Volleyball Stories 
Mary Jo Peppler

The First Volleyball Player America
Had To Respect


Volleyball Stories Mary Jo Peppler

I acquired my first piece of athletic equipment in the 1940's when I was just past toddler stage. 

The handle bars of my scooter were almost as tall as me. 

Sometime before we moved to Texas my scooter and I must have been surgically separated because that is the only way it could have happened. 

I still have phantom "scooter pangs" in the deep of night while dreaming.


International Volleyball Association 


As a six year old, I had become a Texan. I was not however, a human Texan, but I had become a Texas Wild Horse.

My best friend Nancy and I spent every free moment galloping, whinnying, and tossing our manes in the wild Texas country, Apache country, even though we lived in the Dallas suburbs.

Growing up in the forties and fifties was not easy for a future Olympic athlete.

There were no youth soccer leagues, no real sports equipment and no organized sports programs of any kind. There was only open space and imagination.

Volleyball Stories Mary Jo Peppler


From this kind of childhood I learned that there is no such thing as boredom, people who think they are bored are only people who allow themselves to be bored.  

As a child, I never considered being bored. 

It was my job to imagine my life and find ways to live it.

Children of the forties and fifties were expected to entertain themselves, not wait to be entertained.

For as long as I can remember, I knew I would go to the Olympics.

Everyone has things in their life that they just know.

I think that children today don't "just know" things like we did when I was a child because they are never quiet enough to hear the messages. 

When you are busy, busy, busy, there is no time for self reflection.

When I was quite small, my father used to ask me, "How tall are you going to be when you grow up, Mary Jo?" 

And I always replied, "Six feet tall!". I just knew.

Volleyball Stories Mary Jo Peppler

By the time I was in fourth grade, I had become a reluctant Californian. 

I had lots of fights in school insisting that Texas was indeed much better than California. This seemed obvious to me because there were certainly no Texas Wild Horses in California. 

Undaunted, I became a basketball player because we had a basketball court in our backyard.

My sailor cap and my basketball became inseparable. Somehow the two were invisibly connected.

It is from this time in my life that I learned that things are mysteriously and invisibly connected and this later translated into a passion for quantum physics.

Volleyball Stories Mary Jo Peppler


I didn't have any heroes or models for my life while I was growing up. 

There were few women of prominence at that time. Recently, Life Magazine published their 100 most prominent people of the century. 

Only two women were in the top fifty and according to Life, only a total of nine women influenced the century. When I grew up, locating a hero was slim pickens! 

If I had had a hero though, I'll tell you what I wish they would have told me. "You sit at the very center of a universal presence for good. And it also sits at your very center. You cannot be separated from that infinite perfection."

This is what my study of religion and quantum physics has taught me. 

If I had known this during my life when I felt alone, insecure and abandoned, I wouldn't haven given a second thought to my many struggles. Everything I have gone through has brought me safely to here. I've been protected and blessed and its all been good.

By the time I was in Junior High, my school offered after-school sports as a club called Girls Athletic Association (GAA). We had a few Playdays with other schools where we could play a variety of sports and not keep score.

But in the summer, my friends and I would go to the park and play the jukebox, flirt with the Director (a handsome married man who was the model for the Marlboro billboards) and play some softball.

Volleyball Stories Mary Jo Peppler


A few years later, all my girlfriends and I were drawn to the park to play co-ed volleyball where we could all press into one or two cars (yippee!) and drive to other parks to play against their co-ed teams.

Now, just as with the scooter, and the Texas Wild Horse, and the sailor cap and the basketball, I became inseparable with the sport of volleyball.

In my senior year of high school, I finally got to play an organized sport. My whole life revolved around that one day a week when I would go to volleyball practice with a team in Long Beach, California that was the National Championship amateur team in the nation.

This level represented virtually the only real volleyball in the United States.


Volleyball Stories Mary Jo Peppler


When I was 17, I played my first organized volleyball and went to my first National Tournament. When I was 19, I did what I always knew I would do---I went to the Olympics.

I've played volleyball in four decades, during all that time, I have also coached, many times as a player/coach. 

I have picked a hard road. Somehow, I never felt as if I made a decision. Though looking back now, my life developed in an unlikely manner, yet , my life was always as it should be. When a door closed, another opened. I've done almost everything in my life because I had to.

The Japanese were the first country to host volleyball as an Olympic sport in 1964. Unfortunately in 1963, the USA did not qualify its volleyball team.

I had hoped, even though I had only seriously played volleyball for one year, to be an Olympian in the sport of volleyball.

This was not possible so I turned to track. This was not so much a decision as what happened. I joined a track club and my prospects looked promising.

Volleyball Stories Mary Jo Peppler


I was 17, my family was going to move from the San Fernando Valley to Northern California.

One morning, I was protesting the move because it would jeopardize my chances of going to the Olympics when my father and I had angry words, again.

He said to stop talking about it or get out.

I moved out within the hour. 

Of course, no one had any reason to believe that I would go to the Olympics on that sunny morning in Southern California.

There was no evidence to support it. My father and I have seldom spoken and since that day I had almost no contact with my family for almost ten years.

I went to live temporarily with a friend and her father, sold encyclopedias door to door, did market research on the street and for a while was homeless.

Volleyball Stories Mary Jo Peppler


In that time I did go to the Olympics and spent most of my waking hours training (on my own with no formal structure) like a maniac.

Nine years later, with some help from friends, a paper route, and work-study, I realized another thing that I knew would happen, I graduated from college.

I never considered that I would not finish college. In this respect, I kind of had no choice. You cannot be separated from your beliefs.

From this time in my life I learned two things.


"A LOT OF PEOPLE IN VOLLEYBALL CONSIDER MARY JO PEPPLER A TALENTED BUT TEMPERAMENTAL PRIMA DONNA. YET FEW DENY THAT THE SUPERSTARS WINNER IS IN TUNE WITH THESE TIMES"

-Pat Jordan, Sports Illustrated 


First I learned that in all the compromised situations I have experienced, the world is good, and I remain safe in the hands of my creator. 

Second, if you lock your sights clearly on anything, you will eventually yield to your target. I've done lots of things in my life that were at the time "Impossible".  Luckily I didn't know it at the time.

My advice to anyone is to let your life live you. You don't have to rule yourself with an iron hand, because if you let it, the divine plan of your life will direct you. 

Anything is possible if you can think it clearly and hold it passionately. Anything unrealized is not important; what is important is the quality of each step that you take along the way. 

Everything you do is important, even if it doesn't seem so at the time. If you apply your full attention, everything will always be just as it should be.

Volleyball Stories Mary Jo Peppler "The First Volleyball Player America Had To Respect" was written by Mary Jo Peppler exclusively for the Volleyball Voices project created and produced by April Chapple. 

No reproduction is allowed. All rights reserved. Volleyball Voices copyright 2018-19.


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