Dietzen Talks on Values, Goals and Leadership

Dec. 01, 2014, 4:24 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 1, 2014)Christa Dietzen (nee Harmotto), a 2012 Olympic silver medalist and captain of Team USA that won the 2014 FIVB World Championship, went back home to western Pennsylvania to deliver an inspiring message on Nov. 18 to a group of junior and senior high school volleyball players, friends and family at Hopewell High School.

“I opened the event to any male or female junior high or high school volleyball athlete,” Dietzen said. “There were quite a few coaches and parents in attendance as well. It was nice to see familiar faces from western Pennsylvania, and connect with them. It was lovely evening and a nice size group.”

The fans were treated to hearing the path Dietzen has taken from playing on the courts herself at Hopewell High School to the Olympic stage.

“Someone asked what it was like to move from courtside at Hopewell High School to the Penn State stage and then on to the Olympic and international stage,” Dietzen said. “I stressed that the values, experiences and people who have been a part of this journey are what carried me through this process from the high school to the Olympic stage.

“Carrying the lessons, experiences and relationships from that high school gym have kept me grounded. When I return to Hopewell Township, and specifically the high school, I am reminded and grounded in the values and blue-collar attitude of how I was raised. I am reminded of all the people who have been a part of this journey with me and that this is much bigger than me.”

Dietzen’s discussion focused around three core principles: values, goals and leadership.

“Values, goals, and leadership were the three key points of the evening and a majority of my answers to their questions pointed back to those three points,” Dietzen said. “I tried to relate to everyone in attendance and not just talk volleyball. I asked them to think about what they value and how they can refer to their values in their daily decision-making. I talked about setting goals and sharing that there will be peaks and valleys along the way. I shared that they will spend more time in the valleys and that is where the growth is made, which makes the peaks all the sweeter. I touched on the importance of leadership and consciously setting a good example never knowing who is watching. I spoke on what drives me as a volleyball player and person and answered several questions relating to juggling volleyball, school, social life and family.”

Dietzen said she fielded many impressive questions, but one in particular stood out where player height and sport involvement is concerned.

“There several thought provoking questions,” Dietzen said. “My dentist asked me this. He has a daughter that just began playing volleyball after being inspired while watching us play in the 2012 Olympics. She is not the tallest player. He asked what he can do to encourage the girls who are in a sport that is dominated by height. I believe this is one of the biggest misconceptions about volleyball. When people look from the outside they see the six-foot girls. But hey, what about Courtney Thompson, Nicole Davis, Kayla Banwarth, Tama Miyashiro and Natalie Hagglund and all the girls who are shorter but play key roles? Take Courtney for example. She brings qualities as a leader and competitor to the table that our team needs and her height isn’t as big of a factor. I encourage players using the examples of Courtney, Nicole, Kayla, Natalie and Tama reminding them that you don’t have to be the tallest player. Find your role in a position then figure out what else you can bring to the table.”

Dietzen, who will be at the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship in Oklahoma City signing autographs and meeting fans Dec. 18-20, was surprised prior to her speaking engagement by a small ceremony honoring her high school accomplishments.

“They retired my high school jersey and that was a nice surprise for me,” Dietzen said.

In a phone interview last week, Dietzen offered these added takeaways from the speaking engagement, her plans for the future and what it has been like since winning the World Championship.

On young players developing leadership skills:
“From a leadership standpoint, they are all in a leadership position whether they know it or not,” Dietzen said. “If you are a sixth grader, you have fifth graders looking up to you and if you are in fifth grade, what about the fourth graders who are thinking about playing volleyball? They constantly have to ask themselves, who is watching? That was one of the key points under leadership I touched on. With the social media world these days, there are even more eyes on you. It is something we talk about on the National Team. We are not only representing ourselves, but also representing our family, our team, USA Volleyball and the United States of America. So we make sure we are demonstrating the values we want people to see when we have USA on our back.”

On what has it been like since winning the FIVB World Championship:
“I have had a chance to reflect from the summer and journal all the amazing experiences from being married in June to winning gold at World Championships and everything in between. What a summer. This is also a period of time where I will have multiple opportunities to share with others. I have always wanted to improve on public speaking, so I am thankful for these opportunities. There is something special we are creating inside the National Team and it is a time to share and connect with the volleyball world, which is something we are unfortunately unable to do very often because we jump from one season to the next.”

On meeting Tim and Ellen Toy, who are part of the Jam the Gym web site:
“Tim and Ellen Toy do a great job helping promote USA Volleyball,” Dietzen said. “It is a great relationship. They are loyal fans and not only capture the volleyball side, but also the personal side of our team. I am happy they came out to watch us play this past summer. It is nice to connect to people, hear their story and help them any way we can.”

On her plans for the winter:
“Tim Pelot (USOC strength and conditioning physiologist) and Jill Wosmek (U.S. Women’s National Team athletic trainer) built my off-season training program - the last time I had an off-season training and lifting program was in college (laughs),” Dietzen said. “They do a phenomenal job in tailoring the program to my needs. I want to build strength in my legs, specifically my right leg to protect my knee and have the endurance to be strong for the team next summer. That is my intention from a physical standpoint. To control what I can control and try to get it as strong as I can. As my physical state allows, I am adding more volleyball back into the equation and it has been great to have Karch and Jamie around to help me work towards getting better every day on the court.”