The United States women’s paralympic sitting volleyball team started their training session Wednesday, Feb. 21 at the Activity Center in the Kinesiology building.
The CSUN Department of Kinesiology, Department of Athletics and Center on Disabilities hosted an open practice session of the 2004 bronze medal-winning U.S. paraplegic Olympic women’s sitting volleyball team. This is the fourth time CSUN has hosted the team’s weeklong training in Southern California.
The national team won a best-of-three scrimmage match against an all-male team, two games to one. The opposing team consisted of alumni from various colleges around Los Angeles who played volleyball during their collegiate years.
“I am very impressed with (the women’s paralympic team’s) level of performance because moving side to side and keeping up with the ball in this sport is completely tiring,” said Aaron Wong, a 2001 CSUN graduate who played on the opposing side against the national team during the scrimmage.
Players are allowed to use their hands and feet, but must have their “bottoms” touching the ground at all times unless they are making a defensive play.
“Bottom” is defined as the area on the body between the shoulders and the buttocks. As opposed to conventional volleyball, the position of a player in sitting volleyball is determined by his or her bottom, not the feet.
On the roster of the women’s paralympic sitting volleyball team is CSUN student Katie Holloway, sociology major and center on the women’s basketball team. As an active participant of both sports, Holloway had what she refers to as “the hardest week in (her) life” training with both teams, but she displayed her ability on the court as an integral player among the national team members.
Jazelle Burries, Holloway’s teammate and forward for the women’s basketball team, said, “it is very cool to see Katie play a different sport in a different manner.” Burries and the rest of the women’s basketball team played the national team in a practice match the day before, experiencing the sport of sitting volleyball firsthand.
“It was a very different perspective and physically difficult playing just with your hands and moving around on the ground, but it was fun,” Burries said.
Holloway joined the national team last year when they were training at CSUN last February, but she initially needed convincing to join.
Since then, she has traveled with the team to the Netherlands to compete in the world qualifier rounds for the sport, ultimately placing fifth, one place below the slot to qualify for competing in the Olympic Summer Games next summer in Beijing. Despite the upset, Holloway said it was one of the best experiences of her life.
National team member Lori Daniels remembered the team’s pursuit of Holloway.
“At first she wasn’t interested in joining at all, but after we took her out to the training camps, I think her interests grew. Now she is one of our dominant players,” Daniels said.
Daniels said the weeklong session at CSUN has always been a welcome change to many of the team members who come from colder parts of the country. Along with the training, head coach of the national team, Mike Hulett said that these training sessions work toward making their presence felt in Southern California.
The team prepares for the next zone-qualifying tournament in the fall, the location of which is yet to be determined between Alabama or Brazil.
A placing of fourth or higher in the zone-qualifier will make the team eligible for competing in Beijing in 2008.
The crowd of students and faculty came to show their support for the sport and to see just exactly how sitting volleyball is played. Among the crowd, CSUN
Athletics Director Rick Mazzuto was in attendance to learn more about the sport.
“I was told there was a sitting volleyball team, I thought it was a wheelchair team, but to see them sitting on the floor, it looks difficult,” said Mazzuto. “I don’t have a familiarity with the sport, I am hear for the same reason as everyone else, and I am interested in watching these kids play.”
Dr. Carole Oglesby, chair of CSUN’s Kinesiology Department, worked with the Athletics Department and Center on Disabilities to organize the event.
She hopes this will lead to more paralympic teams coming to CSUN to train as well.
“It’s really a dual track long term, we would like to have the paralympic organization recognize CSUN as an official training site because we have so much for the community for those with disabilities here on campus that it just seems like a perfect fit,” she said.
Oglesby explained the importance of this and prospective future events.
“It is important we have the women here as role models to show that you
can be athletes, you can travel around the world, you can do whatever you want to do no matter the barriers you are dealing with,” Oglesby said.