I can’t imagine Steve Rogers ever played volleyball. If he did nobody would have called him Captain America. That title belongs to Christa Harmotto-Dietzen now. Here is why…
Without the use of any scientific serum, Christa recovered well enough from knee surgery to not only compete, but to lead her team to a Gold Medal at the World Championships in Milan, Italy this summer. Volleyball fans “Marveled” at her blocking ability, and she didn’t need a specially constructed shield to do it. Dietzen is Captain America to the fans of American Volleyball, and the best is still yet to come.
Christa is the pride of Hopewell Twp, PA, where she was named 2004 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year and H.S. All-American. She went on to a fabulous career at Penn State, where the Nittany Lions won back to back NCAA Championships and Christa secured AVCA All-American status three times.
Christa is back in Southern California, preparing to continue on the successes of the past summer, and build on the momentum gained in Milan. The ultimate goal still looms in the distance, and Captain America is up for the challenge. Even with all this going on, Christa took the time to answer our “Five Questions”…
Christa Harmotto Dietzen**
Current location...Orange, California
It's been a very busy summer! You squeezed in a wedding, a rehab, and a World Championship!
How taxing was all that travel and all those jumps? How are you feeling now after a few weeks rest?
It has indeed! What a wonderful summer it has been, quite possibly the best yet. Travel is always taxing, but I think I've learned how to handle the physical demands of changing time zones and have the tools to help my body find its way back to normalcy.
I'm feeling good and making improvement. I took about 8 weeks off from jumping since the world championships and focused on strength. I'm now adding a little more challenge each week with agility and volleyball specific training. Things are moving along quite well and I'm hoping to find the endurance in my knee needed to help the team this summer.
Judging by how well you moved at the WC, it didn't appear the injury hampered you. What do you attribute your successful rehab to and what advice do you have for injured athletes?
Adrenaline...haha. The most powerful medicine. The knee had its challenges during the tournament but it was healthy enough when it needed to be. I attribute my successful rehab to the amazing medical staff we have with the National Team. Jill Wosmek is consistently finding better ways to care for my knee. I was also fortunate to have Dr. William Stetson, my orthopedic, on the World Championship trip and he played a big role in managing the condition of my knee. Tim Pelot, our strength coach is constantly teaching me how to use my body more efficiently and therefore reducing the stress on that knee joint. Hats off to my staff. And last but not least, my faith has played the biggest role. In the moments when I wasn't sure what to do next or whether I should continue, my faith kept me going and I never felt that God was telling me it was time to close the volleyball chapter...not yet.
Advice for injured athletes. Control what you can control. Listen to your doctors, trainers, and your body. Do all the simple, mundane exercises because they pay off in the end. When you become mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, remember that everyday you persevere through those difficult moments you are getting stronger...and that means you will be stronger than you were yesterday.
Living and training in Southern California is vastly different than growing up in Pittsburgh, and attending Penn State. What do you most like about the lifestyle and what do you miss most about Pittsburgh and State College?
Waking up to sunshine about 90% of the year makes being so far from home a little easier. My husband and I are building our life here and between my best friends on the team and our church, we have a family away from home. Absolutely I miss my family back east, and the change of seasons (especially fall), but I know they are only a flight away.
It can't be easy sharing a side of the court with those you used to peer through the net at. What was the biggest challenge when you first joined the National Team Program, and who was the "glue" that bonded all these parts together?
Haha. We still place bets when Stanford plays Penn State… loser has to wear the opposing team gear to practice the next day. The biggest challenge when I first joined the National Team was figuring out the dynamics of competing everyday and still finding ways to have friendships. In college, you were all a part of the team. Sure there was still competition, but you weren't fighting to make rosters. Jen Tamas and Stacy Sykora stand out to me as the leaders that first year on the National Team. They guided the large young group that joined the team in 2009. I believe the glue that holds all those parts together is getting the team on the same page and all fighting for the same reasons.
Looking through the program at WPIAL's the other day I noticed a span of four straight championships at Hopewell, combined with the four at PSU, and the successes of the National Team...
What three things do you see as most important for team success?
1. Relationship… know your teammates
2. Outwork your opponents
3. Every team member fighting for the same reason
Tell us about your Coaches and what they have meant to your development?
Your HS Coach...Pulled me from gym class and put a volleyball in my hand. Coach Borkovic taught me the basic skills of volleyball that lead me to fall in love with the game.
Brian Begor (club coach)...Brian broke the game down to a science. I remember throwing tennis balls against a wall to figure out my arm swing. I still use the drills Brian taught me today and have the explanations to teach others.
Russ Rose...Coach taught me how to outwork other people. He pushed me beyond what I ever thought was physically or mentally possible. He is the definition of a blue collar coach.
Hugh McCutcheon...Hugh took my volleyball abilities and made them more efficient. There is another level of efficiency necessary for the professional level, and Hugh helped me get there.
Karch Kiraly...Karch is the ultimate competitor and consistently looks for ways to be better. He has inspired me to be better everyday. Karch lived what we live now as National Team athletes and gives us the tools on how to make the most of that experience.
I have been lucky enough to witness how great an ambassador of the game of volleyball Christa Harmotto-Dietzen is on more than a few occasions. Christa joined us at Jam the Gym 3 under the most difficult of circumstances. She helped us get through that night, joined us in mourning Jaime Moran, and lifted the spirits of the players and fans in attendance. Ellen and I also took a group of athletes out to Hopewell this past November to listen to her speak on goals, values and leadership. She held those in attendance spellbound with her presentation and her answers to their questions. The leadership of American Volleyball is in great hands, thanks to our “Captain”
Christa, you make all of us in Western Pennsylvania so proud! Keep up the training, we look forward to your next great adventure!