TULSA, Okla. (July 24, 2014) – Four U.S. volleyball players with a combined five Olympic Games medals and 13 Olympic Games appearances are in Tulsa mentoring the next generation of Olympic volleyball players at the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships (HPC).
Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.), who is co-head coach for the USA Women’s Junior A1 White this week, has appeared in more Olympics than any other U.S. volleyball player with five selection (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012) with silver medals in the last two Games. Only one other volleyball player in the world has made more Olympic appearance than her. She is joined by other Olympians Stacy Sykora, Paula Weishoff and Donald Suxho who are all coaching at the HPCs.
While she is not with the U.S. National Team program this summer, Scott-Arruda has not given up on her dream of competing in a record sixth Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. During her HPC Opening Ceremony keynote address, she told the audience of 91 U.S. and international teams competing in the HPC to follow their dreams.
“I haven’t retired,” said Scott-Arruda about her own dream of being in the 2016 Olympics at the age of 43. “However, this is an opportunity for me to get some coaching experience which I am interested when my volleyball career is over. I am glad to be a part of the HP program.”
In just her first season coaching elite athletes, she has already made a quick impact on the young athletes who dream of being Olympians just as she still does.
“It is an honor to be coached by someone with all her experience and knowledge of the game,” said Hailey Lindberg, one of Scott-Arruda’s players on the USA Women’s Junior A1 White. “So being coached by her is the best gift you can have as a middle as you get hands on information from the best in the game. She is all about strategies and blocking strategies, getting track on your hitters early and then making the right move to the ball even if you have to wait longer. When you are hitting, make sure to keep your spacing as the court is actually smaller than you think.”
“We want to feed these kids a lot of information about technique and how they can be better about teamwork, communications,” Scott-Arruda said. “When we are seeing this happen in the match and get a win, it is wonderful.”
Scott-Arruda is seeing the game from a different viewpoint as a coach from her status as an elite player.
“Now I am on the opposite side as a coach,” Scott-Arruda said. “A lot of things you don’t think about as a player. How the drills are set up, the time you want to spend on each one. Scouting live and being able to give live information back to your players.”
Scott-Arruda also has aspirations to do more television color commentary for volleyball, as well as building her "Believer in You" Foundation when her playing career is over.
Unlike Scott-Arruda, Sykora’s dreams of another Olympics were dashed in 2011 in a bus accident in Brazil that caused lasting vision problems - a major issue for the libero who was one of the best in the world at the time of the crash. The three-time Olympian and 2008 Olympic silver medalist has moved on to other things in life, and coaching and spreading her inspirational message has become a big part to fill that void.
“It is an absolute pleasure to be coaching,” said Sykora, who is in her second year coaching at HPC and this year as an assistant coach with USA Select A1 Stars. “Everyone talks to the kids like, ‘Oh my gosh, Stacy’s coaching you!’ But I want to be like ‘Oh my gosh, I get to coach the sport of volleyball!’ It is such a blessing that I get to come here. I cannot play anymore. I can no longer give as an athlete. But I can give as a coach now. I can give to the sport of volleyball. Everything that the sport of volleyball has given me, I can give back to it.”
Along with coaching and being a paralegal in Nevada, Sykora has gone out to colleges and clubs providing inspirational speeches to young athletes on dreaming big and thinking past volleyball.
“A big thing I am trying to promote is being an inspirational speaker - I tell my story,” Sykora said. “There are a lot of stories behind it. It is about the Olympics. It is about an accident. It is about coming from nothing and making yourself into something. I have a lot of aspects. Not just talking about volleyball, but also about volleyball and life together. Before volleyball, you have a life to live. And after volleyball, you are going to have a life. I can give that perspective because I have been through it all. It has been a rough road, but at the same time, it has been a wonderful road. I just want to share my story and help people get through some things, inspire and let people know life is a wonderful thing.”
As she hopes to inspire the young athletes with her coaching and messages on life, Sykora herself was inspired by so many people growing up.
“Everyone inspired me,” Sykora said. “Laurie Corbelli, the coach at Texas A&M, was a big inspiration because she had an Olympic silver medal. FloJo (Florence Griffith Joyner) and Jackie Joyner Kersee, they are track athletes but Olympians, and that was it for me because they were amazing people. Karch Kiraly. I could sit here and name a thousand people, but they were all Olympians. All my people who inspired me were Olympians because I wanted to be an Olympian. And that is a big thing I want to share.”
Part of the message Sykora wants to share with young people is “Why not you?”
“Ever since I was a kid, there was a lot of ‘no you can’t do it, why are you dreaming that far.’” Sykora said. “But there were others like ‘You can do it. Go for it.’ I went down that road. I let the negative people talk and followed the positive talk. I did what I could. I am here today a three-time Olympian. It has always been a dream. I say follow those dreams. Don’t let anyone hold you back because who is to say you can’t do it. Why not you?”
Suxho, originally from Albania, has two-Olympics under his belt playing for the USA. Now an assistant on USA Youth A1 White, he is coaching the next generation of volleyball stars who may follow his footsteps into the Olympics.
“It’s always great to give back and prepare our youth,” Suxho said.
Weishoff, a three-time Olympian with two medals, is part of the HP Coaching staff leading the Girls’ Select age division.