Category Archives: College volleyball

Andrea Beck: Hometown Girl, Volleyball Star

volleyball superstar

Andrea with her high school and college coaches

Andrea Beck is practically volleyball legend around Winston-Salem, having played at one of the top volleyball high schools in the area as well as locally at Wake Forest University.  Andrea graciously granted us an interview recently and shared her story.  This is part one of a two-part series.

When did you start playing volleyball?
I started playing during the summer before 8th grade, when I went to team camp at App State with Hanes Middle School. I remember having a fantastic time, even though I could barely walk because I was so sore! I went on to play on my middle school team that year, which won the conference, and I also played my first season of club volleyball for the 14’s team at Triad Volleyball Club.

I understand you did not make your middle school team at first? Did it provide motivation to get better?
That’s right! I tried out for the team in 7th grade and didn’t make the cut. I remember being very disappointed, but the experience taught me that I couldn’t just expect things to be handed to me. I learned that I had to put in some effort if I wanted to succeed. That lesson stayed with me all the way through college, and I believe that all of my great playing experiences were made possible by hard work.

What are some of your favorite Mt. Tabor volleyball moments? Favorite Wake Forest moments?
My favorite Mt. Tabor volleyball moment was definitely when we beat Myers Park in the Regional Final of the state playoffs during my senior season. The win sent us to our first State Championship match, and we were playing at home so the students all stormed the court after we won, which was an incredible feeling. It felt like we had the support of the entire school, and it was a really exciting time that I will never forget.

Two matches stand out from my Wake Forest career as my favorite moments. The first was senior night from my sophomore year, when we beat Duke at home in 3 sets. Duke was the ACC champion that year so it was a huge win, but that’s not why it was my favorite moment. Our senior captain, Kristen White, had sprained her ankle in practice the day before, but she was able to play for long enough to record 5 digs and end her career with exactly 1000 digs. It was a great night all around. My other favorite moment was our televised “Dig for the Cure” match during my senior year, when we beat NC State in five sets. We were the underdog, and even after being down 0-4 in the fifth set, we came back to win 16-14. It was a total team effort, and it meant even more that it was our “Dig for the Cure” match because our coach, Heather Holmes, was fighting breast cancer.

Tell us about some of the doors volleyball has opened for you.
Volleyball has had an incredible impact on my life, and I am grateful to have been involved with a sport that has provided me with so many amazing opportunities! Volleyball gave me the chance to receive an education from Wake Forest University, which in turn helped me get into medical school at the University of Pittsburgh. My athletic scholarship allowed me to enjoy my college experience without worrying about debt, and my hard work as a student-athlete continues pay off because ACC and NCAA scholarships will help me finance my medical education.

volleyball star

Playing volleyball in Europe

I have also been able to travel around the world, thanks to my involvement with the sport. I have gone to Europe three times to play and spent the last seven months in Rovaniemi, Finland, having an incredible experience as a player for WoVo (“Woman Volley”). It has also shaped me as a leader, competitor, and teammate, and has introduced me to some truly amazing people.

As an active coach, what changes have you witnessed in volleyball in the Winston area since you graduated from Mt Tabor?
My perspective has changed throughout my playing and coaching career, but in general I think that volleyball is headed in the right direction, with growing interest and cooperation. I played and coached for Set Point Volleyball Club, which brought together several clubs in the area, and some of the best coaches in Winston. The club has continued to grow over the past few years, and it is exciting to see all of the young talent out there. Since I graduated from Mt. Tabor, many other girls have gone on to play in college, and now the region has created a professional team to play in the PVL tournament this May. I can’t wait to see the level of the game continue to rise in the coming years!

(click on the images below to enlarge and scroll through Andrea’s photo gallery)

Advise from a Coach: Volleyball Beyond Club

volleyball beyond clubAs club volleyball season nears its close, we thought we’d share some insights from a local club director.  Doug Balser is the founder and current director of Champion Volleyball Club in Winston-Salem, NC.  Here, Balser gave us his take on players looking to be a part of the sport beyond high school.  In the fall, we’ll hear from him again on volleyball for younger players (and insights for their parents).

WAVE:  What is your advice for players who’d like to play beyond the club or high school volleyball experience?

Balser:  A lot of young players who are watching the collegiate volleyball matches on television dream of playing for Penn State, Texas or other similar programs, but that is not realistic for the majority of the players.  If a player is interested in playing at the collegiate level, the best advice I could give is to do your research and get your name out there to the programs that match your ability.  A lot of players and parents have the misconception that if their JO team plays at a big tournament, a college coach will walk by, see them play and sign them to a scholarship.  That is just not the case.  College coaches come to see the players play who they have had previous and extended contact with over a period of time.

With a player who would like to play in college, we usually start by examining schools that fit their particular athletic and academic needs.  I always encourage families to look specifically at schools that have the academic major their child wishes to pursue.  The majority of collegiate volleyball players will be doing something other than volleyball to make a living after college, so this is important.  Once we determine a list of schools, then I have the girls begin making contact with the schools and coaches.  Almost all collegiate programs have a website and a questionnaire for the player to fill out.  This shows the coach that you are interested in the program, and all coaches want players who want to be at their school.

volleyball beyond club

Balser’s 12U team at a club tournament in 2014

WAVE:  In your opinion, what is the most necessary attribute of a volleyball player?  How does what’s needed change as a player seeks a more competitive level of play (i.e., college)?

Balser:  For me it has always been a player’s mental toughness that allows them to excel.  Athletes at all levels make mistakes and they have to be able to learn from them and then move past them.  I think the big change that occurs as players move to the next level is their ability to learn from their mistakes on their own.  The competitive players understand why the previous play didn’t work and can make individual adjustments.

WAVE:  Champion Volleyball Club has attracted accomplished, experienced coaches as well as provided the opportunity to mentor new coaches to the sport.  What advice do you have to those for those players looking to transition to coaching?

Balser:  Coaching takes a lot of time and effort to do it right.  I think it is important to have a mentor who can model what it means to be an effective coach.  I encourage them to find someone that they can talk to about problems and situations.  We see a lot of new coaches burn out, because they don’t have someone that they can turn to for help.

I also believe in today’s environment, a coach really has to have a passion for helping the next generation of players.  Our coaches today are open to a lot of criticism and in order to be successful, coaches have to know that they have the potential to make a major impact on a young person’s life.  This is a very serious and important role, and I encourage all new coaches to really understand the impact they can have either positively or negatively on a young person’s life.

volleyball beyond club

Balser and one of his experienced coaches, Kevin Troup

WAVE:  In conclusion what “positives” have you seen come out of players as a result of playing volleyball?

Balser:  I think playing volleyball can have a lot of positive influences on a player.  Volleyball is one of the ultimate team sports, and I think a lot of the girls, sometimes for the first time, learn the importance of team.  I have also seen a real growth of individual players’ self-esteem.  I think both of these positives will go a long way into making these young ladies a success in all aspects of life.