Feature Image Courtesy of Stephen Fitzgerald
French painter Henri Matisse once said, “There are flowers everywhere, for those who want to see them.” My journey to beach volleyball has been the embodiment of this quote.
When people see me now, they see me as a professional athlete. Making waves on the AVP and World Tours with a partner I adore in Corinne Quiggle. Living out my dream of playing pro beach volleyball against the best players in the world. Proving to myself that with dedication and hard work, I belong here.
I am originally from a small town called Colfax, North Carolina, where the closest actual beach is a couple of hours away. Most people don’t know that when I was a little girl figuring out the world on my own, there were things I couldn’t see clearly- both literally and figuratively.
My parents noticed that I was more clumsy than the other kids I was around. We found out I had a lazy eye that was affecting how I could see and function in the world at a young age. I picked out my very own eye patch and glasses at 2 1/2 years old, but at that age, they were essentially purple goggles that made it seem like I was going to the beach to swim at any given moment. Thankfully, in this day and age, glasses are a fashion trend, but for me, as a little girl, my glasses and eye patch set me apart.
Fast forward to elementary, middle, and even the beginning of high school. I was a late bloomer. I was long and lanky and didn’t quite fit the mold. The first time I touched a volleyball was in 8th grade. My body hadn’t caught up with my mind of what I thought I could do quite yet.
In 9th grade, I was invited to attend my first ever Nationals in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was there that everything clicked for me. I had the opportunity to play under some really great coaches at Piedmont Volleyball Club in Greensboro, NC, and went on to be a successful middle blocker at Elon University under Illinois Hall of Famer Mary Tendler.
Every spring at Elon, we would play in a beach tournament. This was before beach volleyball was even an NCAA sport. The beach is where I truly found my calling (and with some soft nudging from Beach South Director Scott Castevens). I played professionally in Denmark and France for three years until the opportunity to train in Florida with BeVolley presented itself in 2017. I haven’t looked back.
Now that I’ve been playing volleyball for more of my life than not, I can see clearly how far I’ve come. At any chapter in my life, I could’ve chosen to give up on my dreams- having a lazy eye at an early age, being a late bloomer, starting volleyball later than most of my peers. However, my perseverance has come down to one thing- my mindset. Again, “there are flowers everywhere for those who want to see them.”
I truly believe our lives and attitudes are what we make of them. If I could give some advice to the next generation of female athletes, I would say this:
Dream big. Be confident in who YOU are. Turn what others see as your weaknesses into strengths. Stay positive. Surround yourself with those who build you up.
For probably half my life, my chances of becoming a professional athlete were few and far between. My circle of support has consisted of so many people who have believed in me – my parents, siblings, friends, coaches, and mentors. This circle of support has pushed me and encouraged me through setbacks and successes. They have loved me when my chances of being an athlete were slim, and they have loved me just the same after garnering AVP Rookie of the Year my first year on tour. This goes to show how vital your circle of support really is.
Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for this dream I am living. Gratitude. Practice gratitude. Every day I get to put my feet in the sand and compete while doing the sport that I love is the ultimate gift. I do not take it for granted. We have one life. One journey. One mind. One body.
Ah yes, “there are flowers everywhere, for those who want to see them.” I choose to see those flowers every day.