Adams, Robinson Inspired by Elementary Students

By Bill Kauffman | Oct. 21, 2015, 5:34 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Oct. 21, 2015) – U.S. Women’s National Team members Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.) and Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) used valuable free time shortly after winning the NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship to inspire possibly the next generation of volleyball players and leaders during separate visits to elementary schools.

Robinson visited her elementary school alma mater, St. Isidore School located in Bloomingdale, Ill., on Oct. 6. She discussed her experiences as an elite international and collegiate volleyball player. Her message to the students of St. Isidore focused on time management, sportsmanship, family and faith. She also discussed the importance of a great academic foundation involving math, English, foreign language and history as she has used all that knowledge in her playing career.

Robinson answered several questions during the hour-long assembly that include her favorite country visited so far (she has been to 13 so far), favorite foods overseas, favorite highlight and most embarrassing moment as a volleyball player and who her favorite teacher was at St. Isidore while she attended the school. She also handed out USA Volleyball stickers and folders around signing autographs for the students.

Robinson, who lives in Southern California when not playing volleyball, was glad to be home in her familiar environment for even a short time.

“The toughest thing for me since being involved in USA Volleyball and then playing professionally is being away from family for most of the year,” Robinson said. “I miss a lot of things back here, but realize not many people are as lucky as I have been to have had the experiences and traveled to the places I have. It takes a strong family support group and strong faith to keep going.”

At the conclusion of her talk, Robinson made a $1,000 donation to the St. Isidore Annual Alumni Fund. The school, founded in 1920, has 300 students from pre-school through eighth grade and a staff of 30 teachers, aides and administrators.

Similarly, Adams talked to a group of 50 fifth graders at Ayer Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio, where her former club teammate Brooke Maher is a teacher.

“I only had a week at home before I had to head off to Italy,” Adams said. “So when one of my best friends, and former teammate, asked me to come talk to her fifth grade class I was hesitant, not because the obvious limited time I had at home, but because kids can be interesting and I wasn't sure if what I had to say would get through to them or if they would even be interested. Kids don’t have the longest attention span so if I wasn’t interesting I would know it fast.

Adams, who has not been a public speaker except for her own school projects, overcame all the jitters and became a smash hit in the classroom as she is on the court.

“My friend laughed at me and said, ‘they won't bite, you'll be fine!! You’ve played in front of 16,000 people during a match before, how can you be nervous about a bunch of 5th graders?!’” Adams recounted.

Despite her nerves in talking to young kids, Adams understood she has a great opportunity to inspire young kids.

“I have an awesome platform as a USA Volleyball player, but unfortunately the time I have up here is limited and never guaranteed, so I want to make the most of it while I can,” Adams said. “Kids these days have a lot of social media outlets and crazy things in society that they can be influenced by, and I don’t want that to be their only source, because most of the time it’s not a great source. I believe that athletes can be a positive influence in children’s lives and we hold a lot of power and I want to use mine to inspire kids to believe in themselves and share my journey with them.

As part of her discussion, Adams taught them the value of knowing success doesn’t come easy.

“I believe it’s important for young kids to hear that success isn’t easy, that the journey can be hard at times, and that they should believe in themselves no matter how many times they fall down because those messages can stick with them as they move along in life and help them in their journey,” Adams said.

Below is a report from Adams on her presentation at Ayer Elementary.

What were some of the topics that you discussed and the value it had for the students hearing your message? I'm a PowerPoint type of girl and love to use visuals when explaining things. So I had slides with pictures and quotes that went along with my stories and examples. I began with an awesome one-minute video that was filmed and put together by Rob Naylor (, a friend of the team, and it showed our team taking on Japan in 2013. I then began, ‘This is my job, this is what I do,’ referring to the video. They loved it. Then I went to the first slide that pictures me in line with my USA teammates and I said ‘how did I get here? How am I playing next to some of the best players in the world and on the number one ranked team in the world?’ Some kids raised their hands and talked about hard work and practice and I said, ‘exactly.’ I then showed them a slide with two arrows. One arrow was pencil straight, and was labeled ‘This is what people think success looks like.’ The second arrow was anything but straight. It had curves, deep dips, tornado like swirls, and it was labeled ‘This is what success really looks like.’

I explained to them that everyone thinks success is one easy straight line to the top, when it really is a swirly, curly, mess to the top. That these swirls and curls represented failure, success, ups and downs, highs and lows, happy and good times, tears, and everything else in between times of success. I told them it’s normal and it’s all a part of the journey and that I wouldn't be who I was today or where I was today without failure. I’m thankful for my failures and hard times.

I then shared with them one of my favorite quotes, ‘There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs’ and one of the kids raised his hands, ‘Well, can we take the escalator?!’ ‘No, you can't take the escalator either!’ Children. They were a fun giggly, question-asking group.

I continued to talk with them about goals and setting steps to achieve those goals and how I did and still do till this day. I showed them a picture of the goal jar that I still use and had with my since high school. They shared with me their goals.

Mostly importantly I talked to them about failure. Most people don't want to talk about failure. But without failure we will never have success. And I told them that failure isn't real, it should only be seen as an obstacle or a detour, never a road block.

Lastly, I told them without belief in themselves they have nothing so they should always, always believe. I haven't always been the best server in my career, but I shared with them my journey behind the serving line and how I went from a non-confident, non- believing place to a believer, positive-thinking place and recipient of the best server award at the Montreux Volley Masters event in 2013. After, I answered their pre-written questions and their on-the-spot questions.

Although I had an awesome and highly interactive question and answer session, I wasn't exactly sure if a group of 5th graders actually took in what I had to say. Or listened. Then, later that night my friend, and their fifth grade teacher, brought me a stake of the most heart-warming cards.

I may have inspired them that day, but they in return also inspired me so much. I actually brought each and every card with me to Italy. I can feel every inch of love that was put into each card created. Brooke, my friend, said that she handed out white paper for them to do their cards and they said ‘Nooo! Yellow, yellow! She said her favorite color is yellow!’ How cute?!

Earlier that day, after I had left her class, she also sent me a picture of the white board where she collected ‘take always’ from the kids and what they learned from my presentation. I was completely, completely shocked. I thought to myself, 'They actually listened to me!!!'