How many athletes get to claim they were on the court when a World Championship was decided? Cut that number in half when you ask how many were on the winning side! Kayla Banwarth is one of six American women who can now make that claim in the sport of volleyball. So yeah, we had questions for someone who gets to declare something that rare! "Five Questions" serves them up and as usual Banwarth is on the money...
Jamming in Five Questions, Kayla Banwarth
Current Location: Anaheim, CA
Team: I'm not currently playing overseas.
College: University of Nebraska
First of all congratulations on the Gold Medal at the World Championships! Take us through what it was like to be on the court at that moment. What is the best word to describe that level of elation?
Surreal. It just didn't feel real. It took awhile for it to actually sink in! The day after the finals I flew home to Iowa and all of a sudden here I am in my hometown hanging out with my family thinking "Did that really just happen? It is for sure one of the coolest feelings I've ever had.
At 5'10" it is likely that you were not always a libero. Who first suggested that move, and how did you feel about it initially?
When I was in high school I played as an outside hitter, and all the schools that were recruiting me recruited me as an outside hitter, except for Nebraska. I went to one match at the Coliseum and realized that that was where I needed to play. I quickly realized that I wasn't tall enough to be a big time D1 outside hitter so I made the switch to libero so I could compete at the highest level possible. I never once regretted that decision.
Libero is a unique position in sports. What do you feel is the best attribute for future liberos, and what should be the focus of the training for someone who wants to be a better libero?
It is my belief that if you win the serve and pass game, then you have a very good chance at winning the match. I think passing is the most important thing for liberos. If you can't pass, then you can't run your offense. The libero should be the cornerstone of the team's serve receive lineup.
This summer was brutal with the travel schedule and the training regimen. What was something you did to unplug and unwind and how important is it to get away from the gym occasionally?
It is super important to find time for yourself, especially when you're in the midst of an intense training/traveling schedule. When I'm in America, I try to get in the sun as much as possible, whether that means going to the beach or just hanging out at the pool. That's a great way for me to relax and unwind. When we're away at a tournament, we all have our TV shows that we love, and for most of us "Scandal" is at the top of our list of favorites. So we get together and have Scandal watch parties in the hotel. I also love reading (mostly non fiction), so whenever we're on the road I make sure to have a couple books downloaded on my iPad.
Having a mom who was a player as well has to be an advantage. Give us one "Do" and one "Don't" for a volleyball parent, and what made your volleyball relationship with your mom special?
Both my mom and my dad played volleyball, actually, and up until I was about 14 or 15, they taught me everything I know about the sport. They pushed me to always be my best but never in a negative way. They are my biggest supporters. One of my fondest childhood memories is whenever my mom was relaxing in our big leather chair I would always grab a ball and make her play one way pepper with me right there in the living room! We would occasionally lose a few pictures off the wall but we had so much fun. My advice for volleyball parents is don't yell. After almost a lifetime of playing, I can tell you that yelling doesn't help. What you should do is encourage your children to work hard and have fun!
Traveling down the road on the team bus. It's pretty quiet, then ____________ (song) comes on and the bus is rocking! Who starts it up, and who is the best singer???
As a team we would probably start practicing our Tori cheer. Basically one person conducts the rest of the team (choir) and we sing Tori's name and do our best to harmonize. After quite a bit of practice our harmonies have gotten pretty good!