The First Volleyball Player America Had To Respect:
Mary Jo Peppler

One of the world's famous volleyball players, Mary Jo Peppler, describes how to "let your life live you.”

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

have happened.

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

Dallas suburbs.

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


The Japanese were the first country to host volleyball as an Olympic

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.

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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.

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Be sure to check out more inspiring volleyball players stories


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Famous Beach Volleyball Player Nina Matthies

Famous Female Volleyball Player Rose Magers

Good Volleyball Players Like Heather Bown Prove Critics Wrong

I Learned How To Be A Better Volleyball Player:Olympian Liz Masakayan

The First Volleyball Player America Had To Respect: Mary Jo Peppler

The Girl Volleyball Player Who Got Better Than The Boys: Laurel Brassey Iversen

The Most Famous Volleyball Player, Flo Hyman

The Shortest Volleyball Player On The Court: Debbie Green Vargas

The Tallest Volleyball Player On The Team: Kim Oden

I Learned How To Become A Pro Volleyball Player: April Chapple

Return To Inspirational Female Volleyball Players Stories From The First

Volleyball Player America Had To Respect: Mary Jo Peppler 

Return to Inspiring Female Volleyball Players From The First Volleyball

Player America Had To Respect: Mary Jo Peppler 

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The Weekly Award-winning Las Vegas Volleyball Boot Camp Class Schedule

Watch as the 2018 Nevada Recreation and Park Society award for Best Sports Program in Nevada is awarded to Volleyball Voice Boot Camp Classes

  • Monday Volleyball Class (ages 11 - 14) - Stupak Community Center 6 - 7:30
  • Tuesday Volleyball Class (ages 13 - 18) - Mirabelli Community Center 6 - 7:30
  • Wednesday Advanced/Varsity Only Class - Chuck Minker Sports Complex - 4:30 - 6pm - Contact Coach April first before coming if you've never been
  • Thursday Volleyball Class (ages 13 - 18) - Stupak Community Ctr. 6 - 7:30
  • Friday Advanced/Varsity Only Skill Clinics (ages 13 - 18) - Veteran's Memorial Summerlin - 5pm - 6pm - Contact Coach April before coming first if you've never been 
  • Friday Volleyball Class (ages 9 - 13) - Veteran's Memorial Leisure Services 6 - 7:30

Boot Camp Volleyball Class Requirements

  • No online registration for Volleyball Voice Boot Camp classes
  • Arrive 15-20 minutes before class begins
  • Pay $10 at front desk
  • Kneepads mandatory
  • Classes close at 6:05, latecomers will not be admitted
  • You WILL sweat

Monthly Monday 
Advanced Training 

Breakfast Club 60

About Breakfast Club 60

  • Four Mondays 4pm - 5pm
  • 60 minute intense Training
  • Class Max 12 - Coed
  • Ages 14 - 18
  • No Beginners
  • Varsity/Adv/Elite Skill level
  • Breakfast Club/USAVHP
  • Registration is Open
  • Stupak Community Ctr 
  • Pay $195 for a four class pack Breakfast Club 60 
  • Pay $195 late registration (1-3 Mondays)

Elite training for very advanced hard working players who INTEND to play volleyball in college.

Exclusive opportunity to train with teammates/friends with similar high goals and are ready to push YOU and themselves to improve. 

Not for the curious, weak hearted or distracted player, we do more in 60 minutes than most clubs and teams do in three hours. 

If you’ve never attended a Breakfast Club class contact Coach April BEFORE registering.

Brunch Club 60

About Brunch Club 60

  • Four Mondays 5pm - 6pm
  • 60 minute intensive Training
  • Class Max 12 - Coed
  • Ages 13 - 15
  • No Beginners
  • Intermediate Skill level
  • Registration is Open
  • Stupak Community Ctr 
  • Pay $195 for a four class pack Breakfast Club 60 
  • Pay $195 late registration (1-3 Mondays)

Perfect for regular Boot Camp class players and players who've ALREADY played on a City of Las Vegas/NYS Elite local league team and who're interested in more advanced training and/or trying out for the Volleycats Elite 14s/15s/ local team competing in June/July/August. 

Private and Semi Private Lessons with Coach April
Tuesdays and Thursdays

Ten (10) - intensive 60-minute sessions of semi-private (small groups of six) volleyball practices 

Sessions are a specially designed mix of skills conducted by Coach April within the one hour session

  • Private training class pack is $1050 for 10 classes. This includes gym rental fee 
  • Semi-private training class pack is $850 for 10 classes. This includes gym rental fee