[ Tuesday, May 27, 2014 ]


"Be Khat Bell."  OK, this is completely off-topic, but a pretty cool thing happened to me this weekend. 

A little back story first.  Last December, I drove to Omaha to bring my oldest daughter home from Creighton University.  She spent the spring semester at Loyola-Chicago's campus in Rome, so needed to move out of her apartment completely over Christmas break.  Gina played volleyball through high school and has played club volleyball in college, and we're a volleyball family: I coached Gina in 7th and 8th grades, and have coached my youngest daughter, Mary, since 3rd grade (she's about to enter 8th).  As luck would have it, the night I would be in Omaha picking Gina up was the first night of the regional round of the NCAA volleyball tournament (wherein the Sweet 16 would become the Final Four), with the University of Nebraska hosting one of the 4 sites.  Again, as luck would have it, that Friday night would see the University of Texas play American University, and Nebraska play University of San Diego.  I attended law school at UT, and Gina attended several overnight volleyball camps at UT, so we're definitely fans of Jerritt Elliott's UT volleyball program.  And since Lincoln is about an hour's drive from Omaha, we decided to go watch some volleyball in the middle of packing up.  StubHub delivered great tickets (the view from our seats is below), and we got to see UT beat American and Nebraska beat USD.  (We were driving home the next day when the UT-Nebraska game started, but got home in time to see UT beat Nebraska; unfortunately, they lost to Wisconsin in the semifinals.)

The games were a blast.  One of Gina's good friends, Creighton club volleyball teammates, and honorary Drummond daughter, Reana Lee, is from Hawaii, as is Sarah Palmer on the UT team.  Of course everyone in Hawaii knows each other, so we talked to Sarah's parents after UT's win (actually, Sarah and Reana played volleyball together in Hawaii and the families know each other).

But back to the story.  During the UT match, I was intrigued by one of the UT players, Khat Bell.  I noticed that whenever Khat was on the sidelines and not on the court (she's a front-row player, but is replaced with a defensive specialist when she rotates off the front row), instead of standing with her teammates watching and cheering on the girls on the court, she was crouched down, like a wide receiver, ready to sprint out onto the court.  Sometimes she'd even put one hand down, like a sprinter.  The other girls on the sidelines laughed, cheered, high-fived, but Khat was poised, like a lion or a jaguar, (or some other "big cat"), her face stressed and serious.  Forget the cheering, forget the celebrating, she only wanted one thing: to get back on the court, pound some volleyballs, and kill some sets.  I found myself watching her rather than the points, to see if she would lighten up, but she never did.  She didn't care what happened on the last point, good or bad: she wanted to be out there, on the court, winning the next point.

This spring, my youngest, Mary, played club volleyball for the first time.  Mary's very hard on herself, frets over past mistakes, and tries to find fault or blame on every bad play (and most good ones too).  After a bad play, she loses energy, and it's obvious that she's fretting, worrying about, and focusing on the last play, not concentrating on the next.  You can read it in her face.  Between matches at one early tournament, I pointed out to her that she was spending too much time focusing on the last point, and it was costing her.  I told her the story of watching Khat Bell on the sidelines.  Khat didn't care whether her last play on the court was a good one or a bad one.  She didn't care if her teammates were playing well or poorly without her.  She didn't care about fault or blame.  She just wanted to get back into the game and play the next point.  And that's what I encouraged Mary to do: forget the last point, and focus on the next. 

I told her, "You've got to find your inner Khat Bell.  You've got to be that person who only looks forward.  You've got to be Khat Bell."

During the rest of the season, one of the things I constantly yelled at her from the sidelines was, "Be Khat" or "Be Khat Bell."  I'd crouch down like a wide receiver about to sprint off at the snap of the ball, so if she didn't hear me, she'd see what I was encouraging her to do.  I'm her dad, so of course she didn't pay any attention to me, or at least pretended she didn't.

Fast foward to last weekend.  Club season is over, and now Mary is trying beach volleyball.  She normally trains on Tuesdays afternoons at The Sandbar in the Deep Ellum part of Dallas, but she's going to miss a few Tuesdays for summer vacation and is making up those training sessions with some Thursday and Sunday practices.  Gina and I took Mary there this past Sunday, and we stayed to watch them train.  Shortly after they started, a tall, sleek athlete sauntered in, with a burnt orange top and black spandex with the UT longhorn on the sides.  Guess who?

If the next best thing to being Khat Bell is being next to Khat Bell, then Mary got there this Memorial Day weekend.  Maybe she'll listen to me now. . . .

Jeff [2:48 PM]

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