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Announce Exclusive: Inside the Volleyball National Tryouts

Feb. 28, 2012

The Clemson contingent at the USA Team Tryouts in Colorado (Photo courtesy of Sandra Adeleye)(L-R: Hannah Brenner, Alexa Rand, Mo Simmons, Karis Watson, Sandra Adeleye, Kamryn Sherman)

In early February, I had the privilege of attending the USA Women’s Volleyball tryouts with five of my teammates from Clemson. Those of us born in 1991 or earlier -Alexa Rand, Hannah Brenner, and myself – were seeking spots on the USA Women’s National Team this summer, in hopes of eventually earning a spot on the World Cup Roster. Kamryn Sherman, Mo Simmons, and Karis Watson were also prospects for this team, as well as for the USA Women’s Junior National Team. (Note: Simmons competed for the JNT last summer at the World Championships)

On February 10th the six of us boarded a 6:00 AM flight to Colorado Springs, CO to compete alongside 202 other young women in what was to be the largest try-out yet. Soon after our arrival at the Olympic Training Center the tryouts began. Girls from all over were in attendance, including many from UCLA, the 2011 NCAA volleyball champions. The competition was stiff, to say the very least, but being in the company of so many talented volleyball players only made the experience more exciting.

Each player was placed in one of three sessions: Red, White, or Blue. During these sessions we were evaluated by college coaches from across the country, tracked by several stat keepers, and observed by volleyball greats such as Tom Pignel, Karch Kiraley, Paula Weishoff, and many more.  Players were expected to stand out all while incorporating the new techniques that were presented to us at the beginning of the sessions. Coaches were assessing not only our natural talents, but each athlete’s ability and willingness to make these adjustments.

Before and after each session, the Olympic Training Center cafeteria was available with a variety of professionally prepared healthy meals and snacks. Over these meals, players had the opportunity to become more familiar with each other and wile away the time before the next session.  The cafeteria was impressive, not only for the meals provided, but for the décor throughout. Along the walls were carefully painted murals of city landmarks such as Berlin, Rio, and London, chosen to represent the destinations of both past and upcoming Olympic Games.

The cafeteria was just one of several places throughout the center where notable artworks were displayed. Statues honoring the many contributors to the program were placed all around, as well as colorful statues to represent several different Olympic sports. Flags symbolizing hundreds of countries from around the world lined the outside of the complex, and histories of some of the most impressive Olympic feats could be found within different buildings. The experience was surreal, mostly because as competitors it is our goal to be among the best. The chance to tour and play in a facility that has aided so many to do just that was beyond incredible.

The three days went by quickly, and on Sunday, after an intense tournament the try-outs came to an end.  The opportunity to compete against hundreds of collegiate volleyball players and interact with so many renowned coaches from around the country provided for an unforgettable experience.  We left for the Colorado Springs airport at 11:30 AM Sunday morning in hopes of flying to Dallas, Texas for a connecting flight to Greenville, South Carolina. As enjoyable as the try-outs were, my teammates and I were sore, tired, and very much looking forward to returning back to Clemson. 

Our hopes were shattered however, after learning that bad weather in Dallas had caused them to cancel our connecting flight. After over and hour of deliberation with our attendant, we were shuttled an hour and a half to Denver under the hopes of us all making another flight. Thanks to a series of mishaps, only Hannah, Kamryn, and Mo were able to continue home, while Alexa, Karis, and I waited anxiously for our own opportunity.

Three hours later, with the help of our assistant coach and a sympathizing airline manager, the three of us were able to obtain a new flight, all while becoming a very small part of airline history: That night we boarded the first ever Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Atlanta!

Overall, it took fifteen hours to get home that Sunday, and despite some slight resentment at the time I would say the entire process was well worth the privilege of attending such an event. Players will be informed of the coaches’ decisions via email within the upcoming month. No matter the outcome, my teammates and I feel fortunate to have been able to attend, and grateful for our program’s assistance. In just one weekend we were able to notice an improvement in our skill levels, which will surely benefit us in the upcoming spring season.