Changing Your Volleyball Fate

Tell me a little about yourself and your athletic resume.

Hi everyone! My name is Tayla and I am a recent graduate and former student-athlete of Oregon State University. While at OSU, I was on the volleyball team- acting as the starting setter and team captain my junior and senior seasons. I also graduated with a degree in both Psychology and Education and have recently finished my Masters of Education.

You were known for doing extra touches outside of practices.

What was the purpose? And how often did you do them?

My freshman year at Oregon State I red-shirted and wasn’t able to compete in games. This was really hard for me because I am extremely competitive and was used to having a lot of playing time from high school. During that year, I was able to watch and learn from the other players on my team and I quickly realized that if I wanted to play I needed to get better. I have always believed that being great is a choice- anyone can decide how good they want to be by deciding how much time they are willing to dedicate and what they are willing to sacrifice. I wanted to play, so I did whatever was needed to get better. This included many mornings and nights in the gym doing extra reps. I made a point to do something every single day that would help me reach my goal of being the starting setter. Sometimes I would be in the gym alone and sometimes I would have my whole team with me, but regardless of who was around my goal was always to improve to become the best volleyball player I could be.

The 2013 Oregon State season was tough (0-20 Pac-12 record), how did you regroup mentally and physically?

As an athlete, the 2013 season was the hardest season I’ve ever been through. I think what made it the most difficult was the mental aspect of knowing how much time me and my team had put in to be good without seeing any of the rewards in our record. Despite the negativity that surrounded that season, my team and I bonded together and we found strength in each other. One thing I learned that season is that winning is obviously the goal, but volleyball is so much more than that. The connections and friendships that you develop are aspects that will stick with you long after everyone forgets what you did on the court. We regrouped as a team, we made a goal for the next season, and then we worked as hard as we could- together- to make that goal a reality.

Did you ever think of walking away from volleyball during that time or any other time?

What kept you from doing so?

While my collegiate volleyball career had a lot of ups and downs, I never thought about walking away from the game. My parents had always taught me that giving up was easy- everyone in the world gives up every single day. Keeping commitments, pushing through when things got hard- that was something to be proud of. Sometimes you are going to have an awful game or practice and sometimes you are going to go to bed crying and I learned that that was ok. But what defines you as a person is what you do the next day and the next and the next. Never let a setback be the end, but instead accept it as a challenge.

Between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, what changes did you focus on personally?

The 2014 season was my senior season, and I decided that no matter what happened during that season with our wins and losses, I would be able to walk off the court for the final time with my head held high- knowing I did absolutely everything in my power to be the best player and leader that I could be. After our last game of the 2013 season, I was in the gym the very next day. While I worked hard throughout my collegiate career, the amount of work I was putting in before the 2014 season was unmatched. I also placed a big focus on being a better leader for my team. I did my best to encourage hard work and commitment in all of my teammates, recognizing that for a team to succeed each and every player needs to be bought in and dedicated to the team goal.

What is the vision for your non-profit, Believe in Better?

Believe In Better is a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance for kids who want to play sports. We pay for things like school and club seasons, athletic camps, private lessons, and necessary equipment. Looking at my own life, playing sports has helped me so much- teaching me valuable lessons and also opening doors and creating connections that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I believe ALL kids deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams in athletics and through Believe In Better we can help them do just that.

How can people get involved with Believe in Better or learn more information?

Our website- has all of the information about what we do and why we do it. If you are interested in donating, becoming a sponsor, or if you know someone who could use our resources, please check out our website!

What is your favorite state in the U.S.?

TEXAS FOREVER. (Texans will understand.) :)

What is your best volleyball memory?

I can’t pick just one! I love all of my teammates that I had the opportunity to compete with while at Oregon State- they are my very best friends and I know will be a part of my life for a long time.

My Senior Night was also a night I will never forget. We beat our rivals (which is always a good thing), but more than that it was a night where me and my team could really just have FUN playing the game that we all loved. There was one moment during the fourth set where we were in the middle of cheering for a kill and it seemed like time froze. The noise of the crowd went away and the lights seemed to dim a little and all I could see and feel was the joy of me and my teammates. In that moment I got goosebumps and knew it was something I would remember forever. Our hard work and perseverance had finally paid off and we all got to experience it together, as a family.

The last memory I have to mention is when we made it to the Sweet Sixteen- breaking a school record. Going from a win-less PAC-12 season to a Sweet Sixteen season is incredible and I am so blessed to have been able to share it with the coaches and teammates that I had.