In the first edition of a new feature, senior volleyball player, Callie Schapekahm, writes a letter to her younger self.

    I know you’re young, full of energy, running around outside or riding off on your bike with some neighborhood friends, with a lifetime of crazy aspirations and dreams ahead of you and many opportunities to come that you do not even know about yet. Just please take a moment or two to thank your parents (and older sisters) for all their love, support, encouragement, and sacrifices that they have made over the years (and years to come) in order for you to be able to play volleyball. They are your biggest fans and have been throughout your numerous years of growth, on and off the court. They want you to succeed and want to help you become the best you can be. Thank them for being there not only when you were succeeding and everything was going great, but also when you were not as appreciative of them and not as understanding of how much they actually do for you. Thank Mom for being your biggest cheerleader and driving you around to practices and chaperoning volleyball trips. Thank Dad for throwing volleyballs at you rep after rep after rep in the driveway, even after a long day at work, just to help you get better ball control and improve at the game (and for stepping in and being the best line judge ever).

    On top of that, don’t forget to thank Jenna, Tessa, and Grandma for coming to watch your games and supporting you, near or far. Honestly, acknowledge how much they actually do for you and be grateful for it, because you will eventually realize how much they did (and continue to do) for you is astonishing. The time they spend driving to and watching your games (in person or online), when they could be doing other things, the money that they spend for you to be able to do what you love, and the effort that they put in day in and day out for you to play volleyball is beyond what you could believe. So please, don’t forget to say thank you and remember how blessed you truly are to have such a wonderful support system of your family and friends.

    Being able to play the sport you love and travel all around the world playing it is something that not everyone gets the opportunity to do, so do not take it for granted and really embrace the extraordinary moments that you get to have and take it all in! From winning the High School state tournament and several national tournaments, to competing in two tournaments internationally, and then continuing on into your college volleyball career, your family will be in the stands cheering you on throughout it all and what an amazing feeling that is!

    Trust me when I say you’re going to have good days and bad (in volleyball and life in general), but always remember to keep that positive mindset and continue to focus on the growth you’ve made. You are able. You are strong. Listen to your coaches and teammates, take their advice, and always try your best at whatever you are doing. Be respectful. Keep that smile that you always have and be kind to others in all circumstances. You don’t know what battles they are fighting. Be a light to others in this world even when it seems impossible, because I promise it’s not impossible and it will be worth it. Don’t believe the lies that people may tell you that you aren’t enough. You are more than enough, so keep up the great work! Keep giving full effort in all that you do, while also being in the moment. For real. You will grow up so fast you won’t even believe it. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! Enjoy the present moment, it really is a gift. Take it one day, one practice, one rep, one moment at a time, and don’t wish it away, because before you know it you will be entering your last preseason, match, and moments of your competitive volleyball career and you will wish you could have just one more ball to kill, one more point to earn, and one more huddle with teammates to cheer for.

    Also, be supportive of your teammates and make them better every day in every practice that you have. Work to lift each other up and give one another confidence, encouragement, and a good laugh. Learn from your mistakes and pay attention to the details. Be determined to improve, even in the slightest. Stay competitive! Be humble. This is going to be an incredible journey, so enjoy it! You are going to go through some really tough times, but your teammates will truly become some of your best friends. They are there for you through thick and thin, on and off the court. Be appreciative, thankful, and so so grateful for the amazing opportunities that you get and memories that you make over the years, because of your participation in volleyball. These really truly are some of the best days, months, and years of your life!