Dec. 15, 2004
Every student-athlete has to make sacrifices that the typical college student doesn’t incur. Between classes, practice, studying, lifting weights, community service projects, etc., very little time is allotted to just being a “normal” student. Whenever an athlete is injured, they must dedicate even more time to be able to play the sport they love.
Florida State University volleyball player Kristen Rust (Cincinnati, Ohio) is one of those student-athletes who has to go the extra mile in order to step on the court. Plagued by a stress fracture in her left shin all season, the training room has become a second home for her. The junior let a member of the FSU sports information office and Seminole Productions to spend “A Day in the Life” with her as she got ready for a November 5 match against Virginia at 7 p.m. in Tully Gym.
Standing at 6-foot-2, Rust is already a noticeable figure on campus, but on her way to her only class on this Friday there isn’t something else that stands out. As she makes her way to the Seminole Express bus stop outside Doak Campbell Stadium, there is a hitch in her step. Because of the stress facture, Rust must wear a supportive boot on her left foot that alleviates some of the weight that is put on the bone. Unless she is on the court, the gray boot is her fashion statement for the fall.
“In the morning it’s pretty bad. When I first wake up and try to walk around it’s pretty bad,” Rust said. “As I get through the day, walking around more it’s better. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m going to make it through practice or a game, but I get through.”
On Fridays, her only class of the day is a speech class at 9:05 a.m. in Diffenbaugh Hall. During the week the class is broken down into smaller groups that work in a lab, but on Friday’s the entire class of about 150 students meets in the building’s lecture hall.
Taught by professor Mark Zigler, the class not only teaches students how to be better public speakers, but also how to pick up speech cues in everyday life. Zigler keeps the class very contemporary and lighthearted, as is evident with the constant laughter, and this gives him the ability to connect with the students. His use of everyday examples, including how to interoperate dating signals, allows him to effectively get his lesson across without it seeming like your normal lecture.
“People don’t really notice me in class, they really don’t,” Rust said, despite standing taller than most of her classmates at 6-foot-2. “I think they know I’m an athlete, but they don’t ask me questions or anything. If there are lot of other student-athletes in the class they might notice, but other than that they don’t.”
After class is over at 9:55 a.m., Rust makes her way to the Moore Athletic Center and the Don Fauls Training Room for treatment. Normally she only receives treatment before the daily 2:30 p.m. practice, but since the Seminoles have a match tonight, she is getting extra treatment.
Upon arriving, Rust makes her way to a treatment table beside teammate Aisha Carr (Dallas, Texas), who is in to treat a sprained ankle. No stranger to the training room, Rust can do most of the prep work before graduate assistant trainer Kathy Laguens hooks her up to the electronic stimulation machine. Ice is placed on top of the stimulation pads and the two combine to elevate the pain and increase the blood flow.
Following 20 minutes of stim, Laguens uses an ultrasound machine on Rust’s left leg for seven to eight minutes. The machine sends out electronic pulses that work to heal the bone fracture, help blood flow and ultimately reduce the pain.
In the case of stress fractures, the only way to fully treat them is with rest. Once the season is over, Rust will wear the boot 24 hours a day, but in the meantime, stimulation, ultrasound and plenty of ice are the methods used to get her through the season.
Once she is done in the training room, Rust heads back to her apartment to rest up before the match. Monday through Thursday she has class throughout the morning and after lunch it is into the training before the three hour practice. Friday’s her schedule is limited because of the extra time that is need for the evening matches or when FSU is on the road.
Tonight’s match with Virginia is a big one for several reasons, especially to Rust. For starters, Virginia is a game ahead of FSU in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings after taking the first match of the year in Charlottesville. Perhaps the biggest difference in the match was Rust’s absences as she missed the match with a migraine headache.
“I’m really excited, I’m so pumped, especially since this is a big for us,” Rust noted. “I think I could have helped out, but I think it was one of those games where we just had a really bad game, from what I’ve heard.”
The first team activity of the day is the pre-game meal at 3 p.m. For today’s meal, the captains have selected the Rotisserie Grille on Magnolia Drive near the Governor’s Square Mall. The meal is very informal with the players arriving on their own a little after three. As is the case most of the time away from the gym with the team, the mood is very lighthearted and there is plenty of laughter.
“We all get along very well. We’re a family,” Rust said. “We’re like sisters and we don’t care what we do in front of each other and we tell each other everything. We just have so much fun together, especially on the bus. We have so much fun. I hang out with them outside of volleyball, they’re my friends.
“People ask us a lot of questions and stare at us, especially going through the airport; people talk to us all the time. It’s really neat, it makes you feel special when people ask you about it and recognize you. It’s fun.”
At 3:45 p.m. she arrives at the training room in the basement of Tully Gym. Before the game she goes through another round of ice and electronic stimulation to help alleviate the pain. Last year was even tougher on her body as the floor on the 48-year-old facility was in dire condition. For the 2004 season, a state-of-the-art Nike Shox floor was installed and while that has helped, the constant activity is rough on her.
During the match, Rust leaves her feet at least once during almost every point and after an hour and half to two hours of jumping ,it takes it toll on her stress facture. Sometimes the pain can get so bad that she can barely walk, let alone jump and attack a ball.
That was never more evident than an October 15 contest against North Carolina. In a performance that brought back memories of New York Knicks’ Willis Reed hobbling onto the court for Game Seven of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Lakers, Rust led her team to a 3-1 victory over the Tar Heals in what was arguably the best game of her career. Struggling to get through every point as UNC attacked her immobility on every serve, Rust recorded 29 kills with a .352 hitting percentage and 20 digs.
“I love it so much. I don’t know what I would do without volleyball in my life,” Rust admitted. “I think about being a regular student, I think that would be so boring. I don’t like having a lot of free time, I just sit around. I don’t know what to do with myself so I love being busy. Having free time every now and then is nice, but not all the time.”
Just like at the pre-game meal, there is plenty of laughter in the training room as the mood is very light. This late in the year most of the team is fighting one type of injury or another with nearly every player on the roster stopping in for treatment or taping.
Besides her routine of receiving treatment before the match, Rust does not have any rituals or superstitions that she goes through before the match. The one exception to this might be the garnet head ban she wears during every match. She started wearing one during her freshman year, but lost in last season. In a state of panic, Rust had her mother buy another one and it has been with her since.
The team fully turns their attention to the match at 4:30 p.m. when everyone meets for the scouting report. When the coaching staff enters the locker room the mood is still very lighthearted with plenty of laughter, but once everyone gathers in the lounge area to watch film and go over the scouting report, the mood turns to all business.
“When we go over the scouting report look at where I can hit, if they’ll give me line or if they’ll give me cross,” Rust added. “I also look for where I need to block, where they hit a lot. What some of their weaknesses are.”
The coaching staff goes over the game plan for that night against Virginia. Head coach Todd Kress emphasizes the keys to game and what to look for on offense and defense based on the film they’ve seen from earlier UVA matches. Coaches also quiz the players on their assignments and what to expect against the players they are matched up against across the net. At the end of the film session, the team is given some motivation when they watch the first game of the Florida match in which they took game one handily from the Gators.
5:15 p.m. is the first time the team takes the court as they begin their warm-up. The warm-up commences with some passing to get loosen up before a team stretch. After stretching the Seminoles work on all facets of the game, particularly hitting and serving.
“He’s helped me a lot, especially since I was his first recruit here,” Rust said of Kress. “It feels special in some way. He helps me all the time, especially with my arm swing, I’ve had so much trouble with that. We both get migraines so he helps me a lot with that too.”
Several times throughout warm, Kress will come up to Rust and give her advice on serving and hitting. Rust was Kress’ first recruit at Florida State, but the junior almost didn’t make it to Tallahassee. During the fall of 2001, Rust signed a National Letter of Intent to Northern Illinois University, where Kress was the head coach.
The following spring he took the job at Florida State and Rust was left without the coach she had signed with. However, Rust’s father discovered that since she had been initially denied admission to Northern Illinois, she could get out of her NLI without penalty and attend Florida State.
“When I went on my visit to Northern it was like a family,” Rust added. “I could he see him and (Kress’ wife and former NIU assistant coach) Dani being my parents, they would take care of me like that. When he came here I knew that I was going to come here.
“I was so upset when he left. I was devastated. Then they told me that I could get out of it and we went through a lot. I came here on a visit and I love it and he was here so of course I was going to come here. I think my life would be a lot different, I love it here though. I’m so happy that I came here.”
Even though she doesn’t have her best hitting game percentage wise, Rust leads the Seminoles to a 3-2 victory over the Cavaliers. She tops all players with 18 kills, while adding 18 digs to record her team-leading ninth double-double of the year. Rust came up big in the fifth and final game, picking up a kill to give Florida State the lead for good.
Waiting for Rust after nearly every home match is her parents Mike and Janet. Just like this weekend, they fly in from Cincinnati for the matches and they even make a few of the away contests.
“It helps me a lot to know that they are behind me all the time and that they support me,” Rust added. “It helps me through a lot of things. If they’re not there I call them before the match and then right after the match. I constantly talk to my parents and they help me through a lot of things.”
Following the match, the team meets one more time in the locker room to go over the night’s contest and discuss the schedule the next two days before the final home match of the season against Maryland. On her way up to the lobby to meet her parents, Rust stops in the training room one last time for some ice.
The pain is a little easier to bear after a win, especially when you’re playing the game that you love.