For the Love of the Game
No one ever said being a student athlete is easy, especially Heather Hughes ’08. Sure, stardom and popularity are nice, but what fans don’t always see is that there is a lot of sacrifice involved in staying on top of one’s game.
Hughes led the LMU’s women’s volleyball team on an exciting whirlwind of success during her four years at LMU. Coaches counted on Hughes as their go-to player, and she was quick to dominate attacks. Her years of experience were evident right from the start of her LMU career.
“I tried many sports as a kid, including basketball and soccer, but there was just something about volleyball that really clicked for me,” said Hughes. Her training began as a sixth grader when her father, who played volleyball for Long Beach State, taught her and her two siblings the game.
Among Hughes’ 2007 highlights were earning the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Pacific Region Honorable Mention and finishing first in the West Coast Conference in kills and points per game. Yet, the talented champion does not exude a solo player mentality.
“Volleyball is such a team sport. I have never considered myself as a star player or purposely sought out accolades. It is always about the team’s accomplishments and the motivation to become better at what we do,” explained Hughes.
By the end of her last season, Hughes’ abilities did not go unnoticed by others in the world of volleyball. In 2008, she received an invitation to try out for the U.S. women’s national team. In March she was named to the training team that toured China in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Hughes also played on the U.S. national team that competed in the Pan American Cup in Mexico in May and June.
Hughes’ experiences abroad allowed her to make the cut as one of the 19 players on the preliminary Olympic Games roster. Although she did not make the final team this year, she remains motivated. “It will only make me work harder,” she said.
Countless hours of practice in hot gyms, grueling bus rides and long airport waits — along with a dose of homesickness — can be a drain on any athlete. But Hughes has a love for the game. “You have to sacrifice so much of your time, but the opportunity is worth it. I would not trade the experience for anything,” said Hughes.
While Hughes proudly represented the United States and LMU around the world, her friends on campus were busy attending Senior Banquet and other end-of-the-year feasts. Her athletic schedule required putting her last semester as a senior on hold. She is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in business administration.
“This semester I am taking advantage of all that I could not do at LMU due to sports. … It is great to just be a ‘normal’ student.” she laughs.