Thursday, January 5, 2017

"I Am No Longer a Returner"

Well, the time has come-- the time of year that I’ve watched so many seniors before me arrive at. But now, it’s our turn. The funny thing is that it hasn’t really hit me yet. The other day coach sent out a text about an email she sent to the returners, so I immediately went to my mailbox to check it out. After a second of refreshing the page, I realized, “I’m no longer a returner” and that made me sink in my chair. But, looking back at the season and my four years with this program, my fellow seniors and I have been blessed beyond belief. You’ve probably heard it a million times, but these women + coaches mean the world to me and their friendships are what makes this program great. Sure, they’re all very talented at volleyball as well, but trust and chemistry takes a good team to the next level. I was asked by a friend the other day if I missed it. I answered with, and can honestly say, I’ll miss it every single day.
But, that being said, WE DID IT!!! We won the National Championship! What a way to end a senior’s career. A very limited number of people get to say they won their very last game and, I’ve got to tell you, it’s a pretty amazing feeling. Now I’ll tell you a bit about our time at nationals.
While in Oshkosh, Wisconsin at nationals, my teammates and I had the time of our lives. One of our favorite things to do at the end of every year is have a music video competition! You may remember we did something very similar at the very beginning of the year as well and that was one for the books, so this one would be hard to top it, but, I think we succeeded! The freshman performed “(I’m Bringing) Sexy Back”, the sophomores did “Tik Tok” featuring Jamie Petrarca as Kesha, the juniors did “Best of Both Worlds” featuring Kristen Vyletel as Miley/Hannah, and Kelly, Kielley, and I made teammates tear up with our rendition of “The Climb” with Ki as Miley Cyrus. If you want to laugh until your side hurts, just ask a Calvin volleyball player if you can watch their classes’ video because they were all great, but I can’t promise they’ll let you!! J The coaching staff also joined in on the fun as well with their own video—a little crime investigation adventure, which they showed to us before the national championship game as inspiration/motivation. We were dying of laughter! Also, before each game in the locker room, we have a little dance party. And, luckily, Kristen remembered to bring our disco ball with her to Wisconsin, so that we could continue our dance parties in style. “No Air” was again screamed at the top of our lungs and Jessie J led us in the “Juju on That Beat” dance before each game, per our ritual.
Then, before the championship game, Keilahna and Anna discovered that God had a special message for us via the November 19th, Jesus Calling devotional and they read it to us in the locker room. I was tearing up in awe of how appropriate it was for us at that exact moment. It said:
“Leave the outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will turn out. Think of your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me. When our path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help. When we come to a resting place, take time to be refreshed in My Presence. Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me. You already know the ultimate destination of your journey: your entrance into heaven. So keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving the outcomes up to Me.”
This left me speechless. God knew exactly the words to lay on our hearts and keep us calm in such an exciting and nerve-racking time. Coach preached all of tournament time: “let go of the outcome, just play for the point.” So this message just reinforced that in our minds, and for me, personally, reinforced my faith in Him.
During the championship game, there was a mandatory ten-minute break between the second and third sets for some kind of promotional thing for the viewers. So we went back to our designated area and, for the first 7 minutes, we played some games to keep things light. One of our favorites is “the eye contact game”, where everyone is in a circle and looks up at the same time. If you’re making eye contact with someone when you look up, you’re both out, if you’re looking at someone who is looking at someone else, you’re safe. We always have fun with this one. Then, after that, we started playing a game called “pterodactyl”. You all sit in a circle and it you say “pterodactyl” it keeps going the same direction around, but if you make a dinosaur noise, it reverses. But, the trick is you can’t show your teeth ever, which is very difficult when you’re laughing so hard!!! I’m not joking when I tell you that some of us almost peed our pants laughing. This memory is definitely one of my favorites from the season.
So there are some of my thoughts on my time with Calvin volleyball and a little nationals recap! It’s been such an honor for me to represent Calvin College on the court for the past 4 years.

Laura Danhoff, Sr. #11

Thursday, November 3, 2016

When Plans Are Altered

I’ve heard many times in my life that a team can have all the talent in the world, but if their players do not play well together, they will not do as well. I have seen this on teams who have some truly incredible talent, but it is easy to see that there is only a surface level connection amongst the players. It is clear that the relationships amongst those players and coaches does not extend past those lines on the volleyball court. Those shallow relationships affect their play through lack of trust, not giving the benefit of the doubt, and so much more. As I am sure most of you can tell, this is where my experience being a part of the Calvin College volleyball has made all the difference for me. 

As many of you know, during the national tournament my sophomore year in Virginia, I dislocated my knee. (I know what you’re all thinking: Yikes!) When this happened the first time about 7 years ago, I was back at 100% in about 3 weeks. However, this time was different. In the past, the doctor thought it was because I grew so fast and had very little muscle.  This time when it happened I was in great shape and had great muscle strength but my knee still dislocated.  My knee didn’t heal like it did before.  This time it still felt very unstable and I had a ton of pain when I walked up stairs, ran, or even walked at a fast pace. So, this past January I had surgery as it was my only chance to get the stability back and run pain free. Fast forward to this past summer and my knee did get the stability back but is currently in more pain than it was prior to surgery. With that being said, my doctor did not clear me to play.

For most people this would mean that being a part of the volleyball team would be out of the question. Just before pre-season this past year I met with Coach Warners to discuss my situation. Coach has done a phenomenal job keeping me involved and taking an interest in who I am besides what I can give in my volleyball skills. During the Calvin volleyball camps this past summer Coach Warners asked me how my knee was doing. I responded with “Not so great. I am not sure how this will play out with volleyball.” Her response is something that I will never forget. Coach said, “No no. How is your knee looking long term? Not in regards to volleyball- in regards to your everyday life.”

I cannot express to you how much I am loved and valued as a person, regardless of what I can or cannot bring on the volleyball court. I was not, in any way, less involved or appreciated because of my injury. Do you understand how good that feels? To be loved for who you are as a person and for people to take interest in other areas of your life besides volleyball is one of the best feelings. It is the sole reason that I was able to stay on this team. Never in my life had I experienced a team whose love and relationships extended so far beyond the court. We truly love to be around each other for each other- not our volleyball talent. This is seen daily within our team. From long talks on bus rides and eating countless meals together, we really enjoy each other’s presence. When I look at our team, I don’t see volleyball skills. I see someone who has a great sense of humor, another who loves endlessly, another who is so creative and artistic that it would blow your mind, and yet another who works hard in every aspect of their life. The relationships that I, and the rest of us, have formed on this team have been nothing short of amazing. When I see our team play, I see never ending trust. I see us giving the benefit of the doubt. I see us work hard, push each other, and encourage each other like there is no tomorrow.   I am not sure how many other programs have what we have but I am guessing not everyone who plays volleyball on their teams feel the same way I do.  I’m not sure how other players from different schools feel about their teammates when they walk out of their gym, but our relationships with one another grows exponentially.  

Kelly Bos #16

Sr. Captain

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It's the Little Things

It’s the little things

There are only a few, broader scope ideas that you can gather from watching a Calvin volleyball game, staying in the dorms with the players overnight, or just observing the way the players interact. You may see that these ladies love spending time with each other, genuinely care for each other, and enjoy playing the game of volleyball together. Before walking into this program, I knew this team had something special going on but I had no idea Calvin volleyball was this incredible. It turned out to be better than I thought x1000. So what’s the secret to making this journey so memorable?        

It’s the little things that make your four years during Calvin volleyball unforgettable. Many of you may not even know about the small things that we do as a team as a part of our weekly routine. Though there are far too many to list, I’m going to do my best to give you the quickest glimpse of what it means to be a part of this program.

One thing that you will never fail to feel is love. This team has hearts of gold and they are not afraid to express their affection and appreciation for one another. There is no way you can’t feel cherished when walking up to your locker to find a small hand written note from a teammate. We make it a goal that each home game we will write a small encouraging note to our assigned prayer partner for the week. Another way we demonstrate our love is through something we like to call affirmations. After two long games, a lift in the weight room, and a long bus ride ahead of us, the most incredible feeling is having the team going around and saying a few things of why they love you and how you contribute to the team. We finish each session out by laying our hands on the player and “lifting our prayers up to God”. Not only do we love on each other but we like to love on others. Once a week we pull out a stack of thank you cards and send notes to anyone and everyone that has helped us individually or as a team. It is quite amazing to reflect on the many different people who do a variety of things to contribute to Calvin volleyball.

Something that I will not take for granted over the next couple of years is our fellowship with one another. Long days of class can be exhausting but showing up into the locker-room with 18 smiling faces is the best thing to brighten my day. After a couple of hours putting in work in the gym, a majority of us head over to the dining hall and eat a meal together. There are few meals that we don’t get odd glances from other tables as they watch us laugh so hard or throw apples into the air and stab them with our forks. We finish up our food and giggles and the freshmen head off to the library together (don’t worry mom and dad we actually do study around here). No study session is a dull one and in fact we have already had a noise complaint…oops! We finish up our day there around 11 and I don’t mind waking up and doing it all again. These women are my best friends and I wouldn’t mind spending every drooling moment with them (but I know that wouldn’t be healthy ;)).

One of our big focusses this year has been enjoying the process and not just waiting for results. This means that we do not want to take for granted a day we have with each other. Whether we have practice, a game, or just time to hang out we want to make the most of it. I think a lot of credit goes to our coaches and captains who have cultivated a safe and easy environment for everyone to feel that they can be themselves around each other. This makes the moments we share together way more enjoyable. Some of the “little things” that contribute to this have been hanging up ping pong balls, arranging the bus seating, our post-match evaluations and having devotions together. At the beginning of the season everyone wrote two things on ping pong balls that they felt would describe a perfect team culture and environment to be a part of. For example, one may have been to have 100% confidence in ourselves and in our team during every game and practice. Once we had a jar full of these goals, after each practice coach reads the ball to the team aloud and we consider how that could be attained. Another thing that contributes to the vibe of the team is switching up our bus seats to make sure everyone has a chance to sit by new people. Whether you’re sitting by someone who has the same favorite flavor of ice cream as you or someone with the same eye color, you know you can always have a good conversation. Apart from connecting with each other, a good way for us to connect with our coaches, is through our post-match evals. After each game we are given a sheet to reflect on the match. We can state the good the bad and how we genuinely feel. I think this has been a great way for coach to stay on track with our feelings and we love receiving our sheets back with some wise words from coach written upon them. And of course, the team devotions. Devotions lead by coach has allowed us to be vulnerable and challenge each other in our walks of faith. I’m sure many can say it is the highlight of their week.

Though some of these things are just “little things”, these are the parts of our routine that make Calvin volleyball so great. Sometimes these things get repetitive and exhausting, but they are a crucial part to making our program the most memorable during the days of our Calvin volleyball career. I am so blessed to be a part of this program.

With love,

Abby Gorter (lil’ G) #5
Woodbury, MN