MIAA -- Courtesy of Calvin University Athletics --
Calvin senior Sarah DeVries recently took a chance on extending her volleyball career and she's glad she did.
In February, DeVries participated in an open tryout at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
TAKING A CHANCE
The tryout included players from all over the country and was designed to deepen the talent pool within the U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball program.
A three-time Division III All-American and a two-time Division III national player of the year, DeVries was the only Division III player competing in the tryout camp which took place over four sessions February 19-22. Nearly every player trying out were current Division I volleyball athletes.
"My parents encouraged me to go," said DeVries. "I wasn't sure at first and went back-and-forth about going. Eventually I decided I would regret it if I didn't just go for it and it turned out to be the coolest experience ever. I got there a day early to get adjusted to altitude and just started working from there."
Each day consisted of drills and scrimmages. Working at a setter's position, DeVries moved her way on up from the third team to the first team and maintained her spot in the top group over the final two days.
At Calvin, DeVries was a double-threat at the middle-hitter and setter's position but focused on setting at the tryout. "At the (national team) level, nearly every hitter is 6-2 or taller so I decided to focus on setting because that is where I thought I could stand out," she said. "They have statisticians tracking every play and every scrimmage so that they can fully analyze every player there."
Despite being the only Division III player in attendance, DeVries was welcomed by the rest of the players at the tryout. "I didn't know anyone going in and I had this feeling that the players would be thinking, ' Who is this D3 girl?' but it wasn't like that all," said DeVries. "Everyone was so kind and encouraging. Even the Olympic coaches said that it took a lot of courage to come out. I am so glad I pushed myself to do it."
Spending the week with top players from schools such as Stanford and Penn State, DeVries knew that she matched up at a high level. "I wouldn't trade my Division III experience for anything. I wanted the Division III experience," said DeVries. "But it was a really cool experience to play with some of the top collegiate athletes in America."
During the week, DeVries worked with U.S. Olympic Women's Assistant Volleyball Coach Luka Slabe and was later introduced to U.S. Olympic Consultant Volleyball Coach Chris McGowan. "I got to meet some of the coaches and the plan was to try to get set up playing professionally in Europe after I was done with school," said DeVries. "If that went well, the hope was that I would get invited to train as a practice player with the National Team in Anaheim."
LONG TERM FOCUS
Those plans are now all on hold with the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the globe and postponed the upcoming Summer Olympic Games to 2021.
The crisis is of strong interest to DeVries who is set to graduate from Calvin in May with a degree in nursing. The 2019 Division III Academic All-American of the Year in volleyball, DeVries aspires to work as an intensive care nurse.
"I'll be finishing my education, and I've started looking at job opportunities at hospitals who are seeking new grads to start working as soon as possible," said DeVries. "I'm eager to help in the best ways that I can."
As part of her final semester at Calvin, DeVries is currently taking a 300-level nursing program course entitled - Theory: Community Focused Nursing and Leadership Management. The course is taught by professors Gail Zandee and Dr. Barb Timmermans.
"It's a super interesting time to take a public health class," said DeVries. "We started out the semester working with community settings in downtown Grand Rapids. When you look at the history of epidemiology, it's the little things like washing your hands consistently that make a big difference. Part of the coursework has involved producing a logic model for (disease) prevention strategy in downtown Grand Rapids. We've worked with Degage' Ministries and we've put some things in place. The difference is right now we can't be down at the ministry center working with people. It will be interesting how the virus will affect the mental health of people at Degage'. When you take away social interaction, it makes focusing on mental health even more important."