Omaha's Premier 14 Red, These Kids Have Questions! (Part I)

    The amount of work it takes to keep a blog like this is staggering...

Ok, that's not true.  "Five Questions" has become just an extension of my natural curiosity, so most often, the questions come easy, and the answers, well they come in my e-mail.  It's really easy.  So as any good journalist would do, I tried to find a way to make it even easier.
    One of the unexpected side effects of the connections I've been fortunate enough to make is an always increasing Twitter following.  Volleyball fans are insatiable readers, so after a few awesome retweets from popular accounts like @usavolleyball, @spiketown, and especially the players on the National Team, the blogs subscribers and our Twitter followers always peg upwards. It has been a lot of fun engaging other people who have a passion for volleyball like my own.
    One follower has been faithfully reading along with the progression our "Five Questions" has been making. He is always quick to share, retweet, and comment on the latest subject.  Joel Schafer has become one of the many "friends I've never really met" since Tori Dixon got us rolling in the first segment!  Joel has a young daughter, Emma, and Joel coaches and Emma plays for one of the top club programs in one of the hottest of volleyball hotbeds in all of America.  So an idea was hatched.  How can I make this easier?  Have the young ladies of Omaha Nebraska's Premier 14 Red ask each of their national team heroes a question!  
    When I pitched the idea to Joel he was excited, and when he collected the questions, he was ecstatic.  Each of the girls had done their homework on the players, and the questions were terrific!  So without me doing any more work, here is Omaha's Premier 14 Red, and their questions for the first four members of the US National Team!

    Maybe it is because she is among the younger players on the team, and that means she isn't as far removed from her club volleyball career, but Tori Dixon is always one of the first to respond to requests like these.  

 Madison O’Connor #1 - M.  Question for Tori Dixon:  “Do you have any special pre-match routines?”

Hi Madison!

Honestly, I drink a huge mug of coffee before every practice and match. Other than that, I treat every game and practice the same. I go about my business like I do any other day: I listen to music, drink my coffee, joke around with friends, eat my snack if I need to. I don't do anything out of the ordinary or try to do anything extraordinary. I consider being un-routined my routine. It helps me stay calm and not to hype up the big match. People play worse when tense and anxious. I like to be calm.

Hope that makes sense!


Of course, with their exemplary record of wanting to give back and connecting with the young athletes who look up to them, it wasn't long before I had a handful of great responses for my friends in Omaha!  

Emma Schafer #10 - L.  Question for Kayla Banwarth: "I loved seeing you play at Nebraska! I hope someday I can play libero there, too. What inspires you everyday to play volleyball and to keep getting better as a player?"

Hi Emma!

Set goals! It is my belief that goal-setting is one of the most important aspects in volleyball and in life. I have set several goals for myself as a volleyball player. Those goals motivate and inspire me everyday! For example, I want to play in the 2016 Olympics. Having a huge goal like that reminds me how hard I need to work every day to achieve it! And when things get hard, I just picture what it would feel like to have an Olympic gold medal around my neck and that gives me that extra burst of energy to put the work in. So, you said your goal is to play at Nebraska. That is a great goal! Remind yourself of that goal every day. Picture yourself in a Husker jersey. Then work as hard as you can, one day at a time, to get there. Always have something that your striving towards, and it'll make it easier to put in the hard work to get there! Good luck! 


Jocelyn Rock #7 - RS/OPP.  Question for Kelsey Robinson:  "What inspired you to keep playing volleyball and to keep going on to each stage of your career; high school to college and on to Team USA and professionally?

Hi Jocelyn,

For me playing volleyball is something I've always been passionate about. Being on the court is where I'm happiest so to keep playing volleyball at the next level was simply to keep doing something I loved. My inspiration came from wanting to compete at the highest level. I wanted to compete with the best and reach the potential I believe I have inside of me. I still have a long ways to go to reach that potential, but every time I step on the court whether it be practice or a game my mindset is to outwork and compete hard. I think the true inspiration comes from within because if you love what you do and enjoy it fully there won't be anything else you'd rather be doing! That is all the inspiration I need to get up every day and work hard to pursue my dreams!! Hope this helped and good luck with your own volleyball career :) 


Christine Hansen #9 - DS/L.  Question for Nicole Davis:  “You played in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, what was it like playing with and against the best volleyball players in the world on the Olympic stage while representing your country?”


There are a few components to your question, so I am going to break it down into three parts.  It's difficult to describe how amazing it is represent our country at any level, let alone the Olympics.  The Olympic Games is an event that brings the world together through sport.  To be a small part of that recipe is special, to say the least.  I have traveled the world and truly know how fortunate we are to be Americans, and I have a lot of patriotism and pride for our county and to be able to represent it.  People often ask me what my favorite moment from the Games is, and my answer is simple:  the moment we walk through the tunnel of the stadium for the Opening Ceremonies.  It's an all encompassing moment as an athlete, a "you really did it" moment, that you share with the other 500 plus athletes in the US delegation, all who have put as much sweat, blood, and tears into the process as you, and it's like living in a dream.    


As for playing with the best players in the world, I'm lucky because many of them have been or are our on the USA team.  My goal is always to be like a sponge, and soak up as much information as I possibly can from the people around me, and to learn as much as I can from them.  I've learned how to lead, how to follow, how to be a better libero and a better teammate from them in watching and listening to how they mastered their craft and continually worked to be the best. 

As for playing against the best, it forces you outside of your comfort zone, and it's in that space that the most growth comes.  I remember the first time I played Sheilla - the opposite of Brazil - and I felt like she was yoyo-ing me around the court on defense.  I couldn't figure out how to read her.  Now, I've played against her so many times, and other smart and talented players like her, that it has become so much easier to see the cues and read the game.  When you fail, you work harder to succeed. I failed a lot in the beginning against the greatest players in the game, it's why they are so great, but it also propelled me to become great also. 

Hope that answers your question.  

Best Regards,

Nicole Davis

Premier 14 Red celebrates like the pros...

Premier 14 Red celebrates like the pros...

...and the pros celebrate with the joy of children.  That's what it's all about, isn't it?

...and the pros celebrate with the joy of children.  That's what it's all about, isn't it?

Is there another team in this country as completely aware of their place, so totally willing to make a difference not only now but into the future, as our Women's National Team?  To prove my point I can just have you read this, but there is so much more to this story.  Last year Cassidy Lichtman held clinics and donated her fees to local Ronald McDonald Houses.  This summer, the members of our National Team have started the Give it Back Foundation, and their first clinic is in August, in Kent, Washington, the hometown of Courtney Thompson.  Give it Back is donating to Court's favorite charity, the Children's Therapy Center.  You can learn more about this exciting initiative at and follow them on Twitter at @GiveItBackFDN .  I have the feeling, knowing this group, that Give it Back is only the beginning!  I am personally so proud of this team!  

 Premier Red, these are your heroes.  They have answered your questions, and challenged you by setting the bar high, not just on the court, but off it as well.  Good luck "14 Red" and let's all meet in Omaha in July!

Thank you to both teams for participating and in the coming weeks look for part II!