I acquired my first piece of athletic equipment in the 1940's when I was
just past toddler stage.
The handle bars of my scooter were almost as tall as me.
Sometime before we moved to Texas my scooter and I must
have been surgically separated because that is the only way it could
I still have phantom "scooter pangs" in the deep of
night while dreaming.
As a six year old, I had become a Texan. I was not however, a human
Texan, but I had become a Texas Wild Horse. My best friend Nancy and
I spent every free moment galloping, whinnying, and tossing our manes
in the wild Texas country, Apache country, even though we lived in the
Growing up in the forties and fifties was not easy for a future Olympic
athlete. There were no youth soccer leagues, no real sports equipment
and no organized sports programs of any kind. There was only open
space and imagination.
From this kind of childhood I learned that there is no such thing as
boredom, people who think they are bored are only people who allow
themselves to be bored.
As a child, I never considered being bored.
It was my job to imagine my life and find ways to live it. Children of the
forties and fifties were expected to entertain themselves, not wait to be
For as long as I can remember, I knew I would go to the Olympics.
Everyone has things in their life that they just know. I think that
children today don't "just know" things like we did when I was a child
because they are never quiet enough to hear the messages.
When you are busy, busy, busy, there is no time for self reflection.
When I was quite small, my father used to ask me, "How tall are you
going to be when you grow up, Mary Jo?"
And I always replied, "Six feet tall!". I just knew.
By the time I was in fourth grade, I had become a reluctant Californian.
I had lots of fights in school insisting that Texas was indeed much
better than California. This seemed obvious to me because there were
certainly no Texas Wild Horses in California.
Undaunted, I became a basketball player because we had a basketball
court in our backyard. My sailor cap and my basketball became
inseparable. Somehow the two were invisibly connected. It is from this
time in my life that I learned that things are mysteriously and invisibly
connected and this later translated into a passion for quantum physics.
I didn't have any heroes or models for my life while I was growing up.
There were few women of prominence at that time. Recently, Life
Magazine published their 100 most prominent people of the century.
Only two women were in the top fifty and according to Life, only a total
of nine women influenced the century.
When I grew up, locating a hero was slim pickens!
If I had had a hero though, I'll tell you what I wish they would have told
me. "You sit at the very center of a universal presence for good. And it
also sits at your very center. You cannot be separated from that infinite
This is what my study of religion and quantum physics has taught me.
If I had known this during my life when I felt alone, insecure and
abandoned, I wouldn't haven given a second thought to my many
struggles. Everything I have gone through has brought me safely to
here. I've been protected and blessed and its all been good.
By the time I was in Junior High, my school offered after-school sports
as a club called Girls Athletic Association (GAA). We had a few Playdays
with other schools where we could play a variety of sports and not keep
score. But in the summer, my friends and I would go to the park and
play the jukebox, flirt with the Director (a handsome married man who
was the model for the Marlboro billboards) and play some softball.
A few years later, all my girlfriends and I were drawn to the park to play
co-ed volleyball where we could all press into one or two cars (yippee!)
and drive to other parks to play against their co-ed teams. Now, just as
with the scooter, and the Texas Wild Horse, and the sailor cap and the
basketball, I became inseparable with the sport of volleyball.
In my senior year of high school, I finally got to play an organized sport.
My whole life revolved around that one day a week when I would go to
volleyball practice with a team in Long Beach, California that was the
National Championship amateur team in the nation. This level
represented virtually the only real volleyball in the United States.
When I was 17, I played my first organized volleyball and went to my
first National Tournament. When I was 19, I did what I always knew I
would do---I went to the Olympics.
I've played volleyball in four decades, during all that time, I have also
coached, many times as a player/coach.
I have picked a hard road. Somehow, I never felt as if I made a
decision. Though looking back now, my life developed in an unlikely
manner, yet , my life was always as it should be. When a door closed,
another opened. I've done almost everything in my life because I had
sport in 1964. Unfortunately in 1963, the USA did not qualify its
volleyball team. I had hoped, even though I had only seriously played
volleyball for one year, to be an Olympian in the sport of volleyball. This
was not possible so I turned to track. This was not so much a decision
as what happened. I joined a track club and my prospects looked
I was 17, my family was going to move from the San Fernando Valley to
Northern California. One morning, I was protesting the move because it
would jeopardize my chances of going to the Olympics when my father
and I had angry words, again. He said to stop talking about it or get
out. I moved out within the hour.
Of course, no one had any reason to believe that I would go to the
Olympics on that sunny morning in Southern California. There was no
evidence to support it. My father and I have seldom spoken and since
that day I had almost no contact with my family for almost ten years.
I went to live temporarily with a friend and her father, sold
encyclopedias door to door, did market research on the street and for a
while was homeless.
In that time I did go to the Olympics and spent most of my waking hours
training (on my own with no formal structure) like a maniac.
Nine years later, with some help from friends, a paper route, and
work-study, I realized another thing that I knew would happen, I
graduated from college. I never considered that I would not finish
college. In this respect, I kind of had no choice. You cannot be
separated from your beliefs.
From this time in my life I learned two things.
First I learned that in all the compromised situations I have experienced,
the world is good, and I remain safe in the hands of my creator.
Second, if you lock your sights clearly on anything, you will
eventually yield to your target.
I've done lots of things in my life that were at the time "Impossible".
Luckily I didn't know it at the time.
My advice to anyone is to let your life live you. You don't have to rule
yourself with an iron hand, because if you let it, the divine plan of your
life will direct you.
Anything is possible if you can think it clearly and hold it passionately.
Anything unrealized is not important; what is important is the quality of
each step that you take along the way.
Everything you do is important, even if it doesn't seem so at the time. If
you apply your full attention, everything will always be just as it should
Get more volleyball info on Mary Jo Peppler.
This story "The First Volleyball Player America Had To Respect" was
written by Mary Jo Peppler exclusively for the Volleyball
Voices project created and produced by April Chapple.
No reproduction is allowed.
All rights reserved. Volleyball Voices copyright 2013.
Do you have a great story? Share it!
The Volleyball Voices editorial project is an ongoing work in progress and I invite you and all Inspiring Female Volleyball Players readers to contribute their own personal stories of the obstacles they had to overcome in order to enjoy or excel at playing volleyball.
The purpose of this project is to empower, educate and inspire female volleyball players to become self-confident athletes with positive body images and through this collection of stories to provide ideas and inspiration to IFVP readers that will serve to help improve self-esteem.
The ultimate goal is to create the largest collection of inspirational female volleyball players stories on the web and your help is needed to accomplish this goal.
Are you one of the female volleyball players that have had to overcome any of the obstacles in the list mentioned above?
If so, please add to the collection by submitting your own story of overcoming obstacles.
Be sure to check out more inspiring volleyball players stories
I Learned How To Become A Pro Volleyball Player: April Chapple
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Exclusive opportunity to train with teammates/friends with similar high goals and are ready to push YOU and themselves to improve.
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About Brunch Club 60
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Ten (10) - intensive 60-minute sessions of semi-private (small groups of six) volleyball practices
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