Standing Out and Standing Tall

Standing Out and Standing Tall

I was proud to stand out, proud to be black, and proud to be able to not only compete, but win, and excel in my abilities. I learned to let that glow and light grow as big as humanly possible. 
Loving All of Yourself Reading Standing Out and Standing Tall 5 minutes Next Spreading Positivity Beyond the Court

Written by Tatyana Thomas

I always stood out.

I was always the tallest girl in my class. I would constantly (and still do) get the “Do you play basketball?” 

I did at one point, but I decided to pursue volleyball.

Historically, volleyball is a white-dominated sport. There are not many black women that play at a higher level. Each year the NCAA league gets more and more diversified, but the diversity is still (very much) lacking.

So picture this, I already stand out in a normal crowd, now it was like I was a glowing target everywhere I went when I played volleyball. My parents encouraged me to stand tall in my differences and make them and myself proud. 

I decided to pursue more than just high school volleyball, I tried out for a local volleyball club. Club was very expensive, I even got a scholarship, and it was still a HUGE financial sacrifice for my family. 

My parents believed in me, believed that I could make it to the next level. So they paid for me to play for 3 years, while I was in high school.

When I first tried out for the club team, there were about 5-6 black girls in a gym full of over 200 kids, ranging from 12-18. I tried out for the 15s team, but I made it on the 17s/18s team!

I was so excited that I would be able to compete and get better at my passion. My first and second year of club I was 1 of 3 black girls. My senior year, I was the only black girl. I felt really alone, but knew I had to put that aside.

That glow grew brighter. I stood out again. I was always quiet, trying to dim that light. But my talent spoke for itself, nice and loud.

Volleyball came easy to me, I was athletic, quick, strong and was a fast learner. But my mental toughness always lacked. My coach worked with me to get my mentality to match my physicality, but it was hard. I pushed myself in ways I didn't think I could. By my last year of club, I started to walk with confidence. I knew and trusted my abilities.

Not only was I standing out because of the color of my skin, but I was talented and scored points. My parents were always there to cheer me on. They knew the importance of showing up, and the importance of showing the other parents how strong my support system was. 

Club volleyball really set me up for success. Not every black kid had the opportunities that I had. I did not take that for granted. By my senior year of high school I was recruited to play volleyball on a full D1 scholarship at Hampton University. Which is a Historically Black College in Hampton Roads, just 20 minutes from my hometown. 

Finally! I will be surrounded by people who look just like me! Everyone can relate to my experiences, I can learn from black teachers, and be mentored by successful black professionals. I get to play volleyball with other black girls who also happened to shine on their predominantly white club teams.

I played at Hampton University for two years, and then transferred to UNC Charlotte for a better educational degree and a more developed program. A PWI, located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Even though this was a predominantly white institution (PWI), the diversity was pretty extensive.


My team was also pretty diverse, but the college experience was still very different than when I went to Hampton University. I found myself starting to dim my light, and afraid to stand out again. But I was very good at my position, and had to find my confidence again early on. 

At this level, everyone on the team is good, so not only are you competing against other teams, you are competing against your teammates to be in the starting 6.

I went back to the mental toughness that my club coach taught me, the confidence that my parents instilled in me, and the sacrifices that were made to get me to this level. I was proud to stand out, proud to be black, and proud to be able to not only compete, but win, and excel in my abilities.

I learned to let that glow and light grow as big as humanly possible. And to not let my differences hold me back, but a reason to go harder, and be a better player, leader, and person.

I wanted to be a role model to other black girls who want to pursue volleyball.

If you find that your light is starting to dim, just find those unique differences, outside of your skin color, and use them to make your light stronger.

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.