Kentlake graduate Courtney Thompson conquers the globe one volleyball court at a time

Kentlake graduate Courtney Thompson sets the ball during a Team USA women’s volleyball match at the Montreaux Masters in Switzerland in early June. Courtesy of NORCECA - Photo courtesy NORCECA
Kentlake graduate Courtney Thompson sets the ball during a Team USA women’s volleyball match at the Montreaux Masters in Switzerland in early June. Courtesy of NORCECA
— image credit: Photo courtesy NORCECA

Courtney Thompson has a resume a mile long.

The 2003 Kentlake graduate won three state championships with the volleyball team, was the 2002 Washington state Player of the Year, valedictorian of her class, has a slew of Pac-10 volleyball records set during her time playing at the University of Washington where she helped the Huskies to their first-ever national title in volleyball in 2005.

“She’s one of those kids that sets a goal for herself and I’d be shocked if she didn’t accomplish that,” said former Kentlake volleyball coach Drew Terry. “The joke is, ‘What is she going to do next? Be an astronaut?’ Because she probably could.”

Thompson, who graduated from UW in 2007 with a degree in business administration, is playing with Team USA this summer while working toward her next big goal — to make the Olympic team that will travel to London in 2012 then help the squad win a gold medal.

Terry said that it’s “not out of the question.”

“I know she’s been on that national team and traveling with them the last couple of summers,” Terry said. “I know she just missed out on the ‘08 team that went to Beijing. I wouldn’t put it past her. I’ve seen that kid succeed at every level.”

Playing with the national team leading up the 2008 Olympics, Thompson said, “was a learning type of situation.”

“Since then I’ve played professionally in Puerto Rico, then I played in Switzerland the following year,” she said.

Oh, that’s another thing she can add to her resume. According to her biography on the Team USA volleyball website, she was the starting setter for Zeiler Koniz, which won the 2009 Swiss championship.

Playing professionally and with the national team for the past three years has been chock full of new experiences, Thompson explained.

“It’s definitely different,” she said. “It took me a while to figure out how to manage having only volleyball. There’s nothing to distract you. Your job is just to get good at volleyball, which is cool.”

During the summer and fall she plays with the national team. In June they played in a pair of tournaments, the Montreaux Volley Masters in Switzerland and more recently the PanAm Cup in Tijuana, Mexico.

This month they’ll spend time training in Anaheim for a month long tournament in August then the team will spend a few weeks back in the states before traveling to Brazil for one last tournament in November.

Her day starts at 8 a.m. The players get treatment for injuries then practice for a few hours, break for lunch and a shower, then light practice, lift weights or film review after lunch.

There are 25 girls on the national team, but only 12 go as the tournament team which means “it’s a continuous tryout until the Olympics.”

“It’s such a unique environment,” Thompson said. “You’re training with people who are your best friends. Then it comes down to you or your best friend making the tournament team.”

Thompson said she believes the national team has really got it together. Their goal is to make it to the podium at every tournament.

At Montreaux they finished second, with Thompson serving primarily as a double sub, where she sparked the U.S. off the bench when the Americans rallied to a four set win over Germany on June 9 with a pair of aces and a block. She had 96 sets on 214 attempts and produced a 45 kill percent on set attempts.

There were some familiar faces from her college career at the Montreaux tournament, including three other former Husky players as well as UW volleyball head coach Jim McLaughlin.

“It was so awesome,” Thompson said of having McLaughlin there, where he served in an advisory role.

“I miss seeing him, I miss training with him every day. It was just really calming to have him in the gym.”

At the PanAm Cup, Thompson said, they took third place.

Doing well now builds up to that next big goal of getting to the Olympics and taking home the gold.

“That’s my goal, that’s everything right now and just helping my team get there and be a part of that,” she said. “But, not just get there, but winning the whole thing.”

Once the national team’s schedule winds down, Thompson will head back to playing overseas with a professional team, something she never could have imagined while at UW.

“When I was in college, I had no idea what it would be like,” she said. “There’s nothing quite like college athletics. When you’re playing overseas, you’re kind of isolated, you don’t speak the language. So, it’s kind of a cool experience. You just learn a lot every year.”

There are times Thompson wonders to herself just how did she get to where she is today.

“I never would have dreamed I would be doing what I’m doing today,” she said. “I knew I wanted to play in college. I had a fire in me that I wanted to do something special. Even then (at UW) I didn’t know if I was good enough to play at this level.”

It wasn’t until she was approaching the end of her playing days as a Husky that Thompson was told by her coaches that she could make her mark at the next level.

“You put your head down and you keep working and all of a sudden you look up and you play against these girls and you say, I can do that,” she said. “It’s kind of an epiphany. It’s still really surreal to me that I get to this every day. I kind of hope it always is (surreal).”

When she’s not on the court, Thompson is working on some of her other interests, because when you’re playing overseas especially it’s important to have hobbies “or else you go crazy.”

She’s picked up the guitar and recently started learning to play harmonica, which is more portable, and she watches a lot of movies during down time from training and she reads a lot.

“I go through books like crazy,” she said.

And when she’s training with the national team, she doesn’t hesitate to spend some time at Disneyland, since it’s just minutes away from the training facility.

“That’s one of the great perks of playing with the national team,” she said.

And though she doesn’t get home as often as she’d like, she has favorite postcards of Seattle she puts up in her room wherever she’s staying, she will use Skype to talk to her family and “fortunately my mom is really good about sending me care packages.”

“That’s the drawback,” she said. “You spend a lot of time out of the country, which is cool, because you grow, but you miss home quite a bit.”

Terry, her former high school coach, said that Thompson handles it all well because she doesn’t get stressed out. She’s just one of those balanced people.

“Besides the focus, the drive, the intensity, she’s a fabulous person,” Terry said. “She can handle herself and keep everything light in competitive situations. And, I hope she makes it (on the Olympic team) so I can go to London and watch.”

And if Thompson does make it that will be just another thing to add to her resume.

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