Volleyball Stories Kim Oden
Being the tallest volleyball player on your girls high school team isn't always fun and games for everybody.
Although its not true for everybody, many girls get teased about their height, their long arms, their "big feet" or how skinny they are.
In many cases, this teasing serves as motivation for us to become the best players we can be in the hope that people will start noticing our talent and not our physical attributes.
Stanford graduate, captain of the US national volleyball team and two-time Olympian Kim Oden tells her inspiring story about what it was like to be the tallest volleyball player on her high school team.
Going through the teenage years can sometimes be hard.
You are always trying to define who you are as a person, your body is changing and being accepted by your peers takes center stage.
To be accepted, teenagers feel they have to find some way to fit in with their classmates. This process can be confusing, disappointing and long. In addition to these very difficult aspects of growing up, many times people try to pick out those who are different.
If you are smaller than most people in your school, darker than most, lighter than most, heavier than most, poorer than most, you probably already have been or will be singled out.
The feeling you get from being singled out is not good, but you know you are not alone and that this period will not last forever.
The folks who are making fun of you are only trying to mask their own differences.
Be strong, be yourself, and use the talents that God has given you, no matter how much opposition you face.
"I was always tall.
Taller than anyone else my age and in
elementary school, taller than
some of my teachers!
There was just no hiding it.
This resulted in some serious teasing."
-Volleyball Stories Kim Oden
And it didn't end in third grade; it escalated through high school.
I was called anything and everything that had to do with skinny, tall, lanky people or things.
"Hey Spaghetti Legs" was quite popular for awhile, then there was the typical "Daddy ong legs", "beanpole", "Olive Oyl" from the Popeye cartoon...the list seemed endless.
Although these are just words, they hurt my feelings and made me wish I were shorter. To try to achieve a shorter height, I began to hunch my shoulders a bit and slouch down.
I was hoping that the slouching would bring me closer to my classmates' height.
But what it did was make me look even more different and the slouching brought more attention to me--more of the kind I didn't want.
My grandmother was the first to tell me not to hide it, to be proud of it and stand tall. She was right.
It is a futile effort to try to hide who you are and what you are made of.
-Volleyball stories Kim Oden
You have reason to be proud because you were created with gifts inside you to share with the world (academically, athletically, otherwise) and if God entrusted you with these gifts, you must be worth a lot.
In 8th grade, I started playing volleyball. Now, the height I wanted to hide was a help to me in this sport. As I continued to play, I got better and volleyball coaches in the area thought that I could be very good.
Like my grandmother said all those years ago, I now stood tall, and was very proud of my height and my classmates noticed the positive change in my attitude toward myself.
However, the improvement in the acceptance of my peers brought other problems. Now people asked me 'Why volleyball? Why not basketball or track?'
My answer was that I liked volleyball and I was good at it. My parents stressed to my sisters and brother and I not to let anyone else define who you are, but you.
As I gravitated to and excelled in sports in high school, classmates and teachers began to make certain assumptions about me.
We all know what people think about the brain capacity of jocks.
As the tallest volleyball player on your team, you will stand out. Get used to being comfortable in your own skin.
-Volleyball Stories Kim Oden
I hate when people look at you and assume you can't do something. As women, we deal with that a lot, and as people of color we do too. I have dealt with it many times.
When I was high school age, it was difficult to hear negative things about myself, without the comment really getting to me by making me wonder if the people who said it were right.
I gave those negative comments way too much attention. Letting those things in your mind, can do no good whatsoever. They put your focus on what others think you are or what they are trying to define you to be, not on what you are or can be in reality.
I now realize that I don't have to listen to, or dwell on negative comments from anyone. I now strive to let it roll off my back and keep going.
“My proudest moment was winning the
bronze medal at the 1992 Olympic Games
with my sister, Elaina.
The team had not done well in 1988 and
we wanted to make sure that we earned a
medal at the subsequent Olympics.
The team came together as one, worked
hard and competed fiercely. The result
was a bronze medal, my prized
To share a moment like that with my sister
was incredibly AMAZING.”
-Kim Oden, Flo Hyman USA Volleyball All -Time Great Player (Female, Indoor)
One time in particular I remember experiencing a negative situation in a computer class in high school. It was my senior year and I was being heavily recruited in volleyball.
One of the schools recruiting me was Stanford University. After a campus visit, I was leaning towards going there.
"One day in computer class, my teacher came up and I thought he was going to encourage me or give me advice about the decision I was going to make.
Instead he told me that he thought I should forget about Stanford because the academics were tough, he didn't think I'd be able to make it."
I had good grades, and I knew I would work my hardest to graduate; yet he took none of that into consideration. Knowing myself better than he did and with the encouragement of my parents...I chose Stanford.
Had I listened to the negative teacher, I would have missed out on all that and perhaps that was his intention.
I'm just glad I didn't listen to him, nor did I allow his comment to slow me down in taking advantage of a good opportunity.
"In life, there are always people that will tell you what they think you aren't capable of doing.
Don't listen to them.
If you feel you are gifted in a certain area and you know you will work hard to accomplish what you set out to do, don't let anyone stop you.
Keep trying until you make it.
You'll be glad you did."
-Volleyball Stories Kim Oden
This story "The Tallest Volleyball Player on the Team" was written by Kim Oden exclusively for the Volleyball Voices Volleyball stories project created and produced by April Chapple. No reproduction is allowed.
All rights reserved. Volleyball Voices copyright 2018-19.
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