By Amanda Roehrenbeck
Ask an athlete why he or she loves volleyball, and the usual answer is that it’s the ultimate team sport. As a child, I was exposed to multiple sports. But the sport that always left me wanting to play more was volleyball. I started at a young age, and quickly realized I wanted to play as much as possible, so I began playing club volleyball. I enjoyed the traveling and playing with athletes from different schools.
Volleyball is unique in that communication on the court is vital to create a good team. Because communication is so important, the game often lends itself to strong bonds built between teammates. As an adult looking back at my volleyball career, I now realize that the sport gave me some of the best friends I currently have in my life.
One friend in particular comes to mind when I think of volleyball. We met our freshmen year of high school playing club volleyball, and we hit it off immediately. We were able to travel to California together for a tournament, and we built a bond that little did we know back then, would get us through some major life-changing events.
Throughout high school and college, we saw each other through it all even when we were miles away from each other. It seemed the sport of volleyball always brought us back together. Whether it was a mud volleyball tournament for charity or a college volleyball match, we continued to stay in touch.
After college, the times we thought were tough back in the day seemed to pale in comparison to what was ahead. I’ll never forget when my friend told me her mother was suffering from breast cancer. Her mother was an amazing woman who raised two girls on her own. I knew this was going to be a rough road for my friend, as her mom was everything to her. When I heard the news of her being in the hospital, I went to visit by myself. I will never forget when I walked in the hospital room, her Mom yelled, “Dooda!” This was a nickname that was given to me when I played volleyball, and it had stuck in her mind all of those years. Here I was worried she wouldn’t recognize me, because it had been a few years since I’d seen her, and she immediately recalls my volleyball “nickname” from 10+ years back. As I sat and talked with her, we reminisced about volleyball and discussed how she was doing.
I will never forget going to visit her in Hospice right before she took her final breath. I was amazed at the strength in my friend and how she was holding it together for her family, especially her younger sister. As I squeezed her mom’s hand and told her I loved her, I remember telling her I’d help watch over my friend for her.
A few months later, while I was coaching a high school volleyball team, we decided to have a volleyball game in memory of my friend’s mom. We all dressed in pink, and helped raise money at the event for Breast Cancer Awareness. It was an amazing night, and of course my friend was right by my side to be a part of it. There we were, again brought together by volleyball on a special night.
I’m sure all would agree that Volleyball lends itself to being a team oriented sport that fosters relationships that last a lifetime. The unique experiences we all encounter through playing, coaching, and even watching the game draw us into a tight knit community with the same focus on the game we all love. Whether you are a coach, a player, a parent, or an athletic director, I invite you to use the sport to gain awareness for the challenges that some individuals encounter. The Sideout Foundation in particular, teams with the volleyball community to inspire science and hope in the match against breast cancer. If you and your volleyball team are looking for ways to team up to support a cause, we invite you to visit: https://side-out.org.