Set for Success
Since seventh grade, Maddie Graham (’18) has loved volleyball. Graham played club volleyball in California during high school and dreamed of playing collegiate volleyball.
“Growing up in the [LDS] church I wanted to play volleyball for BYU, and it was a goal of mine,’” says Graham. “I applied for college and didn’t apply to many places except for BYU and a couple other schools.”
Graham’s BYU dreams seemed to finally come true when she received her acceptance letter. Her acceptance was bittersweet, however. “I got accepted… [but] there weren’t any spots open on [BYU’s volleyball] team, so I started looking to play for other schools.”
Not wanting to give up on playing competitive volleyball for a college, Graham visited other schools in Washington and Texas. During these visits she realized that she didn’t like the feel of the other schools’ atmospheres. “I just ended up [accepting that] I was accepted to BYU and I’m not going to play volleyball,’” explains Graham. “I didn’t want to go to another school because I felt like BYU was the place that I needed to be.”
After a lifetime of competitive volleyball, deciding to abandon her collegiate volleyball dreams was disheartening and challenging. “I was going to quit my high school club team because my grandma was paying for it, and it’s so expensive,” says Graham. “I was pretty upset. Volleyball had become part of my identity and I wondered, ‘Well, what am I going to do now?’”
However, the same week she was going to quit her club team, the head coach of BYU’s Women’s Volleyball team at the time, Shawn Olmstead (BA ’05), contacted Graham’s club coach. BYU had an extra spot open up on their roster and they were coming to Graham’s next tournament to watch her play.
The week following the tournament Graham received a call from Olmstead offering her a spot on the BYU Women’s Volleyball team as a walk-on athlete. “It was an emotional rollercoaster because I was on such a high and set on college volleyball, and then I wasn’t. Then, I was content with not playing volleyball, and then I got a spot,” Graham explains. “But really, I’m grateful for all I went through because it taught me to sacrifice things that you think are important. In my case things just worked their way out.”
While Graham’s dream of playing college volleyball for BYU came true, she faced a new challenges as a student athlete.
Participating in college athletics is challenging for students trying to balance school, work, and their athletic commitments. During the offseason the team has morning weight training and then a three-hour practice in the afternoon. Due to her class schedule this past semester, Graham had to start her workout at 6am — an hour before the rest of her team. She also had scheduled classes before and after her daily team practice.
Graham’s schedule becomes even crazier during the volleyball season as she balances home and away games on top of her regular training schedule and school. “It's like volleyball is my job. I spend more hours on it than I probably would if I had a job,” says Graham. “It’s very time-consuming, but I’m very grateful for it.”
Due to her busy and often unpredictable schedule, Graham can’t hold a job. This adds financial stress to the normal challenges of being a college athlete. As a walk-on athlete Graham was not guaranteed an athletic scholarship, and she doesn’t want to be a financial burden on her family so she looks elsewhere to find financial help for housing, food, and tuition.
Fortunately, Graham has relied on her academic successes to receive scholarships from BYU and has recently received replenishment grants from the BYU Alumni Roseville California Chapter to help her out. “You don’t want to take out loans and get into a bunch of debt so any money helps, especially because I don’t have time to get a job,” says Graham. “Receiving the help is a nice stress reliever. I’m blessed to have it.”
Grateful for opportunities and blessings received from BYU, Graham just finished her junior year studying and playing volleyball at BYU. As her college career is coming to a close, she looks forward to graduating in 2018 with a degree in Neuroscience.
- Braden Taylor ('19)