The Tallest Volleyball Player On The Team

Kim Oden, US Olympic Team Captain
Untold Volleyball Story About Being Taller Than Everyone Else



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."

-Kim Oden



As the tallest volleyball player on your team if you're teased, then you can use that as motivation to become a better player.



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.



If you're the tallest volleyball player on your team, be proud of that fact. Many other players would love to have your height.



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

of.


  • 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.



If you're the tallest volleyball player on your team, don't try to beat anybody who teases you. Just prove them wrong.



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

problems.


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.



As the tallest volleyball player on your team, you will stand out. Get used to being comfortable in your own skin.



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.



As the tallest volleyball player on your team, its a waste of your precious time to worry about what people say about you.
Spend your time doing something that makes you better, faster or stronger than everybody else on your team.



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 

going.


Kim Oden, Volleyball Quote


“My proudest moment was winning the

bronze medal at the 1992 Olympic Games

with my sister, Elaina.


The team had not done well in 1988 and

we wanted to make sure that we earned a

medal at the subsequent Olympics.


The team came together as one, worked

hard and competed fiercely. The result

was a bronze medal, my prized 

possession.


To share a moment like that with my sister

was incredibly AMAZING.”


-Kim Oden, Flo Hyman USA Volleyball All -Time Great Player (Female, Indoor)



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 

there.


"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."

-Kim Oden



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.



As the tallest volleyball player on your team you can make yourself into whatever you want to be.



  • 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 Presidents. 
  • 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 that will 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."

-Kim Oden volleyball quote


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 2017.


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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.

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