My Volleyball Journey
This piece was written by Jamal Clay, a frequent contributor of Globally Ballin and the founder of "The Athletes Forum"
I was introduced to volleyball early because at our school it was really popular. Kids would play it before classes started, in between breaks, and after class. I was in fourth grade by this time and I would practice by myself after the older kids were done playing, first with my underhand serves. When I felt I was decent enough to ask to play with the high schoolers, I did. From there I started to love it, and later wanted to become better—I felt it was a sport I could dedicate myself to. Like, it didn’t seem too complex to me...in my head “if I work at it, I could become really great at this”. What I loved most about it though was having teammates and those celebration moments you had together for every point. I love the noise, the long rally’s, and smack talk with the opponent.
Well, being a foreigner in the Philippines wasn’t easy for a kid wanting to join local-school based volleyball tournaments. I still remember one of my most devastating moments growing up where I competed in the City Meet (CSANPRISA) in the fifth grade for elementary volleyball. Our school won but when we advanced to the next level, the Regional Meet (CLRAA), they told me I needed to have Filipino Citizenship. I remember just being so angry and not understanding why I couldn’t play. In my head, grew up here, I speak the language, we won fair and square, so I should be able to continue with my teammates. From then on, I never got to play in any school-based competitions in the Philippines.
My parents are missionaries, so normally after 4 or 5 years of staying in the Philippines, we’ll go to the States for a year to visit supporting churches. In 2012, I was in eighth grade and enrolled in public school in Davison, Michigan. In contrast to the mess that was fifth grade, that experience was the highlight of my elementary/high school years. I got to play basketball, volleyball, softball, track and field everything I wanted to join... I could. I did well in all the sports I joined, but especially excelled in volleyball. I even joined a travel team after the season ended and was able to experience a higher level of competition with teams all over the state.
But the year ended, and I came back to the Philippines, and continued to play but on a club team. We joined tournaments like Milo because it didn’t require me to be a Filipino citizen. When I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to be in the UAAP so my club team coach (who was an international referee) got in contact with one of UST’s coaches—Villet Ponce. There I got a tryout and joined the team. Although, I was part of Team B and so didn’t see a lot of playing time—even in training—spent most of the time shagging balls. I stayed with indoor for about a year, but when 2nd year 2nd semester rolled around in February, Coach Kung Fu (head indoor coach) told us that the beach team will have tryouts. So, me and Caitlin Viray (a good friend of mine) went to see how it would be. From there the rest is history.
On the beach team, I saw more playing time, played in more tournaments, and met so many incredibly amazing people along the way. I joined Beach Volleyball Republic tournaments where sometimes I’d represent UST and other times, I would play with Dzi Gervacio (former Ateneo player). The times I won though; it was with Dzi. I’ve medaled 3 times in BVR (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze). It was also through BVR that I found my love for game announcing.
I was introduced to volleyball pretty early because at our school it was really popular. Kids would play it before classes started, in between breaks, and after class. I was in fourth grade by this time and I would practice by myself after the older kids were done playing, first with my underhand serves. When I felt I was decent enough to ask to play with the high schoolers, I did. From there I started to love it, and later wanted to become better—I felt it was a sport I could dedicate myself to. Like, it didn’t seem too complex to me...in my head “if I work at it, I could become really great at this”. What I loved most about it though was having teammates and those celebration moments you had together for every point. I love the noise, the long rally’s, and smack talk with the opponent.
My journey was always full of obstacles, sometimes it seemed like the universe was telling me that volleyball wasn’t for me, but I just really loved playing, so I kept pushing. I took it a step at a time. When one door closed, I looked around for the next option. Fast-forward to now, I may not be playing anymore, but volleyball is still a large part of who I am. I am an advocate for the sport, and it will always have a special place in my heart.
The greatest thing volleyball has done for me was to show me my passion for announcing, anchoring, and just talking in general. The story is, I wanted to join a BVR tournament in Davao but my coach didn’t pick me to go on this one, but I really wanted to go so I suggested they get me as an announcer since BVR never really had an announcer, and they did. That was the first tournament I ever announced for and they kept getting me. I would announce over 20 games a weekend from 7 am till the sun set. That’s when I started using the name “olympictalker” with the tag line “if talking where a sport I’d be in the Olympics” (works out too that my ultimate dream is to announce/anchor/analyze in the Olympics). Eventually, I got picked up by a semi-pro indoor league, PVL, and not only got to announce games there but even got to anchor and analyze games on TV. From there, I even got the job to announce for the UAAP and have been on CNN as a volleyball analyst. It all started with me choosing to try out for beach.
I also got to meet a lot of people because of beach volleyball. One of my favorite things about beach tourneys is getting to do workshops with kids. We have such an amazing time and I am fortunate enough to develop meaningful relationships with a lot of them.
On Hang Time I talk everything volleyball and every episode I’ll have a volley celebrity guest. We’ll talk about what’s going on with them and their thoughts about whatever is relevant in the volleyball world at the time. I have been interviewed by Aaron (Globally Ballin) before on his podcast and we connected through Dzi (my beach partner). He got in contact with me again asking if I’d be interested in doing a podcast which got me thinking about starting my own podcast so, I said yes immediately.
The immediate goal for Hang Time is to get an in-person interview instead of over the phone, but that’s COVID’s fault so I get it. The bigger goal down the line is for all volleyball fans to enjoy it, and that one day when people talk about volleyball podcasts, Hang Time is the first thing they say. It’s tough not having games and so I know fans are missing the action, but they can still look forward to hearing from some of their idols. I have Doc AJ Pareja, Melissa Gohing, and Dzi Gervacio already lined up for episodes so everyone can look forward to that.
As for volleyball, keep loving the sport. If you are passionate about something, don’t let anyone talk you out of doing it because you’ll regret it. Have a strong enough mindset to get you through the tough times because once you get to where you want to be, the victory becomes that much sweeter. And you never know, you may have someone looking up to you—someone cheering you on—so don’t quit.
My dream is to see beach volleyball grow in popularity here in the Philippines—making it as big if not bigger than indoor volleyball.
So until then see you at the next sunset!
Kassie Gormley aka “olympictalker”
Below are a few links that will bring you to Kassie's show, Hang Time, brought to you by the Globally Ballin Podcast Network, enjoy.
On October 24, 2019, Kassie was a guest on The Globally Ballin Podcast for episode 16. Below are some links for you to check out that episode as well, enjoy!.