Thank You, Volleyball.
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Thank You, Volleyball.

Volleyball has shaped me as a person, and I can't be grateful enough for that.

Thank You, Volleyball.
Breea Rogalla

It was never easy, but it was more than worth it.

My entire life, I've always had a plan. At age 12 I walked down to my kitchen, laptop in hand, sat my parents down and explained to them how I signed up for a recruiting website, made a profile and needed their help.I told them I was going to play college volleyball. I asked them how we could get a camera to record my club matches. I told them I needed to be on a national team to get the competitive play and competition I would need to become the best volleyball player I could possibly be.

The next school season came rolling around. I was on the A team, and I thought my hard work had begun paying off (little did I know what I would face in the years to come). That fall, I received a call from my grandma, and she gave me the news. She was going to pay for me to play in the national program at my local volleyball club, that just happened to be one of the top recruited clubs in the nation. With tear filled eyes I thanked her over and over again, hung up the phone, and immediately dialed the freshman, and head varsity coach at my local high school. They had pushed me to join a national team, and that very day, I got to tell them that I was going to do it.

That same fall I tried out for the national program at the top recruited club in the nation. "This is my way in", I remember thinking, "This is going to be the ticket to my dreams." I was so nervous. The program had so many girls there to try out. There was a total of four courts, and about 50+ girls in my age group. They were taking 3 14's teams. Meaning there were approximately 36 spots. That meant there were going to be girls asked to try out for the regional program, not the national.

Basically for those of you who aren't familiar with club volleyball, the difference between regional and national is huge. The national season is 3 months longer, their practice schedule is 3x a week, rather than the 2x of regional. It includes 5 out of state qualifying tournaments (to determine what national competition you go to) and you end the year in Orlando Florida, playing at one of the biggest national volleyball competitions there is.

The national program was not for everyone. You were trying out to eat, sleep, and breathe volleyball. You were signing away all of your free weekends for the next 8 months. You were expecting 20-35 hours of volleyball a week. This was everything I'd ever wanted.

I tried out that day then waited anxiously as they posted the numbers found on the back of the tryout t-shirts, on the far wall of courts one and two. Finding your number on that sheet meant you were invited back for team tryouts the following week. Finding your number on that sheet of paper meant you were official, a national volleyball player.

I walked over to that wall, shaking in my 13 year old skin, and dragged my finger down the list. A sigh of relief. There it was, #147 on the second column of the first sheet of paper. I made it.

My 3 national seasons at that club were a great learning experience. I didn't simply learn volleyball, I learned how dedication to your hard work paid off. I learned how putting your emotions on the back burner made you a selfless teammate. I learned that even if you don't set foot on the floor to play for an entire tournament, you were still a valuable part of the team. I taught myself how to pursue my dreams, and I taught myself how to apply the mechanics that the coaches were giving me in my own time, and how to coach myself.

Those three seasons were some of the toughest of my life. I sat bench for most of the out of state tournaments I was so excited about. I was neglected by my coaches, I was tossed to the side and forgotten about. But I never let myself stay quiet. I was repeatedly acknowledged as one of the most encouraging teammates. I lost my voice every weekend, even though I didn't even get to have a position in the warm ups. I had a coach look at me at my last tournament of the season, (I was having surgery on a bone growth in my foot) she looked at me on the end of the bench and said "Oh Breea, it's your last tournament isn't it? I'm sorry I couldn't get you in, I really meant to."

Those words still sting. To know that the person that is supposed to help you grow and achieve your dreams, had simply forgotten you even existed, even though you were the single person cheering on all of your teammates, and screaming for every kill. I was neglected.

That following season, I had a similar experience. I rarely played, but showed up to practice an hour and a half early every day to set targets and get extra reps. I lost my voice every weekend, but never saw the recognition, or the playing time.

I repeatedly told my parents I wanted to earn my position, I wanted to get to play because I earned it. I didn't want my parents complaining to the director that I wasn't getting enough court time. I wanted to earn it. I sat down with the director and my coach and explained my experience, and argued I had earned at least a chance to play, especially considering our team had been knocked out of the gold bracket in our past 3 tournaments. My former coach cried saying she felt terrible and she didn't do her job properly, and she would make an effort to include me in the line up more. I believed her.

I continued to work hard to earn my spot. That meeting took place with about 3 months of the season left, and 3 out of state tournaments. In that three months I played a total of 4 minutes and 37 seconds. She "worked me into the line up" for a total of 4 minutes and 37 seconds in 3 months, and I still have all the evidence on film.

Safe to say that club was not the place for me. My 17's year I transferred to a newer club a little bit further than the previous one. The practices weren't 3x a week, and they didn't have the top recruiter in the nation, but I wanted to play. That season I started on their top team of my age group. My team went to nationals in Orlando, only missing a bid to USAVB nationals in Houston by 3 points in our power league.

That team had played together for 4 years. They had been close to the same girls since they were young. That team had chemistry, they were talented, and they loved each other. When I joined, I was welcomed with open arms, and felt immediately like this was my new home. That same year, we placed 5th at nationals. We were in the top 5, out of 167 teams in our division. I went from 4 minutes and 37 seconds, to playing 5 full matches in the ESPN center, getting to leave saying my team was in the top 5.

It's safe to say volleyball was my entire life. I went on to play at a small Division III school for my first collegiate season. I reached my goal. I got to play for Beloit College in the Fall of 2015. I remember after my first official match of the season, turning on my phone to find texts from my former school teammates. Warm, loving messages from my very last teammates in my high school career. But what really hit the heart strings was a message left from my varsity coach whom I got to play for, for three years in a row. He's not a sappy guy, but that was the sappiest I'd ever heard him. He was proud of me, and that meant the world to me, because he had been my #2 fan since day one. (Behind my family of course)

The bus ride home was long, and I remember looking at a picture my grandma had sent me earlier that day. It was a picture of me at three years old, holding a passing position balancing a volleyball almost twice my size on my platform. I remember looking at that picture and just saying to myself, "We did it, we made it." I listened to the voicemail again and began to cry.

That was one of the proudest moments of my life. I got to say I achieved my dreams. The dreams that I worked for, and I earned.

When I closed out that season, I never thought I would be closing out my career. Throughout my first collegiate season, I began getting pretty seriously sick. I was in the hospital multiple times for different infections, and we couldn't quite pinpoint what was going haywire in my body. I began struggling with intense fatigue, debilitating body aches and pains, and my already present migraines got even worse. As season ended I expected to get better, get in shape, and fix my body to get ready for the next season. I soon realized getting better was not going to be as soon as I thought.

My symptoms continued, and new ones formed. I began struggling to get out of bed in the mornings let alone to class. I fought to ignore my body, and continued to push it to it's limits. My body began to quit on me. That winter I went snowboarding as a present from my grandma. It was an amazing experience and so much fun, until my very last pass down the slopes ended in being strapped to a toboggan, and rushed into the ER. I broke my wrist, the one part of my body I needed the most to be a collegiate setter. The break was so severe, I needed surgery to repair the bone, my radial nerve, and my carpal tunnel tendon. The break was a result of a vitamin-D deficiency we still don't know the cause of.

That spring I went into spring season working to get back into shape from my injury, and did extensive physical therapy to regain full usage of my hand and wrist. I worked and worked, as my wrist got better my body got worse.

I remember I was doing box jumps, a typical workout for volleyball players, and It was my last exercise before cardio session began. It was leg day so we had done our lifts, and all I had left was 6 more box jumps, then it was off to the gym for our 30 minute cardio workout, and 10 minute abs. Little did I know I wouldn't make it to that workout. I did my 24th box jump, and began to feel extremely dizzy and nauseous. I stopped and sat down on the box for about 30 seconds, and then sprinted to the bathroom to save myself from making a mess in the utility room. I got sick.

This wasn't a sick most athletes are used to, like the "Oh I ran to much and drank too much water sick", this was a scary sick. I began vomiting endlessly and it continued for a really long time. The next thing I remember was being tapped on the foot by one of the girls on the cross country team from under the door of the stall I was in. They asked me if I was okay, and I said yeah I was just dizzy. I don't know if I fell asleep or passed out, but I knew neither was good.

That was the moment I realized I couldn't do this anymore. This wasn't something I could push past, this wasn't something that was able to be ignored anymore. I had to listen to my body, I had to stop.

That following day after physical therapy I went and knocked on the door of our workout room and called my captain to the hall. With tear filled eyes, I explained to her what was happening. My teammates had a good idea of what was going on, but I hid how bad it really was for a really long time. My captain hugged me, told me it was all going to be okay, and no one would be mad at me. She told me that they were there for me, they loved me and they hope we can figure out what's wrong soon.

I began my collegiate season proud, with tears of joy, and I ended my first collegiate season with tears of heartbreak. I was leaving my first love. Volleyball was always there for me, it defined me as a person, it was who I was. It was everything to me. Walking away was the single hardest decision I have ever had to make, but it was one that had to be made.

We still are trying to figure out my health situation, and my summer has been filled with more and more doctors appointments and tests. I have come to realize that volleyball was the first love of my life, and like most first loves it ends. I was expecting another three years, but that wasn't in God's plan for me. I have been blessed enough to achieve my goals, and live my dreams. Volleyball has allowed me to become the person I wanted to be, and make lifelong friends along the way, and I am grateful for that. And although I won't be lacing up for my sophomore season, I am walking into this year with a smile on my face, and a bittersweet nostalgia in my heart. Volleyball is the of my life, but it no longer is my life. That is something I still work everyday to accept, but everyday it gets easier. Who knows, maybe one day I will get to play for Beloit College again, but if not, I am proud to say I have, and always will be a lover of the game.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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