Get To Know The Women Of The U.S. Sitting Volleyball Team

By Melissa Zhang | March 14, 2019, 3:53 p.m. (ET)

Members of the U.S. women's sitting volleyball team in competition at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016.
Members of the U.S. women's sitting volleyball team in competition at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016.

U.S. Paralympics caught up with four members of the U.S. women's sitting volleyball team to ask them some questions about their sport, inspiring athletes and much more. Take a look below to get to know Tia Edwards, Annie Flood, Emma Schieck and Jillian Williams. The team will play Canada in a five-match exhibition series from March 15 to 17, with Flood and Schieck making their international debuts with the national team. The matches will take place at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.  

A headshot of sitting volleyball player Tia Edwards.

Tia Edwards


N
ame: Tia Edwards 
Hometown: Skiatook, Oklahoma
Position: Outside Hitter

Favorite thing about sitting volleyball?
My teammates. They make it so fun and so enjoyable. Each trip is one of a kind, so they're my favorite part of sitting volleyball.

Common misconception about the sport?

Keeping your butt on the ground. People tend to get on their knees and lift the ball, but you have to keep your butt on the ground. If you're hitting or serving or passing, it has to be on the ground all the time. 

If you weren’t playing sitting volleyball, what Paralympic sport do you think you’d be playing?
I would want to try all of them, but I would probably say wheelchair basketball. The team is really good and that's something that I would want to try. 

What’s your go-to pump up song?
Anything Cardi B! Me and [U.S. women’s national team setter] Kaleo [Kanahele Maclay] love Cardi. We always play all of her songs. That's always on our playlist. 

Who is an athlete that inspires you? 
I've always liked April Ross, Misty May-Treanor, and Kerri Walsh; I've always really enjoyed watching all of them. I actually got a chance to stand by April Ross at the White House after Rio; she's so tall and I was so scared to say hi. I could not get myself to say anything to her!

What is your spirit animal and why?
It depends on my mood, but probably a tiger or a lion. I'm a feisty little thing!

A headshot of sitting volleyball player Annie Flood.

Annie Flood

Name: Annie Flood 
Hometown: Salem, Oregon
Position: Setter/Opposite

Favorite thing about sitting volleyball?
My favorite thing about sitting volleyball is probably being part of a team where people who all have different disabilities are the same. I really like that aspect.

Common misconception about the sport?
People always ask me if we play in a wheelchair or if we just stay on the ground. They also assume it's so much easier than standing volleyball, or that it’s the easier version of regular volleyball. No, it's actually a lot harder. It's really hard.

Who is an athlete that inspires you? 
A teammate that I look up to would definitely be [U.S. women’s national team outside hitter] Katie Holloway. An athlete in general would probably be [Paralympic snowboarder] Amy Purdy. I any athlete with a disability think is amazing and I'm really inspired by them.

If you weren’t playing sitting volleyball, what Paralympic sport do you think you’d be playing? 
I've always wanted to try skiing or bobsledding. Maybe wheelchair basketball? I think that'd be really interesting, too. I also wish they had Paralympic gymnastics because I think that would be really cool to watch. 

What’s your go-to pump up song?
Me and my sisters listen to “Last Night's Mascara” by Brynn Cartelli every day. It's a country song, but it’s kind of my motivational song. 

What is your spirit animal and why?
My spirit animal is a snow leopard. I don't really know why but it always has been. I think they're so majestic and I think they live the life. I've always thought that I'd be a snow leopard.

A headshot of sitting volleyball player Emma Schieke

Emma Schieck

Name: Emma Schieck 
Hometown: Statesville, North Carolina
Position: Outside Hitter

Favorite thing about sitting volleyball?
My favorite thing about sitting volleyball is the people, to be honest, because they're so different and they're coming from all walks of life but they all have such an incredible story that it's impossible to not want to talk to them all the time. They make even the hardest training day so fun. They’ve made such an effort to include me and I believe that's because they want to see this team succeed for the future. Even the oldest athletes on the team have really made an effort to connect with me and I appreciate it. 

Common misconception about the sport?
I believe the most common misconception about the sport is that it's just for people who have a disability. That is something that I would've always thought or assumed, but the more I've become involved and the more I've played, I've realized that it is a great thing for able-bodied and all athletes to do, because not only is it getting the word out and spreading this amazing sport, but it's also training them for whatever sports they're playing.

If you weren’t playing sitting volleyball, what Paralympic sport do you think you’d be playing? 
If I could play any other Paralympic sport, I'd probably play sled hockey. I don't think I could ever do it. I think it's so fun to watch and they're so fast, and the strength that they must have for that is amazing...but I don't think I could do it. I like watching it. 

What’s your go-to pump up song?
I don't really have a go-to song, it's mostly whatever song is stuck in my head. I just play that over and over again in my head and probably sing it to whoever's next to me. It was Christmas music yesterday. It was in my head for the whole practice. 

Who is an athlete that inspires you? 
Two athletes that have inspired me are [U.S. women’s national team outside hitter] Katie Holloway and [U.S. women’s national team outside hitter] Heather Erickson. They are two totally different people, but so amazing in different ways. By the time I'm their age, I would like to have somehow become a mesh of the two of them. 

What is your spirit animal and why? 
I'm on a club team at home and a girl on our team gave us all spirit animals and names to go with them. She said I’m Sylvia the Sloth because she said that I like to sleep a lot and I'm just always chilling so I'm okay with that. I’d say that's about right. 

 

A headshot of sitting volleyball player Jillian Williams

Jillian Williams

Name: Jillian Williams
Hometown: Odem, Texas
Position: Opposite

Favorite thing about sitting volleyball?
I think just the speed of the game and the team dynamic. I like being on teams and working with others, and so the two together is really what drew me to it.

Common misconception about the sport?
I think people a lot of times put us in the Special Olympics world. That's something that we talk about a lot, is trying to grow the Paralympic Movement. Also, people think it's easy until they sit down and try to play with us. I was that way, coming from playing college ball. I thought this would be a smooth transition, and it's been a lot harder than I expected, but it's been really fun. 

Who is an athlete that inspires you? 
I'm not a huge fan girl. I try to be the best person that I can be and not try to compare myself or idolize another athlete, but someone that's really helped me through sitting volleyball has been [U.S. women’s national team setter] Kaleo [Kanahele Maclay]. She has been my best friend in resident training. She's someone I look up to in the sitting volleyball world, because she's been playing for so long and she's very knowledgeable on the sport, as well as her faith. I am very strong in my faith as well, so it's nice to have someone on my team that I can really talk to about my certain views or feelings about things.

If you weren’t playing sitting volleyball, what Paralympic sport do you think you’d be playing? 
I really like winter sports. I actually am going to Wyoming after this camp to try adaptive skiing. I'm also really big into shooting, like sporting clay. Before I even knew about sitting volleyball, I prepared myself to start training to possibly do sporting clay. I've always been a big athlete. I don't like to limit myself and I have so much life to live, so why not try it all? 

What’s your go-to pump up song?
It's kind of weird, but Lauren Daigle. She's a Christian artist and she has two new songs: “You Say”, and “Look up Child”, and they remind me to stay humble and know that no matter how tough the situation is, whether it's in a game, before a game, before a competition, to look up and know that God is there with me and I can do it. 

What is your spirit animal and why?
I like to say my golden doodle, Olive. She's my service dog and we're like two peas in a pod. She's very sassy and outgoing, and I'm a huge dog person so I always like to rely on her.