Being the tallest volleyball player on your girls high school team isn't
always fun and games for everybody.
Although its not true for everybody, many girls get teased about their
height, their long arms, their "big feet" or how skinny they are.
In many cases, this teasing serves as motivation for us to become the
best players we can be in the hope that people will start noticing our
talent and not our physical attributes.
Stanford graduate, captain of the US national volleyball team and
two-time Olympian Kim Oden tells her inspiring story about what it was
like to be the tallest volleyball player on her high school team.
Going through the teenage years can sometimes be hard. You are
always trying to define who you are as a person, your body is changing
and being accepted by your peers takes center stage.
To be accepted, teenagers feel they have to find some way to fit in
with their classmates. This process can be confusing, disappointing and
long. In addition to these very difficult aspects of growing up, many
times people try to pick out those who are different.
If you are smaller than most people in your school, darker than most,
lighter than most, heavier than most, poorer than most, you probably
already have been or will be singled out. The feeling you get from being
singled out is not good, but you know you are not alone and that this
period will not last forever. The folks who are making fun of you are only
trying to mask their own differences.
Be strong, be yourself, and use the talents that God has given you, no
matter how much opposition you face.
I was always tall. Taller than anyone else my age and in
elementary school, taller than some of my teachers! There was
just no hiding it. This resulted in some serious teasing.
And it didn't end in third grade; it escalated through high school. I was
called anything and everything that had to do with skinny, tall, lanky
people or things. "Hey Spaghetti Legs" was quite popular for awhile,
then there was the typical "daddy long legs", "beanpole", "Olive Oyl"
from the Popeye cartoon...the list seemed endless.
Although these are just words, they hurt my feelings and made me wish
I were shorter. To try to achieve a shorter height, I began to hunch my
shoulders a bit and slouch down.
I was hoping that the slouching would bring me closer to my classmates'
height. But what it did was make me look even more different and the
slouching brought more attention to me--more of the kind I didn't want.
My grandmother was the first to tell me not to hide it, to be proud of it
and stand tall. She was right.
It is a futile effort to try to hide who you are and what you are made
If you are tall...be proud.
If you are heavy...be proud.
If you are small...be proud.
If you are dark...be proud.
If you are poor...be proud.
You have reason to be proud because you were created with gifts inside
you to share with the world (academically, athletically, otherwise) and if
God entrusted you with these gifts, you must be worth a lot.
In 8th grade, I started playing volleyball.
Now, the height I wanted to hide was a help to me in this sport. As I
continued to play, I got better and volleyball coaches in the area
thought that I could be very good.
Like my grandmother said all those years ago, I now stood tall, and was
very proud of my height and my classmates noticed the positive change
in my attitude toward myself.
However, the improvement in the acceptance of my peers brought other
Now people asked me 'Why volleyball? Why not basketball or track?'
My answer was that I liked volleyball and I was good at it. My parents
stressed to my sisters and brother and I not to let anyone else define
who you are, but you.
As I gravitated to and excelled in sports in high school, classmates and
teachers began to make certain assumptions about me. We all know
what people think about the brain capacity of jocks.
I hate when people look at you and assume you can't do something. As
women, we deal with that a lot, and as people of color we do too. I
have dealt with it many times.
When I was high school age, it was difficult to hear negative things
about myself, without the comment really getting to me by making me
wonder if the people who said it were right.
I gave those negative comments way too much attention. Letting those
things in your mind, can do no good whatsoever. They put your focus
on what others think you are or what they are trying to define you to
be, not on what you are or can be in reality.
I now realize that I don't have to listen to, or dwell on negative
comments from anyone. I now strive to let it roll off my back and keep
One time in particular I remember experiencing a negative situation in a
computer class in high school. It was my senior year and I was being
heavily recruited in volleyball. One of the schools recruiting me was
Stanford University. After a campus visit, I was leaning towards going
One day in computer class, my teacher came up and I thought he
was going to encourage me or give me advice about the decision I
was going to make. Instead he told me that he thought I should
forget about Stanford because the academics were tough, he
didn't think I'd be able to make it.
I had good grades, and I knew I would work my hardest to
graduate; yet he took none of that into consideration. Knowing
myself better than he did and with the encouragement of my
parents...I chose Stanford.
I graduated in four (4) years and one quarter.
I started on the volleyball team for four years and played in four (4)
NCAA Division I Final Four Championships.
I was elected along with three others to the 1986 Slate of Class
I enjoyed Stanford immensely and it added a lot to my life.
Had I listened to the negative teacher, I would have missed out on all
that and perhaps that was his intention. I'm just glad I didn't listen to
him, nor did I allow his comment to slow me down in taking advantage of
a good opportunity.
In life, there are always people to tell you what they think you
aren't capable of doing. Don't listen to them. If you feel you are
gifted in a certain area and you know you will work hard to
accomplish what you set out to do, don't let anyone stop you.
Keep trying until you make it. You'll be glad you did.
Get more volleyball info on Kim Oden.
This story "The Tallest Volleyball Player on the Team" was written by
Kim Oden 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.
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