U.S. Volleyball Team Looking for Gold

Danielle Scott-Arruda is on her fifth U.S. Olympic team. Photo: FIVB

Anaheim, CA-Age is nothing but a number for USA women’s volleyball member Danielle Scott-Arruda. At the ripe age of 39, Scott-Arruda is two years removed from giving birth to her second child. In October, Scott-Arruda will turn 40. None of that has gotten in the way of Scott-Arruda’s desire to compete at the highest level of athletic competition.

As a longtime member of the U.S. Women’s Volleyball National Team for the past 18 years, Scott-Arruda has competed in over 410 international matches. The 2012 London Olympics will be the fifth time Scott-Arruda has earned a roster spot on the U. S. volleyball team. She is the first U.S. volleyball player-male or female-third to accomplish this feat.

In short, Scott-Arruda is still more than good enough to hang and compete with the youngsters of the game, many of whom were probably running around as adolescents when she made her first Olympic team in 1996.

“I feel really, physically blessed,” Scott-Arruda said in an interview at the American Sports Center in Anaheim where the U.S. Women’s Volleyball National Team trained before headed off to London. “I’ve had few injuries, but other than that I feel good. We have a really good strength coach.

“The way he prepares us per position is good. Our training is quality more than quantity, so that works well and gives us time to recover…Sometimes, I’ll go to 24-Hour Fitness, and I’ll do like extra cardio. I’ll do the steam room and sauna to relax. Everything is just right now.”

Competing in five Olympics puts Scott-Arruda in the rarest of stratospheres. This achievement belongs only to a select few in the annals of Olympic history. But like the way she keeps her age in perspective, Scott-Arruda also keeps her Olympics success in the proper context.

“Five Olympics… that is a number like my age,” Scott Arruda said. “Obviously, it’s a great accomplishment. I’m really honored to be part of this team. More so, besides the five Olympics, it’s just being part of the group. This is like one of the best group of women, I think, that has been put together in maybe, all of my Olympics, in terms of talent, in terms of personality. I think this is going to be a great run.”

Making her fifth Olympic team was no small task for Scott-Arruda. First, she had to get up off the couch and get herself back into tip-top shape. The second hurdle she had to overcome was being set in her own ways, as older athletes tend to do, and not adapt to a different coaching style that she had been used to.  Age notwithstanding, once Scott-Arruda got over those two obstacles, it was pretty much downhill for her.

“I don’t feel like I’m forty,” Scott-Arruda said. “I don’t know what forty is supposed to feel like. I just feel like I am healthy. I’m enjoying life. I’m enjoying the game. I’m enjoying motherhood.”

Six-foot-seven Tayyiba Haneef-Park hopes to lead the U.S. team to gold. Photo Credit: FIVB

Scott-Arruda isn’t the only U.S. women’s volleyball player liking what’s going on around them these days. After making her third U. S. Olympic team, fellow Long Beach State alum Tayyiba Haneef-Park will be hanging up her athletic attire for fashion wear and motherhood once the Summer Games have concluded.

At 6-foot-7, Haneef-Park is an imposing presence on the volleyball court. Finding clothing to fit her the right way can be even more formidable for other women like her than her height.

“I’m done. I’m retiring,” said Haneef-Park.“This is it for me. I love volleyball, but I love my son more. I want to be there for his special moments. I would like to start my own business. I do a little bit of sewing, so I am taking my business and expanding it. I’ve got to design for the tall and athletic woman. Unfortunately, there are not too many people that do it.”

Like Scott-Arruda, Haneef-Park stared at the reality of whipping herself into shape once she got pregnant and gave birth to her son Ajani in 2010. Haneef-Park said she did just about every physical fitness regimen out there to get ready to compete for an Olympic team berth.

“It wasn’t easy, but I knew I had to come and try,” said Haneef-Park. “If I didn’t, I would have always been left wondering what if? What could have happened? I just wanted to know I could come out here and push my body through the gauntlet and come back and compete. I love the sport. I love the possibility that the team has in achieving the gold. I wanted to be part of it.”

The women’s volleyball team came up short in their quest for the gold in 2008, falling to Brazil in the championship game to take home the silver medal. But with expectations more low-key than it was in 2004, Haneef-Park said the U.S. team had a lot to be proud of in staking a claim to second-best in the world.

“I think we did great. We played well, but Brazil played better that day,” Haneef-Park said. “But it was an amazing experience, like coming back from 2004, where we had high expectations of getting gold and we didn’t achieve what we wanted. Coming back in 2008 with not so many expectations and getting the silver, was almost like getting a gold medal for us. This time around…we want more.”

More could be a term deemed as an understatement for the driven Scott-Arruda. Unlike Haneef-Park, who has decided to end her international volleyball career in the hopes of launching her own fashion business, Scott-Arruda is contemplating whether or not she’ll compete at the 2016 Olympics, which takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“I would love to play there because I’ve played many seasons in Brazil,” Scott-Arruda said. “That is like my home away from. I’m already fluent in Portuguese. So it would be wonderful to play there. That’s a stretch, but I’m not ruling anything out, even if it is in a coaching capacity.”


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