I learned how to become a pro volleyball player, thanks to hard work,
determination, discipline and dedication.
Here's my story.
After I was born it didn't take me long to get sick.
Firstborn children are often sickly. I was no exception. Little did I know
what I was going to have to overcome.
I was born in Kaiser Hospital in Los Angeles where at 8 months old they
diagnosed me with...spinal meningitis.
My aunt had spinal meningitis when she was young and the only thing
that saved her life was an intensive penicillin therapy.
But she was older than I was when she was stricken which really
worried my parents. They decided to cross town to USC Medical for a
Luckily the doctors said 'no" meningitis 'yes' measles. I had a 104 degree
Not long after this first scare my parents kept noticing that I continued
to be sicker than usual. Every couple of days I'd have a rash, a fever or
some reaction to some unknown substance.
Later they found out I was allergic to commercial baby food.
My father bought a mixer and started making natural juices and food
substances for me. Fruit juices, carrot juice, beet, spinach and that
awful cabbage juice were the only substances my baby body didn't
react to negatively.
They said I ate that stuff like a football player but I never gained
At 10 months I started walking.
Normally that's premature and a cause for celebration, but for me it was
only another one of life's challenges.
We found out how severely bowlegged I was which apparently was one
of the results of that high fever I had when I had the measles.
I was left with both of my legs and feet turned completely inward.
At night, I had to start sleeping with a metal contraption consisting of
two lateral bars with clasps that my feet were inserted in. Periodically
the doctor or my Mom would adjust a knob which would force my legs
and feet to turn outward while I slept since I was too young to have
formed the muscles needed to turn my feet out naturally.
And yes, I was completely immobile in bed. I couldn't turn and I couldn't
turn over. Think "torture chamber".
How tough is it for a kid not to be able to move around when they want
Now if that was all then this would be a short story. But it wasn't.
During the day I had to wear a pair of huge iron braces that were
attached to these special shoes and were connected along the sides of
my legs all the way up to my waist.
If you saw the movie 'Forrest Gump' then you've seen exactly the type
of contraption I had to wear.
Imagine a young Forrest Gump with his leg braces and you've almost got
At age 2, I graduated to these huge weighted metal shoes that my Mom
said were painful just to see never mind have to wear.
I still hadn't gained much weight so by the end of the day my legs were
painfully sore all the time.
In addition to everything else, my hair started to fall out.
Whether it was stress related or just a result of the high fever I was a
two year old girl with no hair.
Adults thought I was a skinny little boy as a kid and as you can imagine
kids teased me A LOT.
For some reason, as a kid growing up and getting older I never really
focused on my physical aspect. I didn't focus on "Oh man I wish I had
this or had that" nor did I feel sorry for myself. I'm not sure why.
I just was.
I do attribute a lot of this to my father.
My father didn't let me focus on what was "wrong" with me. He always
talked about what was right with me and the things that I could do well,
like reading and writing.
My parents had long discussions on what to do with me and how to
treat me so I'd have a normal childhood.
Remember I was the firstborn, so I was the experiment. They had to
figure out a game plan they could follow, and they did.
They discussed whether I should wear a wig or not. My father
refused. He was totally against it. He didn't want me to hide
behind anything I wasn't born with.
I'd say my father's take was "If God didn't give it to you, then either
you work for it or you didn't need to have it".
My Father taught me that the only love I actually needed in life was
that of God, that of myself, and that of my parents.
His lessons always entailed loving God, loving my parents, my family and
loving myself no matter what.
They talked about my leg braces, my hair and lack of it and/or how
skinny I was. I should have grown up with issues.
And in my mind, I never had any.
That is just how I grew up. I was constantly teased at school and on
But in kindergarten I was reading second and third grade educational
material. I was smarter than the majority of the kids in my class.
In second grade, I had a teacher accuse me of cheating because
she said my penmanship was too perfect. She insisted my Mom
was doing my homework.
My writing ability was great because my Mom was a school teacher and
she made me do extra writing and penmanship exercises even after I
was done with my homework.
And besides, I loved to write anyway so I didn't look at it as 'extra
A little drama in life is expected but this wasn't a fun situation having to
prove my intelligence.
When I was four and a half, on the advice of my grandmother, my
parents put me in ballet class so that the exercises would strengthen
my legs and turn my feet out naturally.
I loved to dance and it didn't really feel like physical therapy.
With their encouragement I started taking all sorts of classes that were
physically challenging. Swimming, tumbling and gymnastics, tap and
As my confidence in myself and my abilities grew, so did my leg
By this time I developed a new strategy for when kids teased me.
I started to ask them if they wanted to read with me. Nine times out of
ten they stopped teasing and talking about me but they wouldn't read
with me since I was reading material that they couldn't read.
Since I had started kindergarten so early in age it made me the
youngest in everything I did through life.
In junior high and high school I was younger than everybody in my
The same thing occurred on the varsity volleyball team, junior
When people thought I was too young and said I didn't belong...I
wouldn't focus on the hurt.
I just became super-determined to improve my talents and volleyball
By the time I was in high school...when I asked anyone to play volleyball
with me, nine times out of ten...they said "Yes!".
I was a sophomore in high school when I set three goals for myself.
One was to earn a college volleyball scholarship.
The second goal was to make the US National Volleyball team.
The third goal was to learn how to become a pro volleyball player so I
I first learned that I would have to be the first one in the gym and the
last to leave, all the time. And I was.
I learned early on that I'd get nearer to accomplishing my goals by
looking for all sorts of opportunities to play with people and players who
were better than I was and who could teach me how to become
a pro volleyball player and a better well conditioned athlete in general.
If I had to arrange a ride to practice I would. If I had to take a bus to
practice I would.
I practiced passing and setting against my garage door so often the
paint color changed on the garage door but my ability to control the ball
I think I learned how to do things the hard way because I wasn't really
worried much about how people thought about me.
When you grow up with little or no hair and leg braces you learn that
what people think about you isn't important, achieving your positive
goals in life is what really matters.
I made learning how to become a pro volleyball player a priority in
everything I did.
I would stand in front of the mirror before going to bed and practice my
armswing without a ball one hundred times so my elbow was above the
level of my ear when I pulled it back, and I knew my armswing for my
I did this so much that sometimes I would be asleep and I would sit up
in bed and do my arm swing in my sleep, I was told.
I made myself faster by doing three, four or five series of 10-15 sprints
at a nearby park. While I was there I did my own quick step and
jump training exercises. I went to the beach and ran sprints in the sand
to make myself faster when I played indoors.
One of the keys of learning how to become a pro volleyball player or a
collegiate player or a member or your varsity volleyball team lies in
your ability to improve during your offseason.
I learned the importance of summertime and offseason workouts and I
never if rarely missed any. It was during these times of training where I
like most athletes, made my biggest improvements in speed, in jumping
ability, in ball control and in mental toughness.
I learned quickly that trying "to get better" during my season
wasn't going to make me stand out.
I had to already 'be' better before my season started if I was
going to win a spot or keep a spot on the team I wanted to be on,
especially if I wanted to be a starter.
I wanted to be the fastest, so I worked on speed.
I wanted to out jump my competition for longer periods of time, so I
worked on leg strength and jumping endurance.
I wanted to get nine out of ten of the balls I was served by the
opposing team ..to the target.
So I worked on controlling the ball to the target by myself and then I'd
go find some young guys or old men to serve balls at me in my
When you are willing to work hard to reach your goals then many times
the opportunities you are looking for --make themselves available. You
Because the universe works that way.
You start talking about your goals to yourself, your friends, to others
and then little by little things start to work in your favor.
But you have to be dedicated, disciplined and determined, before that
The fastest way for me to learn how to be a pro volleyball player, or a
standout collegiate player or a starting high school player was to get
beat in practice, over and over and over again.
It didn't feel good, but it made me hungry.
It made me hungry to learn how to get good and how to be accurate at
all six volleyball skills.
When you do that, people begin to notice. Coaches begin to notice.
Players begin to notice. Your game and your skills and your ability begins
This type of attitude marks the beginning of how to become a pro
volleyball player, or a highly recruited high school player.
Trust me it has happened to me repeatedly.
I never knew how I was going to get over to Italy to play my first
season. But, that summer after my fourth year of college I just kept
working out and I knew I had to be in shape when I got the
call and I had to keep repeating my goals to myself and I kept telling
people why I was working out and what I was working for.
One day, at the end of summer I received a call from Elaine Roque an All
American player at UCLA who had been playing in Parma, Italy for
She was ready to come back to the United States to finish school and
play beach and she needed another player to take her place on her
We didn't know each other but she had heard about me. She played
middle blocker and I was an outside hitter. I didnt care, I was ready
to play any position and my bags were packed.
Thanks to that phone call Elaine taught me how to become a pro
volleyball player in Italy by giving me advice on how to get there, what
to bring and what to expect.
I stayed there for 13 years.
Luckily you can make things in life happen for yourself whether its
learning how to become a pro volleyball player, a collegiate player
or a varsity player by working hard, being determined, dedicated
Life Lesson: Don't focus on yourself and what you believe are your
Focus on your natural abilities and work to develop and enhance
volleyball skills and life skills you do well while constantly
improving your weaker ones.
This will pay off in life both on the volleyball court and off.
This story "I Learned How To Become A Pro Volleyball Player" was written by April Chapple for the Volleyball Voices project created and produced by April Chapple. All rights reserved. Volleyball Voices copyright 2013.
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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.
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I Learned How To Become A Pro Volleyball Player: April Chapple