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5-time Olympian Danielle Scott On The Heroic Act That Earned Her USA Volleyball's Courage Award

By Maggie Hendricks | May 22, 2019, 1:52 p.m. (ET)

Danielle Scott-Arruda serves the ball at the Olympic Games London 2012 on Aug. 1, 2012 in London.


During a 20-year international playing career that saw her compete in five Olympic Games, volleyball standout Danielle Scott received her share of accolades for her play on the court. On Wednesday, the focus shifts to Scott’s bravery away from the court.

In a short few months, Scott lost her sister to domestic violence, suffered injuries from an attack by the same man who killed her sister and lost her home to flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. USA Volleyball will recognize her bravery in Columbus, Ohio, by presenting Scott with the inaugural Courage Award during the organization’s hall of fame induction ceremony. 

Scott is among 24 individuals who will be recognized at the ceremony.

This past November, Scott was visiting her sister, Stefanie Vallery, when Stefanie’s estranged husband Michael Vallery is alleged to have broken into the home and attacked the women. Stefanie was killed. Scott was left with five stab wounds in her leg and hands after she tried to protect her sister, and she had to be hospitalized to deal with her injuries. 

The ordeal did not end immediately after the attacks, as police did not catch Michael Vallery until Dec. 25.

As Scott healed from her injuries, her father stepped up to make sure she felt safe at home.

“My dad has been in my corner the whole time,” Scott said. “Until Michael was caught, he changed everything he was doing. He came and stayed with me to make sure I felt safe and protected.”

Following the attack, the Baton Rouge native has spent time recovering through physical therapy on her knee and leg. Doctors gave her the good news in early May: She wouldn’t need any more surgery or occupational therapy. 

While her joints are still swollen and she’s still dealing with pain, Scott has been able to dribble a basketball with her daughter and play piano again. Her healing was even on track enough for her to start playing a bit of volleyball. She will compete as a player-coach in the open division of the USA Volleyball Open National Championships beginning Friday in Columbus.

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Prior to her return to the court, Scott will have a chance to reunite with her USA Volleyball family to receive the award. 

“There are no words to describe how brave Danielle was on that fateful night last November,” USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis said in a press release announcing Scott’s award. “She exemplifies everything good about humanity and we couldn’t be prouder to have created a new USA Volleyball Courage Award to recognize her heroic actions. She should be a role model for us all.”

During her two-decade career with the national team, Scott became a mainstay. She competed at the highest level from 1994 to 2013, becoming the country’s only five-time Olympian in indoor volleyball, and helped Team USA to Olympic silver medals in 2008 and 2012. She also earned world championship silver in 2002 and racked up a handful of World Grand Prix medals.

“They’ve been a great support through everything,” Scott said. “Not just the volleyball community, but USA Volleyball as a whole. 

“Just to be back in the group, because we're always family, and so it will be really cool to catch up with people and actually lay eyes on them.” 

Scott said she felt the support of the larger volleyball family as she recovered. More than $60,000 was raised in a GoFundMe after the attack.

“Not just here in the United States or locally, but around the world,” Scott said. “I was being lifted up and prayed for by people I wouldn't even know who knew me or would remember me from maybe having seen me play in person or on television. I had a lot of support and have a lot of support through this whole thing and a really good prayer life of my own.” 

While the spotlight will be focused on Scott’s courage this week, she still remembers her late sister.

“She impacted people in a way that made everyone feel special,” Scott said. “I learned more, after her passing, that she impacted a great amount of people that I even knew that she knew. She had a big heart.”

Despite the tragedy in her life recently, Scott continues to move forward with a positive attitude. Wednesday’s ceremony will be another step in moving forward with her life. 

“What happens to you, you have to deal with it,” Scott said. “You have a choice. Deal with it or fold. Being how I was raised, the challenges through sports and things like that, you learn how to overcome obstacles.”

“I choose to be positive; I choose to keep on keeping on.”

Maggie Hendricks is based in Chicago and has covered Olympic sports for more than 10 years for USA Today and Yahoo Sports. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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