FROM THE SOUTH SOUND...TO THE RED, WHITE, & BLUE!
CATCHING UP WITH COURTNEY THOMPSON!
In the first installment of "Where Are They Now?", it made a lot of sense for us to reach out and connect with one of the most decorated and well-known athletes to hail from the Puget Sound Region. Courtney Thompson helped to elevate the training and competitive standards of the sport, not only locally, but on both national and international levels.
As a prep phenom, Courtney was a standout multi-sport athlete from Kent, Washington, having honed her skills on the volleyball courts at Kentlake High School and with the Kent Juniors Volleyball Club. After multiple state championships and helping KJ teams repeatedly qualify for the USA Volleyball Junior Olympics, Courtney helped catapult the University of Washington women's volleyball program to national prominence as the team's captain and starting setter throughout the duration of her four-year career. While at UW, the Huskies won their first Pac-10 and NCAA Division 1 championships, with Courtney earning multiple all-Pac-10, all-Region, and all-America honors. Additionally, at the conclusion of her senior season, Courtney was a finalist for the Honda-Broderick Award and was nominated for an ESPY, both of which select the NCAA's Female Athlete of the Year.
Immediately following her illustrious collegiate career, Courtney traveled overseas to begin her professional career, of which led to an invitation to train and compete with USA Volleyball's women's national team. Courtney currently trains and resides in Anaheim, California, home of the USA Volleyball training center.
Courtney recently returned to the area to be with her family during the holiday season. Additionally, she had the opportunity to host some clinics and visit with some local club teams and athletes around the region. We were very fortunate to be able to sit down and chat with Courtney recently to discuss her life and career as one of the world's best volleyball players. Here is a transcript from our recent chat:
PSR: Had it always been a goal or dream of yours to compete with the USA national team?
CT: Yes, but I never thought it would be in volleyball! Once volleyball became 'my sport' in high school, winning a national title in college and winning a gold medal for Team USA became my dream.
PSR: When did you first realize that that may become a reality for you?
CT: In junior high and high school I would have never imagined in a million years that I would be getting to do what I'm doing now. It wasn't until my junior year at the University of Washington, that deep down inside I thought that if I kept working hard and improving I could have a chance to make the national team.
PSR: How was the transition for you from the collegiate level to the international scene and competing with and against the best athletes in the sport?
CT: It's similar to the jump from high school to college, in that it's a lot faster and you don't get away with plays that you would while playing at the previous level. It took me a while to adjust, but competing with and against some of the best players in the world has been more fun than I could have ever imagined. I am thankful everyday I get to compete at such a high level. It is truly a dream come true!
PSR: What is your typical day like when you're training with the national team?
CT: I get to the gym around 8:30 a.m. We have practice from 9-12:30 or 1:00. Then, we lift weights and do agility training for about an hour. Next is lunch and a shower. Then, we head back to the gym for practice from 3:00 to 4:00 or 4:30, then maybe watch some film or do some rehab. In the evenings we eat a lot, try to relax and get ready for the next day. I love it.
PSR: Throughout your career in the state of Washington, you have always set the benchmark for training hard, as well as displaying incredible work ethic and leadership. Has much changed for you in those areas now that you're competing at the highest level, among some of the greatest athletes in the world?
CT: I've tried not to change at all. That has been, and hopefully always will be, what I'm about. If anything, it's more important for me to try to do everything related to volleyball the best way that I can, whether it's getting extra reps in the gym, eating right, recovering right, working out right, watching more film, etc. That is what got me to this level, and I just believe that if you want to be the best you have to outwork other people. And when you love something, working hard is worth it.
PSR: What have been some of your greatest experiences so far competing with the national team?
CT: Traveling to some of the places that we have has taught me a lot outside the game of volleyball. I knew we were lucky in America, but didn't realize to what extent until I started traveling more. Those experiences are all ones that stick with you. As for volleyball, probably playing Brazil, the best in the world, in Brazil with 17,000 people all 'booing' USA. It was pretty surreal and is always so fun to play the best team in the world.
PSR: What are some of your fondest memories when you were competing throughout the PSR and with your KJ club teams?
CT: That's a tough one. We had some great times! Probably those long days at tournaments where you play a tough match, then have your parents bring you lunch. You just get to have fun with your teammates until you play again. Yeah, I miss the parents bringing lunch! Traveling with your club team for the first time is always special, and I was really lucky to have played with some great people throughout my career. And, I am still friends with all of them!
PSR: If you could offer a message or bit of advice to juniors or young volleyball enthusiasts to help motivate and inspire those that have great aspirations in their own volleyball careers, what might that be?
CT: I would tell them to never let someone else's expectations or opinion of you determine what you believe you can accomplish. Keep working to become the best they can be, and enjoy the journey it takes you on!
PSR: If you could give a shout out to your biggest mentors or fans that have influenced and/or supported your volleyball career, who would you like to recognize?
CT: Whew... I don't think we have enough time for me to name them all. I've been so fortunate to have amazing coaching my entire career. I would have to start with my family for sure, my parents and my two older brothers have had more influence on me than anyone. Dawn Colston, Drew Terry, Tom Champoux, Jim McLaughlin, and my coaches now Jamie Morrison, Karch Kiraly, and Hugh McCutcheon, have all had an enormous impact on my career, as well as my life. I am so thankful for them all!
PSR: Alright, so I'm sure many would like to know a little bit more about who Courtney Thompson really is. I have a few random rapid-fire questions for you...answer at-will:
PSR: Favorite athlete(s)?
CT: Peyton Manning, Karch Kiraly, and Pat Tillman
PSR: Favorite movie(s)?
CT: Gladiator and...The Little Mermaid
PSR: Favorite holiday?
CT: That's easy, Christmas! Of course!
PSR: One food you could not live without?
CT: Does green tea count?
PSR: If not playing volleyball, what would you be doing?
CT: I'd probably be on the professional bowling circuit.
PSR: Favorite thing that comes with being an elite-level athlete?
CT: Getting to compete at such a high level every day and...also getting free sweats.
PSR: Any one thing you will not miss once you decide to move on from playing volleyball?
CT: Oh yes...jump training of any kind!
PSR: Favorite place you have been while playing professionally or with the USA national team?
CT: That's a tough one, probably Switzerland. The country is beautiful and their food is great!
PSR: Best competitor you've ever played with or against?
CT: I've played against Karch Kiraly in practice, so that's an easy one to answer. He is certainly as good as advertised!
PSR: Any pre-game rituals?
CT: I usually listen to the same music on my I-Pod. It's a lot harder to have routines when you play international volleyball because you have so little control over things like your schedule, what you eat, where you train, etc. So, I don't have as many routines as I did in college. I have learned to be very flexible!
PSR: Share something that your fans may be surprised to know about you?
PSR: Courtney, thank you very much for being here and taking to chat with us. We really appreciate your representation of the Puget Sound Region and efforts to help grow the sport of volleyball. We wish you great success as you return to your training with the national team, and with your new book! You have connected with many people, especially among the volleyball community in the Pacific Northwest, and I'm sure that everyone is both grateful and proud! Thanks again!
CT: You're very welcome! Thanks for having me here and also to everyone for all of the continued support!