I never second guessed why I spent hours of training and sacrificing my free time. I knew I wanted to compete at a high level and to play in college. In club volleyball, teams are created based on skill and the top teams had rosters full of girls going to play Division 1. Unfortunately, if you weren’t on one of those top teams, it felt like the focus and training were taken off of you.
I began to doubt myself during this time, unsure if I could play in college because coaches were turning me down. I remember distinctly having a conversation with one of my own coaches in practice. They told me, “if you don’t aim for division 1 or 2 volleyball, then just give up now”.
Yet I kept training and continued to play hard. Despite not having college coaches in the stands watching me play, I still competed every contest at a high level, leaving it all on the court. Despite the doubts from others, I believed in myself.
Photo Courtesy of Buzz Photos.
Little did I know, I was being noticed and my opportunity to play at the collegiate level was no longer a dream. That opportunity was Mount Holyoke College.
On the weekend of my 18th birthday, my dad and I flew 1,698 miles from Texas to Massachusetts to visit Mount Holyoke. I had received an email from the coach saying that she was interested in my abilities. I had no clue where she had even seen me play, but my work ethic had paid off. I knew that this was my chance.
The day I flew into Logan Airport in Boston, it began to snow on the drive to South Hadley and I was wearing shorts and a sweatshirt. When we arrived on campus, it was a whole new world for me, and amidst the October snow the school looked enchanting.
On the day before my birthday, my dad and I were sitting on the coach’s office couch. We had been talking about volleyball and the school, but I noticed that the coach hadn’t yet mentioned anything about me playing a future role on the team. Doubt came rushing in, but at the tail end I heard her say, “well Brayden, we’d love for you to consider coming to play here at Mount Holyoke.”
My immediate reaction was a mixture of pure joy and a million thank you’s, said over and over again. Once we were outside of Kendall, I turned and looked at my dad.
“Is this real?” I asked, unsure of whether that had actually happened. After 10 years of scorching summer workouts, weekends missed, and injuries, my single dream had come true. It was my first acknowledgement of interest from a college and while I was happy, I soon realized that I didn’t know what to expect. I had only played volleyball and lived in Texas my entire life and I was now going to play volleyball and live thousands of miles away.
The next level, it turns out, demanded a lot. I was the only first year joining the volleyball team at Mount Holyoke. I had to step up and find my place on the team.