Dec. 8, 2011
By Amanda Saxton
As a junior at Florida State, I am amazed at how quickly time goes by, but I am learning to cherish every moment and soak up all that FSU has to offer. My parents both went to school here, they actually met at a fraternity and sorority party here in the 80s, so I have always had a love for Florida State, and Florida State athletics especially. Playing many sports growing up, my parents always encouraged me to pursue my passions, even when it meant driving me across town for practices. I am so grateful for their constant support and encouragement, letting me know I can do anything I set my mind to.
I was not the superstar on my high school teams, and didn’t have the highest stats by any means. During our club season it was a fight to be on the top team, since colleges would only look at those girls. I was a middle hitter and there were three or four middles in front of me. In fact, one of them has been starting since her freshman year at California at Berkley. There were tournaments where I didn’t play, and when the college coaches came to our court, I was cheering on the sidelines.
But wanting to continue playing volleyball after high school, I looked at smaller schools where I could play. Although FSU had always been in the back of my mind, I never thought I could play at a DI school with the caliber of teams here. Wanting to see if there was anyway I could be a part of the FSU team, I contacted the new first year head coach, Chris Poole. Taking a risk, he experimented with this concept of practice player. I was unsure of my role on the team, since I did everything the team did, just didn’t have a uniform. God had opened a door for me to be a part of this team, and I was excited and nervous at the same time.
Those first few practices were very intimidating, especially every day after practice when we went in the cold tub. When I went in the first time, I didn’t know that seniors went first. But I was put in my place and informed very sternly that I was out of line. As a shy, awkward, terrified freshman, my first week here at FSU was not what I expected. I was up in the fifth floor of my dorm room by myself, since all the students didn’t get here until two more weeks when school started, and I thought that this was all a big mistake.
However, the following year Coach Poole said he had a spot for me on the roster. With my FSU jersey on dressing out for home games, I was able to experience being a real student athlete. Although I didn’t travel, I was grateful to be able to have the best of both worlds and get involved with a campus ministry and go to church on the Sundays while the team was away. I truly believe that all these doors have opened for me because God has a purpose for me being on this team.
Something about Florida State that makes us unique is that we are a family. I have friends on other college teams and they tell me what their experience has been like, and they don’t compare to the camaraderie my teammates and I have here.
Everyone cares about each other as a person, not just as an athlete. Of course we all come together for a common goal to play our sport and win. But these are the people you spend most of your time with. Each and every one of them brings something unique and different and we would not be the same without just one. We all have our different roles to play, whether it’s hitting the balls during the matches or cheering on the sidelines. Some of my teammates are from countries such as Latvia, Turkey, Serbia and Brazil, just to name a few. It’s fascinating to me how they came to America hardly knowing any English. I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to do that and I admire them so much. I love getting to know their stories, about how they came to FSU, and I fully intend on visiting them in their home countries someday.
With the 2011 indoor volleyball season approaching, God opened up yet another door that I never thought possible. Coach Corso contacted me about the possibility of playing on the new sand volleyball team at FSU. With hardly any sand experience since I’ve always focused on indoor, she told me she could train me. Deciding not to travel with the indoor team, so I could practice with sand as well, I am learning to acquire my sand legs. And I am grateful for my teammates and coaches patience with me.
And now, with my new sand volleyball family, I am eager to get to know these new girls like I have the indoor girls. They have so much to offer and have done an amazing job adapting to FSU thus far. The potential for this team should not be underestimated.
FSU’s newest sport: sand volleyball. When people hear about sand volleyball, they ask: “Oh, sand volleyball? Where are the courts? When is your season? Is that with two people?” Little do they know, the emergence of this new sport on the campus of FSU is about to reveal itself this coming spring. Excited for the growth of this new program, Coach Danalee Corso and Assistant Coach Taylor Irvin, as well as the rest of the staff, are working hard every day to prepare us so we can be the best we can be. Their dedication to get this program started the right way will take us far.
Waiting for our courts was well worth the wait as we got to have our first practices on them a few weeks ago. FSU has given us an unprecedented facility that doesn’t compare to any other schools. Having that advantage gives us an opportunity to take this sport to the next level. We want to set the bar high coming out strong in our first season to represent Florida State University in a positive way.
Being a student-athlete, we are able to experience the challenges and rewards that come with the responsibility of being a role model. We are called to a higher expectation than other students on campus. And we have a greater influence on the community than most people have. I remember looking up to the athletes at my local college and thinking they were so cool. Even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal to us now, since we do this everyday, but to those kids, just talking to them or asking their name makes all the difference in the world. We have so much influence as athletes, and we can use that influence to inspire younger generations.
Never in my wildest dreams would I be here with you today if it were not for God giving me the gifts and abilities to do so. He is my strength. I know I have a much bigger purpose than playing sports and I want to glorify Him in all that I do.
Sometimes we have to put things in perspective and realize God gives us challenges and trials to help us grow as a person. Even when it seems like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, we have to know that our efforts will produce results if we remain faithful and don’t give up.
I’m humbled and honored to be a part of the Florida State volleyball program.
Having the opportunity to come in everyday and be able to share this adventure with my coaches and teammates is a privilege not many people get to experience.
Unfortunately, one day I will no longer be playing volleyball. But my identity is not in the sport I play, it’s not in academics, and it’s not going to be my career. It’s in the person God has created me to be. I can stand firm knowing that I am growing through these crucial years as a college student with all the challenges and rewards that come with being a student-athlete.
Even though still in the process of deciding what I want to do after I graduate, I know with the experiences I’ve had at FSU, I will be able to apply them from the court to life. For example, time management, forming relationships with my teammates, coming together for a common goal, knowing that I can be part so something bigger than myself, working hard even when we don’t feel like it, getting up early, putting the team first above yourself, realizing you have the ability to influence younger kids, and that success is not defined by winning or losing, but by the journey we went through to attain the goal.
I can truly say that I love being a part of the Seminole family, and I am eager to be a part of FSU’s legacy with the new sand volleyball team. We hope to continue the Florida State tradition of excellence and success that will perpetuate for generations to come.