Recently, I was playing volleyball with Dylan Hamilton down at the pier. A friend came up and told us that pound for pound we were probably one of the best teams in the world. He meant it as a compliment, but I did not see it that way. Height is a sensitive topic for me.
Being a small volleyball player sucks.
Or does it?
This is a question I have puzzled at and struggled with since the start. I always thought that the better I got the less it would matter to me but that has not been the case. Now the height difference is just more noticeable. The 6’2” athletes I used to play against in highschool and college have been replaced with 6’ 8”, 6’ 10”, and even 7’ athletes.
It would be a lie to say it never gets me down. There have been many times where I have felt frustrated and discouraged by my height. As a friend once said, it is a lesson in the unfairness of life.
However in sports, the score is king. It does not matter what you look like, sound like, or play like, as long as you can reach 21 before your opponent.
“Adversity builds strength” -John Wooden
This is my favorite quote. Just ask my sister, who has to hear it any time she complains about anything. As an undersized athlete I am fortunate to face adversity on a daily basis.
Its no secret that many great things come from hard beginnings. There have been lots of books written on the subject. But it’s easy to be ungrateful for the tough experiences that create us. Such is the case with me. Sometimes I get so frustrated by what I don’t have (height), that I forget to be thankful for what I do have (speed, mental fortitude, adversity).
Being vertically challenged has forced me to look at the game from a different lense. Since I can’t be the most physical player on the court I have to find other ways to get to 21. This has taught me to work hard, stay positive, and never give up. Most importantly it has taught me the value of being mentally tough.
The world is filled with excellent volleyball players of all shapes and sizes. The trick to being an amazing short one (there are current professionals under 6’) is finding a niche that maximizes our strengths (speed, ball control, mental strength, awesomeness) and minimizes our weaknesses (Blocking, Hitting, Touching Over 10’). So let's stop focusing on our height and start focusing on the things we can control. I'll see you on the courts!
“It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play.” -John Wooden
My name is Joshua Kulhavy-Sutherland and I am a 5’ 10” athlete who is trying to master the sport of beach volleyball. I believe that this road of mastery has many lessons hidden within it which help me to learn, grow, and be a better person in general. I live on Maui where I was born and raised, but currently spend a few months a year in California testing my skills.