Tracy Stalls doesn't have wings, but she sure looks like she's flying when she jumps up to spike a volleyball from 10 feet in the air! At six feet three inches tall, this 18-year-old from Arvada, Colorado, is pretty hard to miss. She's a Junior Olympic champion volleyball player and the first person ever to join the USA Volleyball National Team Development Program. That means she'll be practicing with the U.S. National Team as they get ready to compete in the 2004 Summer Olympics. If she continues to improve her game, she may earn herself a spot on the Olympic Team!
Tracy's only been playing volleyball for four years, but it didn't take her long to develop the skills that have helped her become an Olympic hopeful. As a middle blocker, it's Tracy's job to slam the ball to the other side of the net after her teammate taps it up in the air for her. "I've got to be up in the air, always ready to hit the ball over," says Tracy. She's also involved in every defensive block that the team makes, so she's "constantly on the move."
Tracy's really excited about the possibility of playing in the Olympics, and she knows that if she wants to make the team she's got to play it safe on the court and stay healthy. "I always
warm-up before I play," she says. When Tracy played on a club team, she trained for three and a half hours, four times a week, with extra practices before tournaments. Ankle stretches, toe walks, leg swings, and lots of other drills were part of the team's warm-up routine. And they won the 2002 National Championship!
In the Development Program, Tracy is going to be playing against the best players in the USA, but she's not worried. "It's always important to have your own goals," she says. "I might not be able to do all the moves that the best players can do, but I can still work hard and put everything I've got into every drill. If I work toward my own goals, eventually I'll get to the top." Like Tracy says, you don't have to be the best to have fun on the court!
Tracy's also excited about the chance to make friends with volleyball players all around the world. She's traveled across the U.S. and to Puerto Rico for tournaments, and soon she'll be going to Japan to train with the team at Nagasaki University. Being a part of a team is a great feeling!
Setting academic goals has also paid off for Tracy. She was named class valedictorian (first in her class) after getting straight A's all through high school.
Get into the Action!
If you're interested in volleyball, Tracy suggests you just "go for it!" Find some friends and a court in your neighborhood and grab a ball. And don't worry if you're not as tall as Tracy there are positions for players of all sizes. If you decide to get more serious about playing, you can join a volleyball club or school team. "It's an awesome way to meet people," says Tracy. Ready to have some fun?
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