Q: What motivates you deep down to get up in the morning?
In the past it was about pursuing my goals and pursuing this idea of what I had in mind that would make me happy, and now as I continue to learn more about myself, it’s this idea of how I can be a better person. I’m constantly pursuing the best version of myself. It’s no longer about titles, championships, or medals and more about how I impact the world around me and what I bring to the table today. How can I be the best version of myself today.
Q: Through your years being an accomplished athlete playing both collegiate + professional volleyball, what’s been the greatest lesson you’ve taken from the sport that applies to everyday life?
Patience and learning. I’m competitive, passionate, and driven and often that comes with the mindset that I want to be perfect or I want everything now. After four years of being pro, I’m changing more and developing skills that I haven’t had. I’ve changed my mindset to being open to learning and being aware of the process. Being great doesn’t happen overnight and it’s a journey that doesn’t stop once you’ve accomplished something. There’s always something to be learned.
Q: Volleyball by nature is a sport where a jersey and spandex is what you live in everyday. How do you feel that this plays into the overall conversation of women and body confidence?
For me, it’s my life. I’ve been wearing that since I was 10 years old. In college, I definitely felt the pressure to look a certain way. Even with the national team, being in the public eye a little more, you feel that you need to be perfect. As I’ve continued to grow, I’ve just become thankful and appreciative of my body. I’m the strongest I’ve ever been and my body is my full time job. I’m grateful for my muscles and that I can play this sport at 25 at a high level and will be able to continue to play. If we change our mindsets of how our bodies don’t look, to how amazing our bodies truly are and what they can do for us, the confidence just comes right along with it.
Q: What are your thoughts on the topic of women’s sports + wellness practices being sexualized in the age of social media? Has this ever been a challenge for you to combat?
It hasn’t been too much of a problem for me, but I think now more than ever we are in a position to show strength as women. We have the opportunities to say no and to stand up for what we believe in. I know what I am comfortable putting out on social media and I know what I will not allow and I’m not afraid to say that or speak up. I’m also lucky to be surrounded by teammates, friends, and a fiance who support and love me and I think the more we surround ourselves in a community of positivity, the more these topics dissolve.
Q: You’re always posting about plants + superfoods (love!). What’s your overall approach to eating to fuel you for your sport?
I love plants. I could honestly eat them for every meal and be satisfied. I want to give my body what it needs to perform at the best of my ability. The idea that my body is my job makes it crucial that I’m feeding it enough energy. I never want to feel like I’m tired, or not strong enough to get through a practice or a match. I’ve found that eating a plant based diet with eggs/fish a couple times a week has been the best combination for me. I think it’s important for people to discover what works for them. I know that meat hasn’t always sat well in my body and dairy has caused major acne problems and digestive problems for me. But again, this has been trial and error for a long time so it’s important for people to understand their own bodies. I don’t feel great when I eat sugar or gluten and that’s just me. However, I travel a lot and I think food is a huge way to connect or see a culture. I don’t restrict myself from trying things or experiencing new foods when I’m in these situations.
Q: Mindset: How do you avoid getting into a negative head space when you find yourself becoming doubtful or not believing in yourself?
I write a lot. If this is happening I like to go home and write what I’m feeling and take some moments to ask myself why I’m feeling this and if it holds space in my life. Once I put that away, I leave it there and I move on. When we dwell on things it becomes all encompassing and it’s hard to move forward. The game of volleyball is played on mistakes and if don’t think about the next moment or play given, we are carrying that doubt or belief with us.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Prioritize you. It sounds selfish, but I spent so many years of my life trying to make everyone else around me happy or satisfied. Whether it was coaches, teammates, friends, or family, everything I did was for someone or something else. I never really thought about me or what makes me happy or what sustains my life. Fast forward years later and I’m doing the work for the past four years on how to put myself first. At some point you just feel drained and I didn’t really know what were my own beliefs or what were beliefs I thought people wanted from me. I put a lot of emphasis on expectations of what people have of me and I’m working to let those expectations go. This has allowed me to be more present for the things in my life that really matter and as an athlete.
Q: Having a companion to share the joys of your life with can elevate every experience you have. What relationship advice would you give to other women?
Be 100% yourself. I think as women we want to look a certain way, dress a certain way, or act in a way that will attract men. From the the start, with my fiance I have been myself and completely transparent and that has only made our relationship stronger. I also think it’s important to be open to learning. Both my fiance and I, continue to want to be better versions of ourselves. We do a lot of long distance which means discussing new ideas or topics or new interests we might be curious about. I’m so excited to share these things with him and make myself better and vise versa. I know that he has chosen me for 100% who I am and I have chosen him for the same reason. There’s total honesty, openness, and when things get really hard we are able to have strong communication.
Q: When you seek inspiration, where do you go, what do you look at, who do you talk to?
I tend to feel my best when I’m outside. I love being in the water or surrounded by nature. When I need to clear my head or get perspective, I head immediately to the water or on a hike or just sit in the sun on my balcony. I also talk to my dad or my fiance a lot and I have a great relationship with our head coach of the USA team Karch Kiraly, so if I’m needing sport advice or even life advice these are people I turn to. I think being open to the messengers is such a great way to finding answers.
Q: Your career and journey have been so inspiring to watch. What do you wish to be known for (your legacy)?
I don’t really think too much about legacy or inspiring people. I just want to live as authentically as possible and to connect with people all over the world. This is what sustains me and keeps me going. When people reach out, I find so much joy in it. I want to share with people that if we all can find ways of making ourselves better, than we can show up more positively for the people and the world around us. We can live fully with passion and our experiences whether positive or negative will be more powerful.
Along with playing professional volleyball in Turkey these days, Kelsey runs a beautiful and motivating blog, Nom and Play. The girl is super human!