Tracee Byrd: The Volleyball Life (8-17-05)
Wednesday, August 17, 2005

While most of Centenary’s students report to campus on the 21st, we few but dedicated volleyball players arrived early on August 10th to begin our preseason training.  We’d spent our summers working here and there, attending summer classes and pretty much living at the local gym preparing for the inevitable preseason soreness.  We jumped up and down in the middle of our driveways and sprinted around our streets doing agilities and drills that I’m sure looked ridiculous from our neighbors’ windows.  But our summer workouts were finally through, and it was time to put them to use on the court.  So, we packed up our rooms, said our goodbyes, and drove the long hours to campus.

This year, the 10th happened to fall in the middle of the week, so my parents couldn’t miss work to help me move in.  On top of that, I probably have the smallest car ever invented that fit about three pairs of socks in it before it was full.  So, unfortunately, this meant that for the next two months I’d be sporting a minivan until my parents could make it up to a home game to switch cars with me.  So…Big Bertha and I made the trip together.

Move-in day was exciting.  There were lots of big hugs, storytelling, and reminiscing.  There were also lots of smashed fingers and sore backs because the furniture in our dorm is impossible to move without it leading to some form of temporary paralysis.  But, we finally got our rooms set up and then headed off for physicals and a parent/player meeting.  We had pizza, met all the new freshmen and the new assistant coach, and listened as our coach went over all the team rules and expectations.  Then they gave us packages of new shoes and practice jerseys, and it felt like Christmas as we tore open wrappers and tried everything on.  Ever since I became a college athlete, I’ve stopped buying tennis shoes and t-shirts because we get new ones every year.  After all that fun was over, it was off to a hotel.  Although we moved our stuff in the dorms, we had to stay in a hotel for two nights until the dorms were officially open. 

That first night was nerve wracking.  We all had our walls still up because we didn’t know each other, so I decided to lighten the mood.  I called a team meeting in my hotel room, and I made it sound real official and everything.  Then when everyone arrived, I came out of the bathroom in a khaki jumpsuit with ski boots, safety glasses and a mullet wig.  The returners laughed and knew that we were in for another crazy year, but the freshmen just looked confused.  I think they probably thought it was some kind of skit gone terribly wrong.  But after the initial shock value wore off, we talked awhile about what to expect from the coaches and upperclassmen.  We assured the freshmen that it wouldn’t be so bad and that our relationship with them was more important than their performance on the court.  We then spent the entire night tossing and turning, trying unsuccessfully to sleep because we were all so nervous about the first day of practice.

We awoke bright and early at 6:00 a.m. and headed down for the continental breakfast that consisted of a muffin or a biscuit, take your pick.  Of course, when you know you’re about to have a hard workout, nothing looks good.  We then carpooled to campus and tried to settle our nerves.  The practice was fine; we just went through a series of tests that determined what kind of shape we were in.  Then we all got dolled up for pictures and tried to squeeze back into our tiny uniforms that always seem to shrink over the summer.  After pictures we had our second practice of the day, which lasted a whopping three hours. (I would just like to say that volleyball is the only sport I know in which you repeatedly throw yourself on the wood floor on purpose).  After a few sprints, we dragged our bruised and broken bodies to the training room where we introduced the freshmen to ice baths.  An ice bath is when you submerge yourself in a tub of freezing water for ten minutes in hopes that you’ll actually be able to walk a little easier the next day.  I personally believe that the only reason ice baths make your legs hurt less is because you’re now focusing on the rest of your body that is convulsing from the frostbite.  And it kind of defeats the purpose of ice bathing when you have to sprint to the caf after you get out because they’re about to close.  Nonetheless, ice baths became a twice a day requirement.

So for the next few days we had three practices a day, the night practice being individuals for different positions each night.  By Sunday we could barely walk due to our soreness, and we earned a much-needed day off…almost.  Although we didn’t have to practice, we still had to paint the locker room.  So we worked hard for a few hours, ruined an outfit and a few brain cells, then we went out to dinner as a team. 

By this time, other people had started arriving on campus.  The soccer team and orientation staff showed up and we saw some of our friends from last year.  However, our social life remained pretty slim, and all we could offer was a wave to someone across campus because 1) you can actually see all the way across campus and 2) we were too sore to walk over there and say hi.  For some reason when other people show up, it always seems like their invading your bubble or something.  We spend so much time together as a team and then everyone else shows up and now you have to wait in line in the caf and find a different parking spot.  At least no one’s sat at our table yet.  Just like in high school, there are certain tables for each clique.  All the athletes seem to sit right at the entrance to the caf, probably because they’re too tired to walk any farther.  Each sports team has their own table or section.  The middle tables are for the sororities followed by the choir table and smart people tables.  Yeah, it’s kind of sad, but if you sit at the wrong table, you might get a few looks.  But they don’t call it Centenary High for nothing.

Well, anyway, after a week of practices, our team has bonded pretty well.  Everyone has their roles: the crazy one, the quiet one, etc. We’re finally working our soreness out and making our first inside jokes of the new year.  We’re learning more and more about each other, and we’ll only continue to grow closer as the season goes on.