Resistance Training. It works for your soul too.

I thought that Jaime's passing would be one of the most difficult things I'd ever been through, and so again, in the worst of times, we found a way to put together another Jam the Gym shortly after.  Again, I believe WE GOT STRONGER.  Standing in front of a crowd and addressing the death of someone so dear to me, all the while working to do the things she would have loved to see us do..

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Going back, telling "Our Volleyball Story" one more time.

To all of you who have been visiting this blog, and like our story, I'm re telling it in order over at gracefaithcourage.blogspot.com .  As much as I love the stories here, they are hard to navigate.  There you will find the pages are in order, and there are notes about this story on the home page.  occasionally I will redirect the reader back over here, for more of the story.  Hope this works!!!

Jam the Gym 5

So proud to announce the line up for Jam the Gym 5!
Kiski Area vs. Plum
Point Park vs. Carlow
Weds. night, Sept 3, 2014
Be prepared for a night of reflection and celebration!
Five years of great volleyball, great friends and great causes!
We will again be supporting the Jaime Vick Moran Scholarship.
Make plans to join us!
More details to come!!!
Jam the Gym is FIVE!!!

Athletes Abroad/More than a good read!

In the past few days I have been reflecting on the past year, and why I believe volleyball peeps, this ever widening support group of players, coaches and fans, are the best.  After happening into the National Team on twitter thanks to the caring and compassion of Alisha Glass, Christa Harmotto, Cassidy Lichtman, and the rest of the team, Ellen twitter "Coached" with Karch.(The Canyon, The Other Side of The Canyon, here on this blog)
Jam the Gym came and went, but we kept in touch with our new friends through their personal blogs, and USA Volleyball's website.  We stayed up late and got up early to watch matches in both Serbia and Japan.  

During this time, with the use of @JamtheGym's twitter account I have followed, and gained the following of many more in the international volleyball community.  I find their lives so interesting and their "stories of the road" so compelling.  Twitter has become this incredible tool for reaching out and learning, and I think that's its best purpose.  Social media, for all it's problems and failures is making what used to be "big ol' world" much smaller.

In the past few days two of my favorite "follows" have unified many of the personal blogs of not only international volleyball players, but American athletes playing professional sports all over the world.  Rachael Adams (@RADAMSS) and Geena Urango (@urango) have created a very interesting blog called Athletes Abroad(@AthletesAbroad1 on twitter)  The subjects covered are vast and divergent, but center on life as American's in foreign countries.  Helpful tips on travel, food and beverage, and culture are witnessed from the eyes of American athletes.  They even gave me the chance to ask Ten Questions, and had US National Team middle hitter Max Holt answer them!(http://athletesabroad.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/max-holt-questions-for-a-pro-athlete/)

You might ask why I believe this to be so important.  Our country is represented in the world community in so many ways, and by so many people, and not many of them are good.  We cannot depend on television, politicians, and news media to shape the world's perception of us.  These kids are on the front lines, playing sports, interacting in the world as Americans.  They are a more accurate representation of  America and Americans that anything else.  It would be a mistake for us not to learn along with them.  For this reason take the time to follow along with their exploits at http://athletesabroad.wordpress.com/

Senior Night 2013

I've been tailing Coach Toy to volleyball matches for a very long time now, and in those many years I've witnessed at least 30 Senior Nights.  They always challenge me emotionally.  Time has always been my least favorite of God's creations, and "Senior Night" is a true indicator that time has indeed marched on.  This year, however will be even more difficult, for reasons I hope to explain.

You see, this group, our nine seniors, are the last team who remembers a time BEFORE we became "a story".
They are the last group who remembers what our bench looked like, felt like, sounded like, BEFORE the "Bus Ride to Franklin" and evening that shook us all, and a night that started this decent.
They remember Ellen as being physically involved in practices and as an intense presence on the sidelines at games.  There can be no coach in all of volleyball who more enjoyed the freedom of being finally allowed to STAND and PACE during matches.
So much has changed.
These nine remember Jaime as the young vibrant teacher and coach she was then.  Many of them had Jaime in class as 7th and 8th graders and all of them had her as their first glimpse at the possibilities that volleyball gave them.  She was their first coach.
These nine remember.
They remember how a sister, stepped up, and stepped in, gave her all to the team in her sisters absence.  I know Jodie loved coaching the team, and how she enjoyed taking stories of you're achievements, to share them with Jaime.
They remember Dan, taking on more responsibility than what he signed up for, and NEVER wavering.  He will always be considered the backbone of this team, for his untiring commitment to this team, this FAMILY.
They remember how a new teacher, thrust into a emotionally charged and difficult set of circumstances, rose to the occasion.  Maggie will ALWAYS be a remembered for being in the right place, at the right time, and steadying a shaken group of athletes.
They will never forget the deepness of the sorrow they felt upon learning of Jenna's passing, and the will ALWAYS remember that she was a bright and shining beacon, someone to emulate, and her faith will stay with them forever.
They will remember.

For all that come after this, there will be stories, pictures, images from the time that will surely pass, but these nine, they will remember.

The good that was.
The heartache.
The lessons.
The wins and the losses.
The courage it took, just to go on.
These nine will forever remember.

Surviving and Transforming Through Life

Freshman Defensive Specialist/Outside Hitter Carlow University
Lyndsey Weiser
Written about her experience playing through the last few years at Kiski Area for her first major college writing assignment.  Well done Lynds!


Surviving and Transforming Through Life
In May of 2012, while watching a junior varsity softball game against Gateway High School with my fellow varsity team members, I noticed that my knee was locking up each time I stood.  I thought it was nothing since my knee always had some slight pain.  However, this particular pain would prove to be much more serious than anticipated.  It was finally time for varsity to warm up, so we started our normal routine.   My knee was hurting a bit more than it normally did, and as I made a particular movement, something happened that hurt more than anything I have ever experienced in my life.  “I can’t walk!” I exclaimed.  My coach thought it would help to tape my knee, so that’s what we did.  It was wrapped so tightly that I could not feel a thing, which was perfect because I wanted to play so desperately.  After thinking the tape had solved my problem temporarily, I twisted that same knee while walking back to the dugout.  This incident was the first step in a vicious sequence of events that would shape the rest of my life.
As I writhed in pain, “Oh no!” seemed to be the only thing I could say.  It felt like my whole leg had split in half. I dropped down onto the bench, clutched my knee and rocked back and forth, trying to dim the pain. The athletic trainer soon arrived to help. I was crying so hard that I could not speak at all“How can she be hurt?” my father asked as he arrived in the dugout,“She finished the game and was perfectly fine.” When he finally saw the pain stricken look on my face, he became quiet, realizing that this was not a joke.
An hour or so later while in the hospital, the doctor stood next to me and said, “I have news that you may not want to hear.  You have broken your femur bone in your knee and you will need to get surgery as soon as possible.” My head fell and my eyes started to water. I felt like my whole life was overSports meant everything to me and I could not really picture my life without them.  
As it turned out, I had to sit out during my senior basketball and volleyball seasons.   I have played these sports since I was young and knowing my last year would be spent sitting on the bench was heartbreaking.  I never thought this would be something I would ever have to deal with. I followed my doctor’s orders, but still attended each of my team’s practices. My parents kept asking, “Why are you still going to practices and games if you cannot even step on the court and play?” I explained, I would feel wrong not being there for them during the seasons because I have been through so much with everyone.  Forgetting about all of it would just kill me.”
My parents accepted this explanation, but I do not think they really knew how hard this time in my life was for me. I was no longer talkative and energetic like I always have been. I became very quiet, withdrawn, and I lacked enthusiasm for pretty much everything. The only place that felt right was sitting on the bench with my teammates, supporting them all the way to the end of the season.
When fall came and my senior year was underway, my family and I were camping, which was something we often did at least once at the end of summer. I remember the spot at the campfire where I was sitting when a text appeared from a volleyball teammate saying, I havesome really bad news.  Coach and I would rather call you and tell you in person.” I replied, “Ok.”  Moments later, I dialed my teammate’s number. She answered, but all I could hear was crying and snifflingImmediately I asked, “What happened? What is going on?” All she could get out before completely bawling is something along the lines of, “Coach Jaime’s cancer is back and it’s really bad this time.” My heart stopped. My mind went blank. I couldn’t believe it. Tears rolled down my face immediately as I repeated her words in my mind, Coach has cancer.”Coach Jamie Vick Moran, the woman who had taught me so many things on and off the court, died a few days later from leukemia. She was strong, young, vibrant, and helped so many people in her lifetime. It is no wonder that so many events were created because of her legacy.  Donations were collected and given to Children’s Hospital to help with any possible need. A scholarship bearing her heroic name is now given each year for female student athletes at Kiski Area High School. Coach Jaime Vick Moran was known by many people, and she touched so many peoples’ hearts, including mine. It was hard to say goodbye and accept this loss of someone so special and pure.
In late August, just weeks after burying our coach, we were hit with another situation at a volleyball meeting. Coach Ellen stood in, as she always did, but this time she seemed to struggle to look happy and keep a strong face. As she began to tell us the news, we nervously listened as her voice shook.   She said, “I am truly sorry this is happening again and I don’t want you guys to have to hear this, but you’re part of my family and you need to know what’s going on.” As she continued, she said, “I have received news that I have cancer again.”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Not Coach Ellen!” I thought as I feared the worse.  She continued on, “But I am going to be strong and will get through this.  I am not ready to give up this great family of ours.”
The room fell silent as the team contemplated what to say or do to make the situation better, but no one could come up with anything to lighten the mood. As everyone began to accept what was happening, we went around and gave each other hugs and said that everything wasgoing to be fine. Even though the words, “everything is going to be fine” was coming from ourmouths, you could see fear written on everyone’s faces, especially mine. All we could do waspray and hope she would be strong, like Jaime, and get through this treacherous disease.
Ellen is the strongest person that I have ever known. She has helped me in so many ways.She has helped me as an athlete, as a young woman, and as believer in those things we cannot see.  She was the one person who got me to where I am today. I learned so much from her and I can never thank her enough for what she has done for me. To this day, when I think about her, all I can see is a look of happiness on her face. No matter what happened, she always found enough strength to get through the tough times of her life. She will never change her attitude towards life, as she lives her life to the fullest with every breath she breaths.
A year later, in recognition of these two amazing coaches, we were invited back to participate in an event called “Jam the Gym”.  The goal was to get as many people as we could to fill the gym at Kiski High School and to raise money for charity. The outcome was unbelievable. I was excited because this gave me an opportunity to play on my old high schoolcourt one more timeThis one last time made up for not being able to play during my wholesenior year. Going back to the school brought many tears to my eyes because of all the memoriescontained in those walls.  All I could do was cry. It felt good being able to be there aroundeveryone again.  I knew then and I know now that this day was an important one in my life since we had all been through a lot together in our lives.
Just when the pain of uncertainty began to subside, tragedy struck once again. It was December 28th when a teammate, Jenna Prusia, died from a sled riding accident. I was at homesitting in my bed doing homework when I received a text from a random phone number saying,Jenna was in a serious sledding accident. I replied saying, “What are you talking about?” Therandom number responded, “She got into a serious accident.” So I replied, “Is she okay?” They did not answer for a while.  I was worried because of this.  I got out of bed and paced back and forth. Then another text arrived saying, “She was life-flighted to the hospital.  I did not know what to do, or what to think. Then the message screen appeared again saying, “She did not make it.” I ran down the stairs to find my mom, but I didn’t know what to say.
I finally told my mom, “Jenna just passed away, but I don’t know what happened.”  Shelooked at me and started to cry as she wrapped her arms around me and hugged me with all her might. We stood together crying for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality it was only a few short minutes. She said, through her tears, “Everything is going to be okay, Lynns. You’re goingto get through this entire thing one of these days.”  I wanted to believe her. She continued and said, I know this is all so much for you but we have each other to keep our heads up and keep living life no matter how sad it can be.” It was difficult, but somewhere inside me I knew that she was right.  We sat and talked together about how fragile life is, and about how difficult it is to understand how someone can be gone in the blink of an eye.  We cried until we could not cry anymore.  
Later, back in my room, I pulled a blanket over my head and cried some more.  Questions built up inside me in excess.  How could this happen?  Why did it happen?  Why would God makthese special, hard-working, full-of-life people suffer from something they do not deserve?” I thought. Then I remembered the saying about how bad things always happen to thegood people, but still could not make sense of all these tragedies I lived through in such a shortperiod of time.
That’s when I realized how much love and support I have always felt from my mother, my family, and my teammates.  We were strong, united, and only seemed to get closer with every struggle that came our way. Some people took the losses harder than others.  The death of our teammate was probably the most difficult of the ordeals because we had lost one of our supporters, one of our angels.
It has been almost a full year since this season of loss came upon us, and still it is as though it just happened yesterday.  We have scattered, mostly because of going off to collegeand pursuing degrees to which we will devote our lives, and yet I know there is always someonefrom this circle of friends to step in and give me a hug or say something to keep a smile on myface. All I need to do is ask and they will jump to the occasion.  As I move into the future, I know that we will all remain friends because of our special bond and will carry these memories with us throughout our lives. It helps to know, as I continue to struggle to make sense of whathas happen, that my extended family will always be there.  As time moves on, I am beginning to see that what we experienced was a very sad part of life, but it is also a cruel reality that some people must face.  People die every day, and we will all die one day.  Now that I have felt the sting of death, I can see that other people in the world have had worse things happen. It stillhurts, of course, and it takes one’s breath away when they experience it.  Perhaps all we can do is move on. Sure we are a little more vulnerable, and a little more aware of others, but we can use these feelings to help make our world a better place.  
For me, I will take what I have lived through and what I have learned and apply it to myfuture work as a nurse.  That is exactly what our team did.  We took lessons from the lives thattouched us and used those lessons to teach us to be stronger in life. We now have angels looking over us and I take comfort in knowing that they are always watching over me and making sure I am safe and not getting into trouble. They are my guardian angels that lead me through life.Sometimes I hear, “Live your life to the fullest and never give up a chance you are given because you never know when the unexpected will be happen.”  I live by this now and I cling to the onetruth that Coach Jaime left with us, “Although it’s bad and it’s tough, and it’s hard, you can get through it.” I know this is true.  I hear her voice as clear as a bell and I draw strength from her even now during her absence.  Somehow, some way, I know that I will survive, and perhaps, with the help from all of them, and my angels, will thrive.


Wrapping up Jam the Gym 4

     And so, after so much build up, hype, and anticipation, Jam the Gym 4 is history.  So many great moments, but we'll get back to that later.  First I have so many to thank!
     Jam the Gym is not possible without terrific participation from our local communities.  From the students who have always provided energy, to the administration, teachers, and fellow coaches, who are always looking for a way to help.  The local businesses who donated goods and services for our chinese auctions, and the many fans who came to the gym on a hot September night to support our cause.  There isn't even a way for me to thank everyone, but I must highlight some noteables...
          Trib Total Media- a company who for me has earned a "Major Contributor" tag, providing Penguin tickets and a Autographed Sidney Crosby Jersey, along with ads on their webpage that generated a lot of traffic here.  Incredible support!  Thank you Jennifer Bertetto, along with Rick Monti and Bill Beckner who have covered this story on many difficult days with great care!
     PNC Bank, who have been generous to us for our first four years, with great donations of event tickets and memorabilia.
          Jory Rand and Brandon Hudson, for coming all the way out here to spend the evening with us, talk with the students and fans, and lend their support for us.  These are the true gentlemen of local media.  
          My employer, Tees-n-Tops, for year after year providing our event tee-shirts for a MORE that fair price on an unfairly tight time-line, which allows us to sell them to MANY students, and generates much of our income.  Mark and Danny Albert and their staff are the best!
          Cy "Malkamania" Clark, the biggest Penguin fan I know, and the most generous as well!  Cy claimed he had "extra" autographed jerseys, and took the time to drive them out to me on a day I know he wasn't feeling his best.  Whoever won the Neal and Kunitz jerseys have Cy to thank!  Cy is also in his own cancer fight.  Keep him in your prayers as well.
          Two local families donated vacation homes for a week.  Thank you to the Duppstadt family for the Top Sail vacation home, and Ray Berquist and Linda Toy for the week in Bradenton, FL.  Your contributions drive our event!
          While it's so good to have attractive prizes to give away, it's essential to have fans who come out and support, by tickets, and cheer at Jam the Gym!  Over 500 of you made it this year!  That's why we continue to do this.  Your support means the world to us!  

     This year we featured both high school and collegian volleyball.  Connellsville made the long drive down from Fayette County to play against us this year.  They are a polished squad who is going to surprise someone in their very tough section.  Watching the JV game, you can see they will be strong for years to come.  Great job, Falcons.  Best of luck as your season continues!
    Point Park and Carlow played a spirited conference match that was won 3-1 by Carlow.  I commented earlier today that it is among the greatest things to witness as a coach or a fan, when a team or player sees the "lights come on" and takes a quantum leap in belief.  Carlow's players got that out of Jam the Gym.  Wonderful job Celtics!
     Point Park, Coached by longtime friend of this event Mike Bruno, showed honor and grace in defeat, and as hard as it is to lose, these ladies will take the lesson, and improve in the practice gym.
Best of luck as you continue your season!  FEAR THE BISON!!!
     Kiski Area.  This team NEVER ceases to amaze me.  They didn't have their best match at Jam the Gym, but it hardly mattered.  Our girls have seen the big picture, and understand that a setback isn't the end of anything.  Like Connellsville we are going to surprise someone in our section.  I've never seen a group of kids who have been beaten, battered, and knocked down so much, and REFUSE to stay down.  Champions Rise!  We will persist until we succeed!!!
     When I first met Jaime Moran, I was struck by that beautiful smile.  Jaime had a way of waltzing into a room and stealing it with her presence.  Her personality glowed as brightly as her smile.  It was always a goal of mine to make her smile, and for all she had been through, it really wasn't that hard.  Jaime Moran LOVED life, and it always showed, no matter what.

    THE MOMENT.
          Jam the Gym was an idea spawned by our original Relay for Life team, The Fluorescent Angels.  Our motto is, Fluorescent Angels, we always SHOW UP.  In our first year Jaime and Ellen's Fluorescent Angels where 650 strong on the track at Apollo-Ridge.  We raised $14,000 for the American Cancer Society, and proclaimed ourselves the "largest team in Relay for Life history".
Seeing the power in Jaime and Ellen's courageous story, lead to an idea.  Why not do a volleyball event?  Jam the Gym was born!
     Jam the Gym has been proud to provide financial support to teachers and students in the district through the Fluorescent Angels Fund.  It is related, but separate from the Jaime Vick Moran Scholarship.  This year, it only seemed right to do something special.  
     Shortly after Christmas, the Kiski Area Volleyball family was devastated by the death of junior libero Jenna Prusia is a sledding accident.  She is survived by her father Duane, mother Vicki, brother Jarrett and twin sister Ashton.  They have continued to be a strong symbol of faith in our community, allowing US to lean on THEM.
Knowing that only Jodie could truly understand Ashton's feeling of losing a twin sister, it was decided that Ashton would be the recipient of the first ever Fluorescent Angels Scholarship, in memory of both Jaime and Jenna.
    I will never forget Jodie's heartfelt speech, and the feeling that we had found the moment we had worked so hard for.  Jam the Gym had found it's purpose for this year. Here on earth twin sisters smiled through tears, and in heaven their sisters smiled too. 
      We hope to continue this work, at Jam the Gym 5!  Thank you all so much!!!