Manager, Media Relations and Publications
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 11, 2009) – Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) and Jennifer Joines Tamas (Milpitas, Calif.), both members of the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball team and part of the silver-medal roster at the 2008 Olympic Games, know a thing or two about being tall.
Haneef-Park stands 200 centimeters tall, or 6-feet, 7-inches. Only two other women’s volleyball players were taller than her at the 2008 Olympic Games – both Russian players who are 202 centimeters tall, less than one inch taller than Haneef-Park. Joines Tamas is listed on international rosters at 191 centimeters tall, nearly 6-3 1/2 in feet and inches. At the 2008 Olympic Games, she was the second tallest player on the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team roster behind Haneef-Park.
In October of 2009, Haneef-Park and Joines Tamas jumped at the opportunity to share their story of growing up tall when asked to appear on the popular nationally syndicated television show Dr. Phil. Joines Tamas was contacted by her friend and editor of Volleyball Magazine, Erin Pryor, who had a friend working for the Dr. Phil show looking for tall, confident women to be part of a Dec. 2 episode titled “Parents’ Biggest Fears.” The episode would feature individual segments dealing with children’s height, designer babies and sick children facing extreme odds for recovery.
Joines Tamas thought the episode’s content was a great idea, but indicated to the show’s producers that it would be great to include Haneef-Park as well since she was over three inches taller than her. A month later, both were in the show’s Hollywood studio discussing height issues among children.
“Being volleyball players, we are around other tall players all the time and have similar stories,” Joines Tamas said. “With this show, we finally had the chance to reach hundreds of thousands of people. It was an opportunity for me to celebrate being tall and offer tall, young girls advice as a role model who has gone through similar situations that they may be experiencing.”
During the Dr. Phil show taped in early November, Joines Tamas and Haneef-Park were on stage for approximately 12 minutes. After the show’s taping, they went back stage for additional interviews to be used on the show. According to Joines Tamas, the producers were impressed with her and Haneef-Park’s charisma on stage and the message they were providing in the interviews. At that point, the show wanted to expand the segment that was just taped and asked that the players provide photos of themselves growing up that illustrated the unique problems of being tall at a young age.
Both athletes expressed during the show that they had a great support system to endure the challenges of growing up tall.
“I think it was a bit of a challenge,” Haneef-Park said during the show’s taping. “I always knew I was going to be tall, so I embraced it. Other people had more of a problem than I did. I remember being 5-feet, 11 ½ inches (tall) in the sixth grade. It was at that point I knew I could take several opportunities to play basketball or volleyball, or modeling. Being tall is what you make of it.”
Photo: USA Volleyball “I can’t say I never had any problems,” Joines Tamas said during on the episode. “In junior high, of course I was ridiculed. Thankfully, I had a family that was very supportive. You can still be sexy at 6-feet, 3 – and a half (inches). I think both Tayyiba and I have lived a different life than most girls. Growing up, we had awkward teenage years, of course, taller than our peers, but with self-esteem shots from our parents…We’ve just embraced our height, and we would never take that back.”
Haneef-Park stated that some of the best advice she ever received was to simply stand tall.
"Growing up I would see other tall adults who were slouched over when walking, and now they were hunched over and in pain," Haneef-Park said. "I learned from them to stand tall and be confident. To this day, I still get compliments on my posture."
Joines Tamas grew up not being able to find clothing that properly fit her long legs and torso. She would have to cut the ends off of an old pair of jeans and sew it to the bottom of a new pair to add length as she outgrew available sizes.
“When I was younger, one of my early dreams was to open a store called “String Bean” that specialized in clothing for tall girls,” Joines Tamas said. “Now, stores such as Rock & Republic, The Buckle and The Gap exist that cater to taller women. However, I can’t just walk in those stores and buy something off the rack. I still need to go to their online stores to purchase my clothes, get it in the mail and cross my fingers that they fit right.”
Haneef-Park, who is expecting a child born in early spring, has also had a sympathetic voice from her husband Anthony Park, who stands an inch short of six-foot. Despite the eight-inch difference in height, Park has supported his wife’s significant height advantage.
“I think her height is awesome,” Park said on the show, “I encourage her to wear heels. I want to see how tall she can be. I think it’s beautiful.”
Unlike the height difference between Haneef-Park and her husband, Joines Tamas is shorter than her of husband of four months, Chris Tamas. At 198 centimeters tall (6-6), he was a standout collegiate volleyball setter who has trained with the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team.
Looking into the future, neither couple would explore the possibility of stunting the growth of their offspring, even if the technology was available to them.
“My husband is 6-feet, 6-inches,” Joines Tamas told Dr. Phil on the show. “We could potentially – genetics are funny – but we could have girls who are well over 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-7. Who knows? And I will celebrate that with them. Every inch you get taller, there will be a party.”
If she and her husband have a baby girl in the future, Joines Tamas indicated her daughter would be brought up feeling good about who she is regardless of her height.
“We would want to make sure our daughter feels confident in her height, and part of that would be building up her confidence through her peers,” Joines Tamas said. “We would find other tall children who she could be around, and put her in activities where height is an asset and advantage. Sports would definitely be part of that equation.”
Haneef-Park agreed that confidence is a key in overcoming the stigma of being tall.
"Everyone goes through a tough adolescent period regardless if you are tall, short, big or skinny," Haneef-Park said. "I would just encourage my daughter to be confident during this stage, and as she gets older, everything will be fine."
Now that one dream of opening her own clothing store has passed, Joines Tamas indicated that she has developed a new ambition that could influence the lives of young, tall girls.
"I absolutely want to be a volleyball coach after I am done playing," Joines Tamas said. "I love the sport and love talking to people, which is great for the recruiting side of coaching. It would also be another avenue to share my experience with other tall girls."
Haneef-Park is already involved in the coaching realm. She assists a 13s team at a local Las Vegas recreational league and will begin to serve as a floating coach at Nevada Juniors in the coming weeks.
And for Joines Tamas and Haneef-Park, they are up for the tall order in sharing the message that growing up as a tall girl is cause for celebration and shouldn’t be subjected to the painful ridicule that often is associated with being different.