how challenging it has been. Since having my daughter Cora almost a year ago, volleyball looks completely different. It’s amazing how much your perspective can shift on something you’ve known your entire life with the addition of a tiny person into your world. Her existence improved my life, giving me a purpose and drive I’d never known before.
I was about 12-14 weeks when the Champions Cup Series happened. I always thought I would be playing and competing until that point, but I was miserably sick until the week before the tournaments. Playing was out of the question.
It’s always hard to sit back and watch when I’m not playing. Surprisingly this time, I didn’t feel like I missed out on too much. Maybe my husband would argue I was in a bad mood for three weeks (sorry, Chase), but I knew we made the right choice to have a baby. When would there ever be a big break in tournaments again? Probably never. We always wanted kids young, but it’s hard to know when the right time is. Especially as a female professional athlete. My biggest fear was not being able to physically get back to where I wanted.
So when the world shut down and the likelihood of an AVP season was up in the air, it felt like the right time. After the 2020 season, being pregnant got a little easier. Especially as the date grew nearer and our baby girl was almost here. When she came in January… I honestly don’t have words for it. Just: overwhelming happiness. She was perfect. But when she came, mama went back to work. And it was HARD!
I had worked out until the day I was due. I had an awesome program from Expecting and Empowered. They are sisters, one is a Physical Therapist and the other a nurse/doula. They created a workout guide to help prepare for labor and delivery, as well as postpartum. Their help guided my workouts tremendously, not to mention in the postpartum time when I was unsure what exercises were allowed to help restore the pelvic floor. If you’re pregnant, I highly recommend their services. Use my code: BETSI10 for a discount; it’s worth it!
I was fortunate that my labor and delivery went really smoothly. I like to think I prepared well for it (although I know luck was also involved). I treated it like it was the biggest tournament of my life – I studied and did ALL the things to feel as good as I could going in. Long story short – I labored at home too long by accident and showed up at the birth center 10cm dilated, which means I’m ready to push!! Twenty minutes of pushing later, I met my beautiful baby!
Aside from being the best mom possible, my goal was to be ready for the first AVP of the 2021 season, which typically is in May. Cora was born on January 31st, so I had three full months (at least) to prepare. That is until the season was pushed to August. Which ended up being great for me.
Looking back, I was nuts to think I would be ready in May. Maybe I could have done it, but not to the level I would want. I was grateful for the extra time. Working out postpartum is not easy, especially if done the right way. For one, doctors and midwives “clear” you at six weeks. In my head, that meant I was ready to lift heavy and start jumping!
I went to my pelvic floor physical therapist and she disagreed. She thought it would be another three or four weeks before I start jumping. I was so disappointed, but I trusted her since she knew my goals. By the way: I highly recommend a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist (PF PT) for all pregnant and postpartum women. I honestly think PF PT should be a hospital requirement for all postpartum women to get cleared.
I also reached out to our strength and conditioning coach, Christian Hartford, to write me a program to build my base back to get me ready for lifting and competing. He did his homework and cultivated a program to strengthen muscles that weakened during pregnancy, as well as kept me patient – I like to do too much too quickly. He often reminded me to slow down.
I got back on the sand around ten weeks postpartum to do a light serve and pass. Did I even know how to play beach volleyball? It took a few weeks to feel “normal.” I knew I needed to start playing, so I was arranging practices with anyone who was willing to play with a below-average Betsi. I had a handful of solid training partners during this three-month comeback phase – they were patient, had no expectations, and were truly supportive – I am grateful for them all.
What people didn’t see was the self-doubt, tears, and sleepless nights. Mentally – I had so much self-doubt. Am I good enough? Will I ever get to the level I was? There were days where I was confident I could do this, and others I doubted if I would want to compete again. My husband, Chase, was always in my corner to help me through these challenging times. So grateful for him.
Before practices, my coach John Mayer would come 30 minutes early for extra serving and passing reps. People showed up to practice, and I was in a full sweat ready to go. After many practices, I was still getting frustrated. I felt like I couldn’t jump, and I couldn’t hit hard. My self-doubts were becoming reality. During that low, in the last 10 minutes of practice, John gave me a coaching cue. Something clicked. I finally felt like I could get on top of the ball – I needed that small win to keep me pushing forward!! I still wanted to work on attacking with power, but my core was weak and that’s what I needed to strengthen. So Christian added more to my program.
One of the biggest challenges during all of this all was sleep. I value sleep for my recovery and performance, and my newborn baby was waking up every few hours to eat. By the time morning came around, I was wiped. I made sure to listen to my body, but once I got moving it felt good to be working hard. Through disciplined training and an accumulation of small wins, my self-belief came back.
Coming back is such a journey. There are layers you need to build before adding others. Each step is essential in recreating what you’ve always had. And the biggest key: patience with yourself. I created a human, brought her into the world with my body, and am keeping her alive and happy. I am not who I used to be; I am so much better.
I also really think I have become a better player. I have always been a focused person, but since having Cora, I have a new drive. Spending time away from her training and competing is hard, so I want to be purposeful with the time. Competing has been my way of life for the past 29 years. Cora has brought out this new wonderful side of me, an intention in my game that is a result of my love for her.
She’s completely changed my perspective. I see everyone as their mother’s daughter or their mother’s son. How does that person’s mom feel right now? How does MY mom feel right now? I want her to look back one day and be proud of who I was and who I have become because of her. Life has changed for the better. Words can’t explain how wonderful and challenging motherhood is.
Now that Cora is 11 months old, she’s walking and exploring everything. I love being able to get my practices, workouts, and meetings in before 2 pm, then come home to be a mom! Instead of spending my afternoons watching Netflix or coaching, I spend my time at parks, playdates, and at home chasing her around! My husband watches her in the mornings and we switch off before he heads to work. Not having family around is hard, but we have some great friends who have helped big time while I’m at training and Chase is working.
I recently resigned from LMU as the Beach Volleyball Assistant to focus more on training and being a mom. I want to do each thing at a high level (playing, coaching, being a mom) and I felt like I wasn’t giving as much as I could in each category. I had to pick my top two: my family first; volleyball second. My current goal is to continue to win as many tournaments as I can in pursuit of the Paris Olympic Games in 2024, all while being a present mom. Maybe you really can have it all.