My primary motivation for choosing Carnegie Mellon for my college experience was academic in nature. As a math major, I chose CMU for the opportunity to study alongside a top-tier math department. Continuing my volleyball career here, though, was the cherry on top of this decision. At risk of sounding like a stereotypical math major, I have to admit that I have spent four years actively avoiding anything that requires writing during my time here. So, being asked to write a senior reflection is something that tremendously scares me. It requires me to write, and even worse, write about my feelings. That being said, having an opportunity to talk about my experience playing for CMU volleyball was something I couldn’t pass up.
I haven’t had the most traditional role as part of CMU volleyball. As a rising junior on the team, I was told I would most likely never have a starting spot for my position and I would see little court time. I’ve had several people tell me that if they were facing the same circumstance, they would have quit. People have asked me why I stayed. To be honest, quitting never really crossed my mind. There are so many more roles on a team than the six players seen on the court. So while the rest of the girls in my class played their positions on the court, I assumed roles that few think about. I became the reserve side big blocker, the team math tutor, the loudest cheerer, and (one of) the stats keepers, just to name a few.
While these weren’t the roles I imagined for myself during the first day of preseason training freshman year, they became MY roles--roles that I wanted to play; roles I knew I could do a good job with. I was the teammate who shut down our big hitters on the reserve side of practice in order to help them improve for our next big tournament. I was the teammate who fixed a broken window shade with medical tape on one of our many long bus rides. I was the teammate with the loudest cheering voice, refusing to be quiet during our games. While they might not be the conventional roles, in the end, I’m incredibly proud of the player I was on the CMU volleyball team.
Over the four years I’ve spent with Carnegie Mellon volleyball, I’ve watched each and every one of my teammates play a unique role on this team. When you put us all together, we have had bigger results than anyone ever expected from us. Throughout my college career, I’ve seen the team accomplish some pretty spectacular things. We’ve upset some of the best teams in the UAA, completely crushed a team that dared to call us “stupid and un-athletic” during warmups, and finished two years with NCAA postseason appearances. But behind every one of those moments of success that get published as the stories of Carnegie Mellon volleyball are more important memories. My teammates and I have laughed, cried, studied, cheered, and played together; my coaches have been my mentors--people who I have constantly learned from. People ask me why I stayed? My team is why I stayed.
In my opinion, it takes a pretty special group of people to want a role like mine. I think that speaks volumes about my teammates, coaches, and the whole athletics department. They are the people who made me want to contribute in any possible way so that we would be the best possible team. They are the people who I now consider some of my best friends and mentors. People who pushed me to better. People who showed me it was okay not to be serious all the time. People who taught me that playing a sport is much, much more than just learning the game. People who made me realize that my contributions didn’t have to fit in specific boxes that people expect from athletes. People I’ve learned so much from and helped me grow over my four years at CMU. My volleyball experience has been about so much more than the sport I play. It’s been about the people I met along the way.