Works in Progress, a regular segment of our Morning Reports at Emma Willard School, is a chance for members of our community to share part of their story as an authentic expression of how we are all ‘works in progress.’ Last week, Julia W. ’24 shared how her experience of volleyball has helped her through hard times and shaped who she is becoming.
Hi! I’m Julia. Some of you know I’m one of the Varsity Volleyball captains, or have come to one of our games. And any of you who have, at any point, talked to me about volleyball know that I LOVE the sport- soooo much. Today, I wanted to tell you why.
The truth is, volleyball changed my life. I started playing about two and a half years ago, in the weird COVID season in the spring of my freshman year. At my old school, I played singles tennis and skied cross country, so while as a kid I had played little league soccer and travel basketball, I had never participated in a team sport for my school. Volleyball is the quintessential team sport. At any moment, every single player must be dialed in to what is happening in the game, because the ball could come to them at any time. If you drop a pass or miss a hit, your teammates don’t get a chance to touch the ball; everything you do, you do for your team. The team sport thing was new for me, but I was enamored. When the season ended freshman year, I didn’t plan on coming back to the team. I figured come fall, once covid restrictions were lifted, I would absolutely be trying out for the tennis team.
But life never goes the way we plan. During the last week of school that year, my house burnt down. My family and I moved in with my grandma, the six of us plus our dog, and with the omnipresent grief that seemed to press down on everyone, the house felt kind of cramped.
Many people (including me) consider their room to be a safe place, where you can go if you feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable, and in a day I had lost that safe haven at one of the most uncertain times of my life. I couldn’t stand being at “home” amidst the stress and sadness of my family. So I started going out, early in the morning, to the track at my local highschool, and methodically and mercilessly putting myself through workout routines to get faster and stronger, to jump higher and hit harder. For hours I would practice my serves and my hits, and in between run the bleachers and pass to myself until my legs felt like jelly. Volleyball helped me cope by giving me a million new skills to focus on.
Since that summer, playing volleyball is comforting to me in a way that nothing else is. By August, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be trying out for volleyball again that year. I remembered vividly the feeling of having a team to rely on, to support me and work together with. That summer I felt untethered and ungrounded, and I dreamed of having a solid place to belong. I wanted that place to be the volleyball team.
During my sophomore year season, I became obsessed- truly obsessed. I dreamed of being captain, playing in college, playing D-1, going pro. In a conversation with my dad, in which I convinced him to let me play on a club team year-round starting that fall, I told him in desperation “If my life were a pacman pie chart, the body is volleyball, and the mouth is everything else”. Those dreams of professional volleyball stardom have certainly faded in the last couple of years. I still love volleyball just as much, if not more, but I have no aspirations to take it further in any competitive capacity. The other dream–the older one, of belonging to the team, of having teammates to trust and count on and love–has come true a million times over.
My coaches have made my experience magical, and I am so grateful to them. My old captains and my co-captains have been some of the most supportive people in my life. My ring sisters have given me so much happiness, and I love the entire team from the bottom of my heart.
When I started school at Emma, I had never even touched a volleyball. Now, nothing feels more natural in my hand. Volleyball taught me that when I work hard at something I can get really really good at it, even if it's the furthest thing from easy when I begin. Emma volleyball gave me a home when I had none, and a family I didn’t know I needed. To everyone who has given me this opportunity, thank you so, so much. I love you all.
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