Between a five-time Olympian, a gold medalist Paralympian, a world-class referee and a legendary head coach on stage, the conversation at COMMITTED on May 22 was certainly a celebration of the sport of volleyball.
But more than anything, it was a thank you to the sport for the incredibly different paths, but enormous opportunities, it had provided each of the women who spoke.
The second event of the COMMITTED series, designed to provide women the opportunity to engage with inspiring professionals and celebrate the power of sport in our community, was held as the USA Volleyball Open National Championships moved into Columbus. Female professionals from across the city joined the event at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, listening to four trailblazers in the world of volleyball talk about their love of the game and how it had actualized in each of their lives in such different ways.
For Dr. Cecile Reynaud, playing volleyball later turned into coaching volleyball at Florida State University, and eventually her life was consumed with supporting the nation’s most talented athletes.
“I just had an opportunity to travel around the world doing so many different things – working with the Olympic games, working with the national teams – it’s been a real fun ride,” Reynaud said. “I don’t know what would’ve happened without volleyball.”
Joan Powell, a retired coach with decades of experience as a USA Volleyball and NCAA referee, joked that although it wasn’t considered cool to be a volleyball athlete growing up, she was fortunate for the opportunities it brought her throughout her life.
“To think that the sport that you love, that it doesn’t stop,” Powell said. “Both of us, going to the Olympics, representing USA Volleyball, being a team leader… it was the epitome.”
Danielle Scott also spoke of being no stranger to the Olympic stage. Scott is a five-time Olympian with two silver medals and a career spanning from the 1996 games to the 2012 games. She holds the USA Indoor Volleyball record for Olympic appearances and knows firsthand the life lessons that sports can teach young girls and women alike.
“How do you respond to a loss? How do you respond to when you’re not playing as much? Those things are directly translated to life when you apply for a job that maybe you don’t get or you’re overlooked for a promotion,” Scott said. “It builds character, your integrity and shows you how to be a good teammate and a good person.”
The growth of volleyball, which both Reynaud and Powell helped drive and pioneer throughout their careers, can be seen in the uptick of participation and exposure. Reynaud noted the rise of beach volleyball, the prospect of introducing snow volleyball, and of course, the inclusion of sitting volleyball.
For Kaleo Kanahele Maclay, the latter has provided the greatest opportunities of all. Born with a club foot, Maclay learned early in life that she could persevere and be an athlete. Her mother, a former volleyball player at Baylor University, guided her toward ballet, gymnastics, softball and, naturally, volleyball.
“My mom didn’t want me growing up thinking that I had a disability, so she actually put me in the sports that are very hard with a disability,” Maclay said.
Since joining the U.S. Sitting Volleyball team when she was 12 years old, Maclay has earned both gold and silver Paralympic medals and a profound appreciation for the women before her who grew the game she loves.
“It’s come so far and I think [my mom] is so proud of the sport,” Maclay said. “I’m so happy that I get to be the fruit of what they pioneered.”
The COMMITTED series will continue on July 1 before the USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge. Join the conversation about encouraging girls and women in sports by registering here.