Kim Hill's journey to the top of the podium in Milan might seem unlikely. Taking that big stride up onto the top step with a Gold Medal around her neck and an MVP trophy in her hand had to have been satisfying, but surreal. Consider that Kim was among 240 athletes who attempted to make the National Team at an open try-out in 2013. She was ask to stay on with the team to practice and a year and a half later, after making a meteoric rise through the ranks and into the starting line-up, Kim Hill was on top of the volleyball world!
A closer look tells me that Hill's resume' was pretty darn solid before that tryout. She was the #8 recruit coming out of high school her senior year, was twice an All American in Beach Volleyball at Pepperdine and secured an All American nod in Indoor as a senior. It seems that this Cinderella was as comfortable in shoes as she was on the sand without them!
Kim Hill is a solid six position player who passes and plays defense like a DSpec, can help out the offense with big swings from the back row, and has been a force once she gets up front, tallying 320 points last year, which ranked 2nd on the American squad. Kim will be wearing the red, white and blue for a long time to come. American volleyball fans can't wait to see the next time Hill strides up the podium to the top. She's been practicing that move!
Current Location Novara, Italy
Pro Team: Igor Gorgonzola Volley Novara
Position: Outside Hitter
This season you are playing for Novara. (Italian Serie A1)
What adjustments have you made living and playing in Italy, and what is your favorite thing about the region you are in?
Playing anywhere overseas is a huge adjustment, the biggest one usually being language. Thankfully Italian is a little like Spanish, which I took in school, so I’m able to understand some things. But the other adjustments are just in daily activities that are more difficult because they are different: putting gas in your car, checking out at the supermarket, etc.. My favorite thing so far is the FOOD! Even the most simple meals are amazing!! I want to learn to make some of these dishes for when I return home!
What a season in the gym in Anaheim! At what point in the last two years did you start to believe you could not only make the team, but compete for a spot on the court? Was there a "Holy Cow " moment for you?
I think it’s kind of been a series of “holy cow” moments, each rung on the ladder being more surprising and amazing than the last. I was shocked when I was asked to train with the team, again when I made a roster, and every moment has just been completely surreal. There was a moment during the 2013 World Grand Prix where we were playing against Brazil in Brazil in front of a huge crowd and I stopped for a minute during the match and just thought, “this may be the coolest experience of my life so far” and it’s gotten even better since then!
It seems like mentor-ship plays a huge role in the success of our National Team. What players stepped up and took you under their wing, and what does it mean to have a coach like Karch on your sideline?
Probably the 2 that stand out the most are Kristin Hildebrand and Christa Dietzen. I really look up to them not only because they are great volleyball players, but because of how they carry themselves. They immediately looked to help and encourage me when I entered the gym, and I think the biggest way they helped me was by being vulnerable and sharing their struggles with me, which helped me realize all these girls I have been looking up to most of my career still deal with a lot of tough things like doubt and insecurities and fight hard to work through them. Karch is an amazing coach and he is one of those few people who were incredible when they played and have found a way to teach it to those that they coach. He is always about learning and improving, which makes each of us excited to get into the gym every morning.
There was a point in the Semi-finals at the World Championship versus Brazil that you went through a rough stretch. For the players and coaches who read this blog, what did your teammates/coaches do and or say to help you get through it, and how much did your "mental training" help that day?
The biggest factor in turning around rough patches is the work you do before the match, before the tournament even begins. It starts with all of us building trust with one another and cultivating a culture where we all know we’re 100% in, so when the tough moments come, I know my team is not only behind me, but they believe in me and know that I can execute will help me in whatever way I need in that moment. We also have worked a lot with mental cues: when a negative thought enters your mind, perhaps after an error, you have a trigger word or phrase to get you back on point and back to having some “swag.” But like before, this training is exactly that: training. So you have to start practicing these things during the everyday practices so that it becomes a habit. For example, when I go back to serve and am maybe struggling serving that match, I imagine myself wiping away all the negative thoughts before I go back and serve so I can approach that serve with a fresh mind and fresh confidence.
So you obviously worked through that and with your team won the very first major championship in women's volleyball in 62 years, and in the process, you played well enough to earn MVP honors!
How many times have you watched that last point, and does the whole thing still seem "dream-like"?
I haven’t counted how many times I’ve watched that last point, but definitely quite a few! But I actually get more joy watching the middle of those last couple matches, to watch the emotion in the heat of the battle and the confidence we had in every single point, whether or not we were winning. But for sure the emotion of that last point was something I had never experienced before and was absolutely incredible! It gets me so pumped to get back in the USA gym this summer.
You were an AVCA All-American in both Sand and Indoor volleyball at Pepperdine. How much do you feel one prepared you for the other, and is this something you would recommend for younger players coming up?
Not only does beach expand your game so much as far as ball control and seeing the game better, beach is so much easier on your body than the pounding of indoor. I highly highly recommend to younger plays to not only play beach but to continue playing other sports as long as you can. I know there’s a whole argument around early specialization but I played basketball and volleyball all through high school and I think that’s why I’m nowhere close to being burned out and I’ve been very fortunate as far as injuries go (knock on wood). I remember my coach at Pepperdine Nina Matthies saying to me while I was still in high school: be a kid while you can be a kid; essentially, play for the love of the sport, even if that includes a couple different sports!
The MVP of the 2014 World Championships wasn't so busy she couldn't answer our "Five Questions" and for that we are so very thankful! In fact, Kim broke a "Five Question" record for returning her answers so quickly! Good Luck on the rest of your season in Novara Kim, and safe travels back to Anaheim! Let's get ready for another "unbelievable" summer!