Overcoming Obstacles: a Lesson in Sport

Every volleyball player, no matter how skilled or athletic, goes through tough times during his or her volleyball career.  My friend Claire Hanna is no exception.

Claire was a standout power hitter and middle blocker at Strathcona Tweedsmuir School in Calgary, AB.  She also played on Team Alberta on and off throughout high school.  When it came time for her to choose a university, Claire decided that it was not only important for her to play for a good team but also to get a good education, so she set her sights on the University of British Columbia.  After emailing the head coach several times, she was invited to come out to Vancouver to tryout for the team.  Unfortunately after trying out, Claire was told that there were already a lot of good players on the team and, although she was welcome to come to UBC, she should not expect to get any significant playing time.  Ultimately, she decided that UBC was still the right place for her so she packed up and moved to Vancouver.

The first year was a difficult year as she never dressed for a game, but she worked hard every day in practice and at the gym.  The biggest blow to Claire’s confidence would come in October of her second year when the coach decided to cut her from the team.  By this time, it was too late for her to attempt to transfer to any other school, so Claire resorted to playing on the UBC Women’s Junior Varsity team and practicing with the regular varsity team twice a week – which in reality meant working as a glorified ball shagger. This was a particularly hard time for her as she was also going through some difficult personal problems as well.  But Claire used the opportunity to work even harder in the gym and improve her school grades.  Unfortunately, halfway through the year, she sprained her ankle very badly and was forced to play libero since she could no longer jump.  At the end of the year, all her hard work paid off though and she was invited back to tryout as a libero for the UBC Women’s Varsity team in the Fall and this time, she made the cut.

In Claire’s third year, after a lot of frustrating conversations, she managed to convince the head coach to dress her for a game since she was such a multi-purpose player and able to play almost any position.  She became a fairly regular sub as a Middle by the end of the year and began to gain her confidence back. In her fourth year, Claire went back to playing libero and convinced the coaching staff that she was ready for her debut as a starter.  That year, the T-birds won the CIS National Championship title for the first time in 30 years and Claire Hanna was chosen as “Player of the Game” in the Gold Medal Final.  The next two years were a breeze for Claire.  In her 5th year, she was voted Canada West Libero of the Year and the Tbirds won their second National Championship.  On top of that, Claire made Team Canada’s Senior Womens ‘A’ Team that summer.  And finally, in her 6th year, not only did she complete her Masters Degree of Management in Business but she was also honoured with the “CIS Libero of the Year” Award and yet another National Championship title.  She then joined Team Canada in Winnipeg again and has been training with the team ever since.  In July 2011, Claire went to her first ever international volleyball tournament as the starting libero for Team Canada in the Pan Am Cup.  But the journey does not end here for Claire.  She continues to work hard every day in order to make sure she continues to grow as an athlete and a person.

With hard work, determination, and a little bit of grit, Claire has managed to break through all kinds of barriers that tried to get in her way.  Her story is an inspiration to anyone who is struggling through difficult times in their sport or in life.  The important message here is that no matter how bad things may seem, a barrier in your path does not have to become a permanent wall; it is merely a hurdle that needs to be cleared or smashed down with hard work and determination!

Feel free to check out Claire’s personal video blog at http://clairesvolleyball.blogspot.com/

by Natalie Eades, Sideout Trainer