I was in 9th grade in 1990 when the AVP came to Lost Lake, just outside the Fresno city limits on the 41 freeway…the gateway to Yosemite and some of the world’s most breathtaking views. My family had always been more for the mountains, but I had been to the beach a handful of times and knew from my first breath of ocean air that it was my happy place. Fresno loves it’s sports, and although it was just for two seasons, we brought the beach to the edges of the San Joaquin River and just like Field of Dreams said:
“If you build it, they will come.”
And they showed up like Fresnan’s do. In the heat, with their umbrellas and water bottles. 20,000 deep off center court for the another Smith/Stoklos vs. Hovland/Dodd battle.
I remember the day before the action began they ran a players clinic of some kind, and I went, along with a friend from my volleyball team. I remember telling my mom after playing a mini game with Smith/Stoklos and my friend that I could die happy now. I remember having the biggest crush on an up and coming player…I wonder what ever happened to Eric Boyles? I had fallen in love with the game the year before the AVP came to town, laying on my bed, setting pillows in the air. I was the kid who only liked to go to school during volleyball season. Getting out of class early to go to games in junior high was the highlight of those two years for me. I love to tell my kids that I learned to play on blacktop in 6th grade with 9 players on the court and my favorite play by the 8th grade was to block serves…because for some reason you could do that. The game has changed a lot over the years but my love for the sport has only grown. I have a special place in my heart for the gentle giant, I can spot her from a mile away, often a middle blocker, like I was, and I want to help her feel comfortable in her skin, take up space, and unleash the power that is within her.
Since these early days, I have spent many hours in the gym and on the beach watching my own kids play. I feel so much connection with the conversation that happens surrounding the game, and, while I appreciate learning all of the technical aspects and love to watch high level execution of volleyball in all it’s forms, my passion lies with the life lessons, the mindset, and what we can learn about ourselves with the experience of every practice and game. Confidence, discipline, grit, resilience, non judgment, cooperation, presence, self control, consistency, compassion, kindness…I feel every one of these lessons pour into my consciousness moving my body through six games on any given morning without a dollar or a medal on the line. I feel so blessed to have learned enough to keep playing, keep growing and keep getting better…on and off the court. And yes, one definitely inspires the other. In between games, the talk is real about parenting, relationships, work life, and all the challenges that come with living life to the fullest. It’s one of the reasons I started The Optimists Journal…to share what I’m learning through life, encourage other people to be real with what comes their way, and create an intergenerational conversation through sports that inspires greatness and maximizes the human potential in each of us. Life never stops trying to teach us, we get to choose if we are going to dig in and do the hard work to understand the deepest parts of ourselves and do the learning (and unlearning) that has to happen if we want to level up, or ignore or try and go around the challenges, only to discover if we do, we keep swimming in the same small pond. Everyone has a story, and the world is better off when we tell them, bumps, bruises and all, so we can learn from them and elevate what happens going forward. What isn’t acknowledged is bound to repeat itself.
Over the last few years, writing this blog has been my constant weekly companion. It’s a joy for me to write whether one or a million people read it, but I’ve always had an energy inside of me that tells me to keep going, that I am supposed to reach more people to spread optimism and help them find deep calm in their lives. My favorite conversations happen one on one, and I love my life playing volleyball, parenting, and learning how to grow myself and others through coaching. Some days I’ve found myself feeling selfish that I want to go out and spend the first couple hours of my day playing volleyball…maybe there is something more productive I should do that little voice in my head whispers. But most of the time the pull is too great, so I tape up my knee and off I go. And lucky for me that I did a few weeks back or I would have missed an amazing moment of connection with Anthony Moore of @amoorephoto_ (check out his Instagram, it’s beautiful). We have become fast friends and have created an amazing collaboration with his incredible volleyball photography and videography and my ‘game of life’ stories to inspire generations of athletes, coaches, and families to level up…on the court and in their lives. We’re just getting started and I hope you are feeling as inspired as I am to follow along…more to come on that!
As I watched the YouTube video attached above of the 1990 Fresno Beach AVP Final, one of the commentary segments was an interview done years later, asking these four legends of the game to reflect on the Fresno Beach Open. It was shot at 16th St. next to the courts I play on every week. Life has a way of creating patterns that are hard to ignore. If you pay attention they will help you understand the impact you can make on this world. We all need a place in life that inspires us to dream big. Do you know where your place is? Find yourself a community of believers, and focus on the journey, and the destination will take care of itself. Life is art, and we all have a contribution to make.
With love & optimism,
If you are still getting to know me…I am a major country music fan. I love listening to Thomas Rhett, he’s been growing up in front of us for years, but he put the story in this new song.
Photo Credit: Anthony Moore @amoorephoto_ of Traci Callahan @callahanvolleyball