Opening Ceremony Kicks Off HPCs

By Kristina Harter | July 24, 2013, 8:23 p.m. (ET)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (July 24, 2013) - After the first day of play concluded at the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships (HPC) on Tuesday morning in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 111 teams swapped jerseys for party pants to attended the Opening Ceremony.

Each team representing the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline, USA Volleyball regions squad and foreign teams were welcomed by the Florida Region lining the entryway, along with a spotlight leading them to team photos projected on either side of the stage.

Emcee Tom Pingel, USA Volleyball senior director of events, opened the event with special welcomes for National Sports Convention Manager Fort Lauderdale CVB Carol Hudson and the Florida Region Executive Director/President Steve Bishop.

After the opening welcomes, local entertainment from “School of Rock” brought players from their seats to gather in front of the stage for a concert. Beach balls flew and players sang along throughout the jam session. 

Following the concert, the first-ever HP’s Got Talent took place. A number of teams performed on-stage as three HPC coaches including keynote speaker and three-time U.S. Olympian Stacy Sykora, took judges roles, commenting after each act. The New Zealand performance became the winner in both the judges and audience votes.

The New Zealand act consisted of a short song followed by a dance ritual from the men. The intense performance had the crowd hooting and hollering for more. To see the performance click here.

Stacy Sykora (Burleson, Texas), who was a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, continued to captivate the audience as she switched from a HP’s Got Talent judge to the keynote speaker. Chipping in jokes throughout the speech, she shared stories as a three-time Olympian, how she got there and encouraged the players to carry out their dreams. 

Sykora compared the trek to the Olympics to building a pyramid. She explained that every practice is like a grain of sand, a bunch of sand makes a brick, and each brick gets you to close to the top.

“Why not you?” she said, speaking to the players about their future.

The speech took a surprising turn when she explained how her career came to a sudden stop after she endured a serious brain injury cause by bus accident in Brazil in 2012.

“I will never play competitive volleyball again,” she said.

The room went dead silent.

“But I do have memories.”

“If I could turn this mic off and turn it back on again I would say the same thing – time is precious.”

Sykora’s speech undoubtedly motivated the audience, whether it be on or off the court.

The ceremony concluded with an impromptu presentation from the New Zealand Junior Head Coach Neil Anderson, who bestowed a token of gratitude to USA Volleyball for its hospitality and friendship. To read the article, click here