To the Haleigh that first arrived in Italy,


Benvenuto, you made it! First things first, take a deep breath. Traveling across the world can be stressful so I know you’re freaking out. Right now, what you’re doing seems like the biggest life change you’ve ever experienced. I mean, nobody speaks the same language as you, you’ve never played volleyball overseas before, you’re all by yourself, and everyone you know and love are thousands of miles away. It feels like you’re jumping off of an eighty-foot cliff right now but trust me this is just a small eight-inch step.

Unfortunately, this time around your visit in Italy is short. There was a chance you could’ve stayed up until the end of May, but you and your team missed the playoff by one or two points. That’s ok though, it’s a part of the process. What’s important is what you take from this experience and how much you get to grow as person.

While you’re here you are going to experience a lot. For starters, homesickness. You are all by yourself over here so there are days where you really miss home. Sometimes it isn’t even Colorado home. Some days you miss being at the Phyrst with your friends jamming out to “I Want You Back”. Sometimes you just really want a hug from bae or a lazy Sunday binge watching The Office together. Whatever the feeling is, it’s totally fine. There are ways you can shake it! Get coffee downtown, hang out with Chiara and DoDo, go to the beach, drink a whole bottle of wine… ok maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. Then there are days where no matter what you do you just miss home. When this is the case, call your parents. They always make time to talk to you and it’s crazy how much better you feel after talking with them. Homesickness sucks, but you’ll be fine.

Keep in mind, you weren’t even gone that long! It’s been two months. I know it may feel like an eternity because SOOOO much has changed, but you’re only here for a short short time so don’t waste it wallowing. Read your books on your patio, go sketch on the beach, get sushi with your friends, live and enjoy life here because it’s over before you know it.

Something else you should know, you’re not going to become fluent in Italian. No matter how hard you try, you are not going to pick up conversational Italian in two months. Not only that, but when you do try to speak Italian you are going to say something stupid. You will end up calling your libero a midget on accident, you’ll refer to your father as the pope, and instead of asking how old someone is you’ll ask them how many anuses they have. Such is learning a new language. The pronunciation and grammar are going to eat you alive, but it’s important that you keep trying! Better to make the mistake and fix it, then never try at all and learn nothing.

The most important thing you need to take from your experience here is this is life now: new adventures, new opportunities to learn and grow, new chances to get to know and love yourself more. Not only that, but this is just the beginning. Wherever this career takes you as a professional volleyball player, enjoy the journey and remember you are in control. You can keep going for as long as you want, you can quit whenever you want, you can go back to school, you can start coaching, you can keep playing until you’re 40 years old. Whatever you decide to do, do so whole heartedly. If you’re going to quit, make sure it isn’t because you had a bad day. You’re only really a failure when you stop trying to improve. If you’re going to keep playing, make sure you’re working as hard as you can. You know what that looks like. In the wise words of Ron Swanson, don’t half-ass a bunch of things whole-ass one thing. Make sure whatever you do in the future you whole-ass it.

So, Haleigh that just got to Italy, enjoy your adventure in Ravenna. It’s a beautiful city. You will cry when you see Dante’s tomb for the first time, you’ll cry when you say goodbye to the Adriatic Sea, you’ll cry when you see the Basilica di San Vitale. You will also laugh your ass off with Chiara and DoDo on multiple occasions, you’ll dance on table tops, and you’ll make memories you will never forget. Adventure is out there so enjoy this one.


The Mental Game

My roommate pointed out to me the other day that I am always thinking. Whether we’re sitting at the table eating, driving to lift, or just stretching after practice, she noticed there was always something on my mind. Now this trait has its highs and lows. I overthink a lot, but it’s easy for me to critically analyze any given situation. For me, thinking is a way of life. For all athletes, thinking is a huge part of the game.

In sport, there’s a time and a place for thinking, most people refer to it as their mental game. There are tons of sport psychology books on the subject. People pour a lot of research and resources into figuring out what makes the athletic mind tick. But the thing is, we are all very different. Our mental game is uniquely formatted to our own individual selves. The way LeBron James preps for a game is very different than how Foluke Akinradewo would prep. What’s important though, is that the mental prep is happening. My time at Penn State helped me to cultivate my own mental prep routine. It was done mostly through trial and error, but I eventually figured out what was necessary for me to get in the groove to be ready to play. What’s important now is making sure I’m following through with this routine.

This past week we played two games. One on the road and one at home. The road game was a beast of a trip. It took about 5 hours to get to the gym. The vans we took were tiny with very upright seats, so it isn’t the most comfortable form of travel. To pass the time I listened to music, watched the Italian landscape roll by (gorgeous btw), and watched a movie. It was a long drive. When we finally got to the gym we were early, so we ended up having to sit around and wait for game time.

Now, after being cooped up in a van all day I’m not going to deny I was grumpy. Every little thing was getting on my nerves. By the time we were warming up for the game, my mood hadn’t improved, and I had a tough time getting my muscles warm. Game time rolled around, and I played TERRIBLE. It only took me 5 points into the first set to realize, I wasn’t mentally there for that game. I hadn’t done a mental prep, I wasn’t focused or ready to compete and it was catching up with me. I managed to get somewhat locked into the game by the second set, but by then I was so concentrated on being mentally locked in I started overthinking. I worked as hard as I could physically, but my draw backs mentally took their toll.

The following Wednesday we had a home game. I was determined to be mentally focused and ready to play. A few hours before the match, I did the mental exercises that get me ready to play and put on my warm up playlist. We drove to the gym and I stayed focus all through warmups. Doing whatever I could to be ready to play. Game time rolled around and while this game had a bit of a rough start, it was much easier to find my groove and play my game. I was mentally and physically ready to play.

What this experience has taught me, is that there is never an occasion where I can just roll into a game. Just like I warm-up my muscles before a match, I need to warm-up my mind. There’s a level of mental focus required to be a successful and competitive athlete. I worked hard on creating a unique routine that allows me to be mentally locked-in to the game, I owe it to myself to be following it. I should be playing back highlight reels that get me excited to play the game I love. I need to listen to my pump-up playlist to get my adrenaline going. I absolutely need to make sure I know the scouting report. Concentrating on the little things before a match makes it easier to just go out and play.

Everyone is different, so their routine will be unique to them, nevertheless there’s no denying that mental prep is needed. Figure out what that means for you. Zac Efron said it best, ya gotta getcha head in the game.

If you’re feeling up to it, let me know what your mental routine is before you go out and conquer the world! I’m always looking for new ideas and would love to read your comments!

Healthy Habits

As athletes, we’re constantly reminded the importance of nutrition, hydration, sleep, etc. It’s ingrained into our lifestyle to try and be as healthy as we can to improve our performance. We’re lectured on calorie intake, when to eat, the importance of sugars, carbohydrates, and protein. We’re taught that it’s important to drink water every day and stay hydrated. Plus, we’re constantly reminded that sleep is the best way to recover faster. Through all this reminding, we begin to build this image of what it is we want to look like once all is said done. Soon fit, sexy, and strong athletes will look back at us in the mirror. From then on, it’ll just be about maintaining that physique. Sounds easy enough. News flash, it never is.

For myself, throughout this whole process of becoming beautiful and better lingering in the back of my mind is this tiny fear that if I stray from the path all is lost. When I slip up, I set myself too far back. That extra slice of cake or missed day at the gym is going to cost me what it is I want to see from myself. In these moments, it becomes all too easy to beat myself up. I get incredibly frustrated and feel like I’ll never achieve the body it is that I want and there’s no point in trying. News flash number two, I gotta chill out.

As I too strive to be the best athlete I can be, I’m learning that the best way to ensure that I’m adhering to my health habits is to cut myself a break. When I opt to eat a rice cake with Nutella on it instead of honey, I can’t go nuts over the extra 10g of sugar. If I miss going to the gym for a day, I shouldn’t mope around at home. Instead, I should stretch a little and set a reminder to get my butt there tomorrow. On the path to creating healthy habits I’m realizing there is no flawless journey. Everyone is going to slip up. The key is to allow the slip up to happen, forgive yourself, and improve.

Now, there’s a beautiful equilibrium in life where all things require some balance. In this instance I find myself balancing self-discipline and self-compassion. While I’m chasing healthy habits, I can’t cut myself too much of a break. I should, of course, be focused on what it is I want to achieve and be committed to the habits I want to form. I set goals for myself, both long term and short term. I do what I can to make it easier to achieve said goals. For example, I try to avoid buying junk food and sugary drinks. But, I also need to remember to be compassionate enough to realize that I’m only human and chocolate cake is too damn good to pass up. That’s ok. Healthy habits, like diet, sleep, and hydration, pair nicely with self-love. If I can focus enough on achieving my health goals while also loving myself throughout the entire process it becomes a lot easier to get to where I’m trying to go.

In all, whether you’re like me and want to build muscle mass or just want to start drinking more water daily, the fact that you have made a conscious decision to improve your life in a healthy way is a huge step. Go for it! But don’t get too upset as you work to develop this new routine. Building a habit comes with time and with time comes error. But the good news is, with error comes growth. So, work to build those habits. Set goals for yourself. Celebrate when you achieve them. Be patient with the journey and revel in it all, the slips-ups and the success. Such is life.

Also, today’s featured image is brought to you by me trying sushi for the first time. An excellent balance between what I perceive to be healthy and what is probably not the most healthy but could be worse.


Ciao Mi Amici,

Well I guess the cat is somewhat out of the bad. Hello from Italy everybody!!

Before I begin I wanted to very quickly explain my hiatus and why I haven’t been writing much… ok at all… When I started this blog, my intended goal was to share a post every week. I was super excited about it and had lots to share. I still do! But, as my “deadline” started approaching I found myself stressing over getting my blog done. I wanted to write the perfect post and make sure I was saying EXACTLY what I wanted to. I was freaking out hardcore about it. This, I soon discovered, was stupid.
I’ve been stressing about deadlines for pretty much my entire life and, if all goes according to plan, I’m going to stress about deadlines for a long long time after, what with grad school and everything. So why on Earth, when I’m not even in school, would I stress myself out about it now. My blog was supposed to be a way to share my life with people I care about. Not worry about if they got my post on time. So I made a decision, I won’t write anything until I feel like it. When I’m ready to write or have something I desperately need to share, I will. Until then, I don’t want to stress about it. I’ll write my thoughts and share my ideas on my own time because soon, sooner then I know, I’ll have to be writing for a deadline again. So here it goes!!


I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to continue to play volleyball at the professional level in Ravenna, Italy with Olimipia Teodora Volleyball. It was an incredibly lucky circumstance that they needed a middle blocker and were willing to wait for me to be ready to come out to play.


Earlier this year I had to get some work done for an injury I had sustained during the last few months of season at Penn State so I wasn’t able to go and play volleyball right away like I had originally wanted. Instead, I had to consider my long term volleyball career and decided to take care of the injury ASAP and change up my original game plan. So I took two months off. Thankfully enough my trainers and coaches at Penn State were more than willing to help me recover and get back in to playing shape. ((Quick shout out to Scotty P (Scott Campbell), I’ll deny it if you tell him I said this, but I was very fortunate to have someone as good as him be willing to work with me and help me get back to where I needed to be. He’s good at what he does, there’s no denying it. But enough sentiment, Scott if you’re reading this don’t forget I still hate you and we’re not friends… ))


So I took those two months off, worked in the equipment room at Penn State and did physical therapy with Pippen. Then once I was ready and after a quick jaunt to Chicago to get my visa, I was off to Italy! Now, I am here. It’s been less than week and I’m already learning so much! My team has been very patient with me as I figure out drills and my flatmates, Chiara and Sofia, have been more than amazing. They help me practice my Italian, show me where things are in Ravenna, and are helping me get my bearings as a pro athlete. What’s more, when I first got here and had nothing at all they shared their food with me and helped me buy groceries without skipping a beat. They’ve been absolutely incredible and I am so lucky to have met them.


Volleyball wise, each day I’m feeling stronger. If any of you have experienced this, coming back from injury can be very very hard, both physically and mentally. But it’s great to be back in the gym. It’s definitely very different from playing in Penn State, ((if I ever finish writing South Gym Soldiers you’ll understand what I’m talking about)) but it’s still like any other work day. You go as hard as you can! Here, in Ravenna, it’s important to remember that quality can be better than quantity. So I try to do my best every single time I’m in. The funniest part, I’ll make some kind of stupid mistake and hear Russ in the back of my head chirping about how that can’t happen and I’ll see him making a note in his book. Some things never change.


While I’m here, I want to grow, I want to get better. I am never good enough and there are so many aspects of the game I can’t wait to improve on. For that reason, Ravenna is perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be to get me back to playing at 100%. The coaches are good, my setter is a baller, and every day I can’t wait to practice and get back into the gym. The future is bright if you’re willing to work for it. So I’ll keep my nose to the grindstone and do what I do best, make jokes and play volleyball. Until next time y’all. Adopo!


P.S. Ravenna has the most gorgeous library!! You bet your bottom dollar I’ll be hanging out there just about all the time. ANNNND it’s where Dante Alighieri was buried since his banishment from Florence prevented him from being buried in his hometown. The culture in my little town is amazing and I can’t wait to explore!!!

Here’s What’s Next

Much to my dismay, I have officially finished my Penn State undergraduate career. We actually just had our end of the year banquet a few weekends ago. It was great to see everyone and say my final thank you and goodbye to the boosters and the program. This obviously isn’t a forever-in-parting goodbye, you guys couldn’t keep me away from here if you tried. It was more of a see you soon. It has been an incredible four years, but it is time to take the next step. What exactly is that, you may ask. Well here’s what’s next:

Lucky enough for me I get to spend a little bit more time in Happy Valley (told ya you couldn’t keep me away)! I’ll be training, playing volleyball, working out, and working! I just recently got a job in the Rec Hall equipment room so if you’re ever in the neighborhood please feel free to come say hello. On top of volleyball and work life, I’m also working on some writing for grad school, the studying never stops.

Unfortunately, I do at some point have to leave and it’s looking like March 1st I’ll be headed to the Philippines! I just recently negotiated a contract with a team over there so it’s just about official! I’m looking to sign sometime this week! I’m very excited and incredibly blessed to have an opportunity like this and I couldn’t have done it without the efforts of my agency, Top Volley. I am incredibly fortunate to have people in my life that can help me navigate the professional world of volelyball. Them knowing what they’re doing is such a blessing because I – like most people in life – don’t. ((Learning though!))
I’ll be in the Philippines from March until about mid-June. Then I’ll be back in the states gearing up for the next season! I’m very excited for what the future holds and can’t wait to see what adventures I’ll be going on. But it’s not just me that’s taking grand new steps. We had seven other great girls and athletes graduate this past semester who are all moving on to their next chapter, so here’s what they’re up to!


Clare is back in California for now living it up with her big beautiful fam! Rumor has it she’s picked up a coaching gig for a high school men’s team. She also graduated with a degree in print journalism and is a fantastic writer so I’m sure we’ll see her writing for Sports Illustrated, Cosmo, or The New York Times here very soon.

Heidi is temporarily waiting to put her angel wings on, unless Victoria’s Secret wants to give her a sponsorship while she’s overseas because she’s looking at going pro! She recently signed with an agent and is looking to make her way over there very soon.

If you hadn’t heard at the banquet, our own Abby D. got a job in Austria!!! She gets to pursue volleyball overseas now as well and just recently left to start her adventure!

Simone left for Italy about a week ago and is going to play for one of the premier leagues over there! It’s incredibly exciting and a great opportunity for her and I know she’s thrilled! Wishing her the best of luck!

Ali is also looking to play overseas and has had an offer or two come her way. Just like most Penn State grads, her future is bright and she’s definitely going to play volleyball for as long as she can!

Jen is still around in Happy Valley finishing out her undergraduate career. Lucky enough she’s only taking 15 credits this semester not 21, so she’s got smooth sailing up ahead. Once she’s done here she’s looking at grad school and a potential research gig in Manhattan over the summer!

Lainy just recently accepted a job offer in Philly!! Look at her joining the real world like a grown up. Her little brother plays for the men’s team here though, so she’ll be back visiting Happy Valley soon!

Nia didn’t technically graduate because of her redshirt but she’s a part of our class so she deserves an update too. She’s going into her last year at Penn State and naturally living her best life. She’ll train in the spring, have camps in the summer, and go into her final season as a Nittany Lion this fall.

Bryanna also didn’t graduate and has a redshirt year too, but she’s definitely living her best life. She’s taking maybe 15 credits this semester (if that) and next semester only taking one class. It’s called thriving people.


So here we are. Graduated and ready to take on the world. Penn State has shaped us and given us the tools necessary to do big things. While we’re out in the real world, I hope our actions reflect those of mature and well-rounded Penn State graduates. We can’t wait to go out and explore the world and enjoy new adventures. So here’s to the next big thing people, cheers!


|| Be sure to come back next week for my blog post on what it’s like to play for Russ Rose entitled South Gym Soldiers. Xoxo ||

Baby Bye, Bye, Bye

Ho-ho-hoooooly shitake mushrooms goodbyes suck. They’re the one thing in life that has never gotten easier for me. They have remained consistently suck-o. I used to think I was pretty good at them too; that I could just say goodbye and rip ties like a band-aid: quick, easy, painless. Sometimes that’s still the case. When I say goodbye to people I’m not too upset about leaving or people I know I’ll see in the very near future I don’t get too heartbroken about it. But when the future is unclear or I’m saying goodbye to my parents/family, holy munchkin-eating-cupcake-flargenbog those goodbyes suck.

My dad just left. That’s what’s prompting this writing and for some reason this year’s goodbyes with the family have been painfully hard every single time, especially this last one with my dad (making me cry like some soap opera protagonist… jerk). Maybe it’s the nostalgia of senior year that makes it so hard or getting to enjoy these moment with people I love that turn me into a blubbering idiot. Whatever the reason, the goodbyes SUCK and hurt a lot.

Ironically enough, during this last visit, my dad and I were reminiscing about our “first” goodbye my freshman year. They were dropping me off at college for the first time and it was a bit chaotic. We were unloading the car, we’d been driving all day, we had no idea what we were doing or where we were going, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria type stuff. Eventually I got unpacked and as soon as that was done, my roommate and I had to rush and get our ID’s. My family needed to get back on the road so we started saying our goodbyes. My siblings cried a little, my mom cried a lot, my dad got a little teary-eyed and so did I but it was overall not the emotional goodbye one would imagine accompanies college freshman farewells. There was too much going, not enough time to reflect on the moment. This just felt like another part of the process. We said our goodbyes, they were on the road, and that was that.

Nowadays I wish goodbyes were that easy. Now, like I said, goodbyes SUCK. They leave you – more importantly me – feeling all achey and broken inside. Saying goodbye to mom SUCK-O, saying goodbye to my dad SUCK-O, goodbye to siblings SUCK-O, goodbye to Penn State Volleyball SUCK-O, saying goodbye to my friends from mikepikebike at the end of last semester SUCK-O. It’s just not something I’m good at and I don’t think it’s a skill someone – more specifically I – will ever get good at.


In the grand scheme of things, however, I count those goodbyes as a blessing. Goodbyes only hurt when they have meaning behind them and the fact that I have people that I love so much and that love me back is something I am incredibly fortunate to have. It’s what makes those goodbyes so suck-o. So much so that saying goodbye – even when we know we’ll see each other again – is pretty torturous. Nevertheless, that love is why when the goodbyes make me cry and my heart is aching and breaking, the pain doesn’t linger too long. I know feeling that pain means before I was feeling a lot of love and to have love like that in your life is a blessing and not to be taken for granted. So goodbyes may suck, big time, and I’ll probably never get good at them, but love like that’s gotta count for something.

“With a love like that, you know you should be glad.” – The Beatles, She Loves You

Dear Penn State,

Thank you. I’m writing this to you as an official alumni which means I’m writing with a perspective that comes from an ending. I’ve officially finished my four years of undergrad and what a privilege it’s been. Very few people are given the opportunity to go to college, let alone go on a full ride scholarship, so for that I am forever grateful and beyond blessed. Because of this, I want to open up my thank yous to the man who made this journey possible.

To Coach,
Thank you for seeing greatness in me and for not being satisfied until I had achieved it. Your program, the one you built from the ground up, has shaped me into the woman I am today. You have taught me to battle through my hardest days and that anything worth working for will never be achieved easily. Thank you for giving me the chance to not only pursue volleyball at an elite level, but also to pursue an education at an elite level. You have afforded me opportunities I would otherwise not have had access to. For that I am forever grateful.

To Lori,
Thank you for always believing in me and for teaching me to believe in and trust myself. You have helped shape me into the confident young woman I am. I pray that the life lessons of trusting my body and soul stay with me forever. You have changed my life and I am so blessed that you were apart of it.

To The Anthony Family,
I am so fortunate to have met you all this year! You are such wonderful people with such kind hearts and I am so glad I got to be part of your lives. Abby, it was great meeting you and having your support at all our games. I’m so honored to have had you cheering for me and the team! I wish you the best of luck in your future! Ms. Shannon, thank you for reaching out to men and for your continued support as well. It has been a blessing knowing you all.

To George and Kay,
Thank you for being my King and Duchess these four years. You have been a blessing and one of my most treasured relationships coming out of Penn State. You were my home away from home and win or lose (though preferably win) you were always there to give me a hug and some love. Thank you for all the support while I was here. I am beyond blessed to have gotten to know you both.

And last but not least,

To Brooklyn,
Thank you so much for being my number one fan and best friend. I loved having you in the stands and it has been absolutely amazing getting to know you and watch you grow! Thank you so much for the Christmas wishes and for everything you did to support me and the team this year. I wish you a future full of happiness and hopefully lots of volleyball 🙂


If I didn’t directly mention you please don’t take it as any slight against you. I have been impacted by hundreds of people during my time here: our pep band, the booster club, boujee beats, mike pike bike, etc. You have all changed my life for the better and for that I am eternally grateful.

Penn State thank you for shaping me into the woman I am today. While I may look back on my time with you and see just as many lows – if not more – as there are highs, there is no denying that you have left your mark on me forever. Thank you for giving me the tools to conquer the world. May my life but swell thy fame.

With All My Heart Dear Old State
We Are,

Haleigh Washington

Not Another Athlete Blog

I realize that blogs like mine are a dime a dozen. It’s really easy to look up college athletes that have graduated and are now sharing their stories. They’re all mostly recaps about their adventures and advice on overseas professional volleyball.

So what makes mine special?

Honestly, nothing.

I’m just another college (graduate) athlete blogger. But that doesn’t mean that my stories aren’t worth sharing, right? I’ve been blessed to connect with lots of people during my 22 years and even if they only skim read what I write, to still be able to communicate with them means a lot to me.

I suppose I don’t need to justify my blog to anyone that’s reading it, maybe I just wrote this to put myself at ease. My words may not be all that unique or special, but to get to share my story with people I’ve come to love is a significant enough reason for me.

So here goes, another college athlete graduate blog. Hope it’s titillating.

||| “In the macro sense, no. You’re one Cheerio in the bulk box of life. But, you f***in’ tickle me, so I think it would matter.” ~ Nicky, Orange is the New Black |||