1) What’s your name?
Hi, my name is Jale Sellards!
2) What position did you play and what was your major/degree?
I originally arrived in the US as a middle, but ended up playing mostly right side. My degree was in Philosophy, with a minor in both German and Astrophysics!
3) What do you miss most from your life as a student-athlete and what not/would you do it again if you look back? What would you do differently?
Being a student-athlete was one of the greatest experiences in my life – I absolutely loved being able to get a degree and challenge myself academically, while also pursuing my love for volleyball. Playing in the US was so different from playing in Germany, and even though it seemed almost impossible at the time, I really do miss not having to get up at five in the morning for a practice before school. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, and I think I would have made sure to keep playing longer than I actually did (I only actively played during two of my undergraduate years), because I really miss the game and the lifestyle as a student athlete today.
4) How has your experience in the US influenced your personality and your life?
Staying in the US – far from family and friends – has really shaped my personality, and has enabled me to be stronger and more independent than I could have imagined when I first boarded my flight to Texas in August of 2016. And although that is a very important part of my experience here, I do think that I have grown most through the exchange with people that were different from me. Living among people who had a completely different cultural background, upbringing, and frame of reference was challenging, but it also allowed me to question my own perspectives, beliefs, and ideals, and helped me grow into someone who can understand others and who desires championing the beliefs and needs of those that are underrepresented and marginalized by current systems. In short, my experience here has helped grow my empathy, and to learn to see social injustices so that I can amplify and support those who challenge them from within.
5) Where are you now and what are you up to? Are you still playing volleyball? What do you do for work?
I still live in Texas today (about an hour from where I originally stayed as a student-athlete, and about thirty minutes from the university that I graduated from). Since graduating with my bachelor’s, I have obtained legal residency in the US, married my partner (who is a US citizen), and started working with a major finance company. Unfortunately, I do not play volleyball anymore since I was in a car accident a few years back. I really miss it though, and have toyed with the idea of getting back in the gym from the coaching side to be still able to be a part of this sport.
6) What’s your next dream/goal?
Right now I am focusing on working on myself, both at my day job (trying to carve out a position for myself in the education focused departments) and in my personal life through a focus on meditation, environmental education, and actively working on my mental health and wellbeing. Ultimately, I want to work in a creative position (maybe as an author!) that will allow me to combine those themes, and enable others a perspective on them that may inspire them to advocate social and ecological change. While I am working on that goal (and I know that it’s a big one), I am also really looking forward to traveling back to Germany soon (I have not been thanks to Covid and travel restrictions while going through the legal processes here for residence), and to slowly build my physical capacities back up so that I can hopefully get back into a gym sometime for some friendly volleyball matches.
7) What advice do you have for other players?
To me, one of the most challenging things about this experience was to remind myself that I could do it (remember: the coaches recruit you for a reason), but I also struggled remembering my ‘why’ when a practice did not go the way that I wanted too, or when injuries/setbacks/time on the bench made me question why I was even trying so hard. So for you players today, just remember why you are doing what you are doing. It helped me to write my reasons on a notecard that I kept easily visible in my room. I still do that today – my focus may have shifted from reminding myself why I wanted to do those two-a-days practices to why I am working so hard at work, but the concept stays the same. Hopefully that can help you focus on what you are trying to accomplish – I know that you can do it!