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#HowDoYouRec? A column on one student’s perspective of club sports

Ben Morgan

Clemson club volleyball players Savannah N. Miller (21) attacks on the outside.

For the past nine years, the majority of my thoughts have consisted of volleyball, family and school — in that order (sorry Dad). Weekends that could have been spent with friends instead consisted of sweaty kneepads, long drives to tournaments and throwing myself at the ground repeatedly. Sounds like the time of my life, right? Well, if we’re being honest, it really has been.

I didn’t make my middle school team in seventh grade, and so it became my 12-year-old 

self’s mission to be the best volleyball player there ever was. After a year of perfecting my overhand serve on the playground during recess, a spot on the second string team was mine. Finally! 

My parents decided they weren’t going to become permanent chauffeurs, so I’d have to give up my other sports, soccer and basketball, if I really, really wanted it. Skip past two years of blood, more sweat, a few tears and lots of bruises, and there I was, starting in my first match for the varsity volleyball team at Wando High.

I’m pretty sure I was visibly shaking throughout the whole game. I was actually playing for a school where I’d been a summer camper for years. My volleyball camp counselors were lower state champions and had all been recruited to play in college. Did they make a mistake putting me in? It’s debatable. But they stuck with me, and I continued to play year-round throughout my high school years. 

My senior year of high school, I got an email in class from Clemson University’s  assistant volleyball coach [at the time] offering me a walk-on spot on the team … Cue an audible outburst during a lecture on economics and plenty of happy tears for the rest of the day. 

The next year and a half was the most physically and mentally taxing time of my life. Everything they tell you about National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I (DI) sports  is true: it’s unimaginably difficult, you won’t have any time outside of your sport and if you were the best player in high school, you won’t be anymore compared to your older teammates. 

In one year, I gained 30 pounds of muscle and lost my love for the sport. I wasn’t playing because I wanted to; I was playing because it was my job. In practice, my role as a bench-warming walk-on was to make the starting players better. In the weight room, I had to stay ahead in sprints and lifting gains to prove my devotion to the team. In school, I just had to keep up.

And that just wasn’t for me. I love my old teammates and trainers, the friendships I made during that time, but I have too many interests to be happy just pursuing one of them full time. It took me another year to recover and regain my desire to play, but I finally joined Clemson Club Volleyball in the fall of my junior year, and it’s been my favorite volleyball experience by far. 

We have two teams but no coaches, so we have to work together as a club to become better players, using open discussions during practice about technique, game plans and plays. We organize all of our events and drive ourselves to tournaments. We generate our own money with fundraising. We are a community of volleyball players who continue competing solely because we love our sport.

As a graduating senior, this semester was my final season playing for a school, and I encourage everyone to try club sports here while you have the chance. Last week, my team competed at the NCVF National Tournament for the second time ever. We finished 41st out of 204 women’s teams, which is not as high as we’d hoped, but being in that environment, around thousands of other players who continue to compete for fun, is an incredible experience.

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