Sept. 28, 2010
Growing up in one of the largest cities in the world, sophomore setter Duygu Duzceler lived comfortably in her well-known home area of Istanbul in Turkey. Despite all of the day-to-day events that happen in such a well-known metropolis, Duzceler kept her life pretty simple by letting things revolve around the one thing she and her father, Hüseyin, care about the most: volleyball.
As a youngster, Duzceler was constantly surrounded by volleyball because it was one of her father’s greatest passions. Despite being 51 years young, Hüseyin continues to play a sport that becomes increasingly demanding on one’s joints as the years go by. Duzceler finds the concept to be pretty neat, as she reflects on her childhood where she virtually grew up in gyms all across Turkey.
“When I was a child I grew up watching him play volleyball, and I basically grew up at volleyball courts,” Duzceler said. “He has a big impression on me.”
Hüseyin’s influence on his athletically-gifted daughter was felt greatly, as Duzceler became one of the better players throughout her area and caught the attention of current FSU assistant coach Gokhan Yilmaz, who also hails from Istanbul. It was a special showcase in their home country where Yilmaz observed FSU’s starting setter and knew she would be the right fit for a rampantly-rising program.
“(Teammate) Fatma (Yildirim) and I played for the National Team together for about five years, and Gokhan came to our national camp in Turkey and watched us for like 15 days,” Duzceler added. “We weren’t on the major national team for Turkey, but it was a good experience for me.”
Of course, one of the hardest decisions for any student-athlete to make is where to invest their time and energy over the next four to six years. For Duzceler, the anticipation, nervousness and excitement were exponential when she made her decision to voyage to a new country and an entirely new setting by choosing FSU.
But all it took for Duzceler, and for the blessing of her parents, was to see the recruiting material and observe the pictures of FSU’s picturesque campus. Despite the difficulty of leaving her beloved parents behind momentarily, Duzceler was set on making the transition from the fast-paced life of Istanbul to the college setting of Tallahassee.
“It was a big transition. Istanbul is a big city – very crowded and popular,” Duzceler said. “In Tallahassee it’s quiet and small. It feels different. I miss it a lot, but I like it here.
“Sometimes I say, `Why am I here? Why am I away from my friends and family?’ It’s weird, but I’ve gotten used to it here. Having the international players on my team has really been an advantage for me.”
With Hüseyin coaching in a professional league back home, it was natural for Duzceler to get advice from her father after each match, almost serving as her personal coach. The two continue to stay in touch through Skype, and Hüseyin continues to follow his daughter’s progress rather easily thanks to living in a technologically-savvy world.
“In Turkey, after each game he came to me and always talked to me about my errors and what I did,” Duzceler said. “He’s still at least able to keep up with our games online and see how I’m playing.”
Only time will tell when Duzceler’s parents will be able to make the cross-country flight to the Sunshine State and watch their daughter play the family’s sacred sport for the first time in a couple of years. There are no imminent plans in the nearby future, but Duzceler, who hopes to play professionally one day, feels that they will be able to come at some point.
“They won’t be able to come this season since my dad is in a professional league. Both are working at this time so it’s kind of hard,” Duzceler stated. “My mom was planning to come here in the summer, but she couldn’t.”
Since arriving as a freshman in 2009, Duzceler has not let the immeasurable distance faze her on-court productivity. Last year, she finished second on FSU’s Elite Eight squad with 683 assists and a 5.38 assist percentage. She was also a weapon behind the service line, racking up 41 aces to rank among the team’s best.
She has continued her surge this season, already recording double-double performances against FIU and USF. Her father would certainly be proud watching her play, knowing that he has provided her with all the intangibles to grow up successfully.
“He’s a good supporter to me about everything, whether it’s about volleyball or about classes,” Duzceler added.
From the days when the two used to travel from gym to gym or ride bicycles together on the beach, Hüseyin has been fortunate enough to witness the progression of his daughter through the years. Yet Duzceler has undertaken one more difficult task in being a biological science major, a very complex subject that would be difficult for any student-athlete who devotes an incredible amount of time to their sport.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do after graduating here, but I love biology,” Duzceler admitted. “I like cutting stuff and searching organs and things like that.”
The kind-spirited sophomore doesn’t have to search too far to realize that her decision to move away from home, albeit a tough one, is a choice that will benefit her greatly in the long run. As she finishes her time in Tallahassee and ventures down a new path in her life, she will always be guided by the wisdom her father instilled in her – both on and off the court.