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Q&A with Olympian Courtney Thompson
Jordan Fong, a seventh grade student at Cedar Heights middle school, interviewed Olympian Courtney Thompson who graduated from Kentlake in 2003 and represented the United States at the 2012 games in London.
How did you choose which position you were going to play in volleyball?
CT: The first coach I ever had put me at the setter position I think because I was short and liked to talk a lot. It just kinda stuck and I've been there ever since.
How did you feel when you were told you made the Women’s USA Olympic Volleyball team?
CT: I was completely overwhelmed in the best way possible. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream but I couldn't do either. I think I was kind of in shock and just overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement.
What was one of your favorite moments with your teammates while you were on KJVBC, UW,and the USA Olympic team?
CT: I have been fortunate to have a lot of great moments. A lot of the most memorable and meaning ones have been off the court- just those fun moments spent with your team-mates on the bus and at team meals. Certainly winning a national title and getting to walk out in the Olympic Games wearing a USA uniform are moments that I will never forget as well. The first day we got to London and got all our new USA gear was pretty cool. Everyone on the team was really excited it was just a neat moment to experience and one that I have dreamed about for a long time.
What is a typical day like when you are training with the Women’s USA Olympic team?
CT: On a typical day with the USA team I get to the gym around 8:15 a.m. for treatment - then we practice from 9 a.m.-noon or 1 p.m., then we shower and eat lunch... get treatment if needed. Rest a little maybe watch some film, or just relax. Then we either have weights from 3-4 p.m. or another practice to work on more individual and technical stuff from 3-4 p.m. depending on what day it is. Then I hit the ice bath and do some other recovery stuff then head home for dinner and try to relax, hang out with friends and get ready to do it all again tomorrow.
I play just about every sport in school and you had mentioned that you had played just about every sport too, what made you focus on volleyball?
CT: For some reason the recruiting came a lot easier for me in volleyball I was getting more attention there than I was in other sports. We also did well in high school so that always makes it more fun.
What are your future plans after volleyball?
CT: I would love to coach someday. I have been fortunate enough to have some amazing coaches throughout my entire life that have made me who I am as an athlete and as a person. They have all meant a lot to me in my life, and I would love to be able to giveback a little bit and make a difference in an athlete's life the way they did for me. I think eventually it would be fun to be an athletic director at a University, that is something that has always sounded fun to me.
What is your favorite aspect being an athlete?
CT: I love a lot about being a professional athlete. I love getting team 'gear'... always have. I love that I get paid to workout and play a game that I love. I enjoy being surrounded by other competitive women who compete their butts off every day, and I love the constant challenge that sports brings. At a high level, you have to be physically, mentally, and emotionally, ready to compete every time you step on the court. Learning how to do all of those things better is really hard, and I love that challenge.
What kept you so humble while you were in the Olympics?
CT: It wasn't hard for me, I felt really humbled about the entire experience. It really hit me early on that I was getting to do something that so many people have always dreamed about...truly, and because of that I didn't want to take one second for granted. I tried my best to enjoy everything about the experience, and do everything I could to represent the millions of people that would have loved to be where I was for those two weeks. It was an incredibly humbling and wonderful experience.
How did you encourage and motivate your team-mates when you faced challenges against other teams?
CT: I believe my job as a setter is to make those around me better, and that's always my goal. To help my teammates be successful. I have found that the best way to do that is to work really hard for people with a 'servant' type attitude, and when a teammate feels you working as hard as you can for them they will in turn play hard for you. I believe in my teammates, and that comes from watching the thousands of hours of training we've done to prepare for those hard moments so the belief that they would succeed was genuine and I think that's something teammates can feel.
As a fellow volleyball player I have sprained my ankle multiple times, did you sustain any injuries during your athletic career? If so what challenges did you encounter and how did you get through them?
CT: Injuries are really difficult to deal with. The hardest part is all the mental challenges that come with having to sit out. Like anything in life, you can only control what you can control and often times, an injury is something we have no control over. All we can do is move forward and use all that disappointment, and frustration that you have from being hurt as a tool to motivate you to work hard to come back stronger than you were before. Or take that time to work on the mental side of the game, or encouraging your teammates. There are always things you can do to get better no matter what the circumstances are and that's important to remember in those situations. It's ok to be frustrated and even angry about being hurt, but you have to use that in the right way for it to help you.
What kind of diet do you maintain during training?
CT: I try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables every day. I also eat some sort of lean protein at every meal, like eggs, salmon, Greek yogurt, chicken etc. I eat a lot of oatmeal and whole grain breads as well, and a ton of nuts and seeds. I drink green tea and yerba mate a lot too, it's my favorite! If I am really craving something that isn't good for me like pizza, or chocolate or whatever I will eat it, just not every day. I think the key to good nutrition is to listen to your body and to have balance.
How important was your friends and family support while you were chasing your Olympic dreams?
CT: My friends and family are everything to me and I wouldn't be where I am today without them. When you're going through any challenge in life it forces you to remember where you come from, and where your strength comes from. Mine has always come from my family and they were huge for me this entire summer.
What was your favorite destination while you were traveling with your teammates?
CT: I've been lucky to see a lot of great places... a few that come to mind are Montreau, Switzerland, and Brazil.
Just so that I can learn more about you, I am going to ask you some personal questions…If you had a chance to change something from your past what would it be?
CT: There are certainly moments I'd like to have a redo on so to speak... but I can't think of anything specific at the moment. Nothing hugely significant anyhow.
What was life growing up in the Thompson family? Did you have siblings and pets?
CT: Life growing up in the Thompson family was busy, competitive, and very fun. I have two older brothers who I am very close to and they've always been a huge part of my life and are still my two best friends. We have one dog a labradoodle named Rylee and she's awesome! I miss her a ton when I'm gone.
What was your major at UW? With the schedule demand for volleyball and training, were you able to complete your degree within the four years?
CT: I majored in business administration and yes, I was able to finish my degree on time.
As a 7th grader playing on KJVBC, school basketball, soccer, and maintaining a high GPA, what advice would you give me to stay focused and continue my education and staying active in sports?
CT: My best advice would be to work hard to be the best that YOU can be. Be true to yourself, be a good friend, and if you love something do it as much as you can and work hard it. And most importantly, be nice to everybody.