In the early 1990s, when college volleyball teams began recruiting Danielle Scott-Arruda, people began to ask her: “Are you going to try to make the 1992 Games?”
“I was like, ‘Wow, yeah, that would be a wonderful thing to strive for,’” Scott-Arruda said.
Then two years later, in 1994, Scott-Arruda joined the U.S. national volleyball team, and two years after that she made her Olympic debut in Atlanta. Sixteen years after that, she made her fifth and final Olympic appearance at the London Games in 2012.
“That I could maintain such a long career is amazing, and I’m truly blessed to go through it without any major injuries,” she said. “I could never dream it would last so long.”
|Danielle Scott-Arruda poses with her Hall of Fame plaque at the induction ceremony for the International Volleyball Hall of Fame on Oct. 22, 2016 in Holyoke, Mass.|
On Saturday, Scott-Arruda was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame located in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the sport. She joined fellow American Misty May-Treanor as well as Nikola Grbic of Serbia, Emanuel Rego of Brazil and coach Man-Bok Park of South Korea as the five members of the 31st induction class.
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After five Olympic Games for Scott-Arruda, 44, this past August in Rio marked the first time since 1992 that the U.S. team competed at the Games without her. A middle blocker, she is the only American women’s indoor volleyball player to have been part of five Olympic teams, all while playing in more than 400 matches for USA Volleyball and winning silver medals in 2008 and 2012.
While Scott-Arruda said she's thankful for the genetics that helped her avoid serious injury and stay healthy and fit, she said it’s the passion for the game that kept her going for so long.
“You definitely have to enjoy what you’re doing,” she said. “No one’s going to keep doing something that’s so sacrificial of your time and so demanding for such a long period if you don’t love what you do.”
With all she accomplished, Scott-Arruda said it’s difficult to look back and pick a favorite moment. Still, she said, she bleeds red, white and blue even today and cherishes every opportunity she had to represent the United States in competition.
“Each time I made the team I was like a little kid taking pictures with the jersey,” she said. “Probably the last couple of Olympics, just to be able to walk away with (medals) were really special and unique. It was great to walk away from the podium with those medals, and just have to fight back so hard to make the last Games was great because my daughter was able to be there and I had my family to share that experience.”
Hugh McCutcheon was the coach of the national team at the time and said what he remembers most is not only how hard Scott-Arruda worked to earn her spot on the team following the birth of her daughter, but also how she embraced her changing role. Although she spent more time on the bench in 2012 than she was accustomed to, McCutcheon said that she was committed to doing whatever she needed to help the team both on and off the court.
“The middles ahead of her were quite young and obviously very skilled but relatively inexperienced,” said McCutcheon, who now coached the University of Minnesota women’s team. “Danielle was very good at talking to them throughout the matches and in general, just what she was seeing, ways they could improve and things they could do to win the next point.”
Her daughter, Julianne, was just 2 years old in 2012, but Scott-Arruda said she remembers cheering for Team USA. How much or how little sunk in for the toddler at the time, however, Scott-Arruda said her daughter definitely understands what patriotism is and what it means to represent and cheer for the country.
Julianne also regularly tells her mom that she’s her No. 1 fan.
“Ever since she learned about the hall of fame, anyone we meet she’s like, ‘Did you know my mom’s a five-time Olympian and she’s going to be inducted into the hall of fame?’” Scott-Arruda said. “She’s my promoter.”
Mother and daughter popped popcorn and watched the Rio Games on television this year, Scott-Arruda said, and her daughter was particularly interested in gymnastics because she herself is a gymnast. At one point, Scott-Arruda said, she was walking through Target watching a live stream of one of the U.S. volleyball matches on her phone.
She said her first Olympic Games as a spectator after so many years as a participant wasn’t as difficult as one might imagine.
“I had some time away from being with the team,” she said. “It might have been harder if I’d tried out or just missed making the team, but I had a few years to adjust.”
That’s not to say the summer itself or months since have been easy. Scott-Arruda and her daughter live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and are still waiting to move into a FEMA trailer where they will live while their home is being rebuilt. They received support from the volleyball community “near and far,” she said, in the form of prayers, donations and encouragement, and many former teammates and others have been able to replace many of the photographs from significant moments. Although she lost virtually all the memorabilia from her career, she does still have her Olympic medals.
“Those were up high,” she said.
These days, Scott-Arruda is working in the financial marketing business and volunteering at her daughter’s school. As for volleyball, she played in some USA Premier Volleyball League matches this spring and is coaching locally and with the USA Volleyball High Performance National Training Team Program.
“It's nice now to really start thinking about giving back to my sport in a bigger way,” she said. “I’d love to stay involved with USA Volleyball and be part of the process and the progression.”
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.