The reality of playing college athletics can be far different for an athlete making the leap from high school.
Olympic College freshman middle blocker Diane Olson has learned playing college volleyball is better than she had imagined.
“I think it wasn’t as bad as I had hyped it up to be in my mind,” Olson said. “I was scared that I was going to be below where I needed to be.”
Olson had reasons to believe what she did. She didn’t start playing the game until her sophomore year at South Kitsap. Her sport of choice was basketball, which she started playing in the second grade, and track and field.
She’s still learning much of the foundations of volleyball that her counterparts learned playing club volleyball.
“I was worried about (my) lack of experience,” Olson said. “but once I stopped being scared and stopped doubting myself and started playing aggressive like the way I knew how to, I was fine. I was right up there with everyone else.”
At an imposing 6-foot-2, her ability to move well, a desire to become better and hitting power, Olson is quickly developing into a key part of the Rangers’ net presence. Her improvement was recognized last week when she was named the NWAC North Region offensive player of the week.
Olympic assistant coach Vebol Bo said when he first saw Olson play, he knew she was good. She’s improved her blocking skills, has learned to read the court better and is swinging harder.
“… Coming from high school to college level (Olson) was trying to adjust to the speed of the game,” Bo said. “I think she’s definitely improved.”
Olympic head coach Jaymie Cox said Olson’s biggest struggle is learning to jump correctly to maximize her swinging power and blocking ability.
Because of her height, jumping correctly wasn’t anything Olson had to deal with in high school because she could easily tower over most opponents.
“She’s surprised herself and been high above the block a couple times and still learning, ‘Now what do I do’ a little bit,” Cox said.
Olson’s potential is another upside to her game, Cox said. She would like to see Olson increase her core strength, cardio, and overall muscle and if she does “she’s going to be scary next year.”
“I think she has the desire to get better and do the work,” Cox said.
Olson’s personality is as big as her height.
“For me, the game is fun,” she said. “Everyone loves to win and even if you’re not you have to keep up that energy. Volleyball is all about momentum. It’s not necessarily about the tallest or who’s the quickest, it’s who’s talking the most, who’s moving and the more you talk and verbalize the better you’re going to do. … It’s definitely not a game where you just want to be going through the motions.”
Cox said Olson’s fun-loving attitude shows every day on the court.
“The cool part is she invites the rest of the team to be a part of that and that’s the cool part for us,” she said.
“She has a lot of intensity which I love,” Bo said, “but her attitude overall is contagious. She’ll get really excited and can pump up her team with a huge block.”
It might be Olson’s attitude and positivity that her coaches appreciate about her the most.
“She’s always encouraging somebody,” Cox said. “She definitely has that caring side of her that comes out all the time. She’s fun. I really like having her on the team.”