Meet Fiona: "The Court Really Feels Like Home"
Meet Fiona, a senior student whose leadership extends beyond the classroom as the captain of our volleyball team. In this interview, she tells us about navigating life in a new country, and how playing sports has shaped her role and understanding of leadership. Fiona moved to the Netherlands from New Jersey at the end of 9th grade, which also marked her first time in Europe.
She has been the captain of the volleyball team throughout her Junior and Senior years. In her time here, the volleyball team had always gotten second place at ISSTs but, this year, they finally won the championship.
Did you play volleyball before ASH?
Yes, I started playing volleyball in the US in 7th Grade. I remember my team was really good, and I was also captain of the team. I started playing in a club a year after, and have stayed in one ever since. My first priority when I moved to The Netherlands was to find a club team; I found one within a month.
I play volleyball in the ASH team, but also in a local Dutch volleyball club. At the club, we’re a group of girls around the same age and skill-set and play against other teams across the country. It was a little hard at first because everyone in the team was Dutch, and I was the only one who wasn’t, nor spoke the language, so it felt a little bit like being on the outside. But eventually I think my skill levels helped me prove myself and feel more integrated and feel part of the team.
What is it about volleyball that speaks to you so much?
I’m not so sure, I just love it. I love being on the team, I love leading the team, making the kills…the court really feels like home. Every time I’m there I’m smiling. I don't really like losing, but if I know I played well, I’m happy.
What does leadership look like as captain of the volleyball team?
It’s motivating, picking up my teammates, telling them what needs to be done, and when they make a killing, I acknowledge them by saying they did a great job, let’s keep going and pushing…even if we have a 10-point lead, let’s make it a 20-point lead.
I think, as a leader, it’s not about making yourself look good. It’s about helping people better themselves.
How did you learn about leadership?
It took a lot of practice, and making mistakes. In the US, I had a team where people’s mistakes and faults were constantly being pointed out. When I moved to the Netherlands, I was still quite in that mindset. One day, in sophmore year, I communicated like that in one of the games, and my teammate approached me and told me she’d appreciate it if I communicated differently.
That’s when it really clicked for me - I haven’t yelled at anyone since, really. From that moment on, I realized that to be a good teammate, you don't have to call out mistakes but bring our people’s best. You just learn along the way.
What does a healthy team look like?
A healthy team looks like a family. We’re like sisters - we’re already planning our annual sleepover. Even off the court, a healthy team is one where you know you have someone to count on. They’re reliable, they’re trustworthy, they’re loyal…and you don’t talk behind each other’s back. We all know our own skill set and what we bring to the team; and we just support each other with that.
How do you think playing a team sport shapes you as a person?
Honestly, I don't know what I would do without sports. I’ve done them all my life, and take up most of my time outside of school. Sports have taught me about teamwork, leadership…most of my friends I’ve made from sports. It also gives you a chance to open up to people who share the same interests.
Being a senior, do you have any plans for sports in college?
I’m working on getting offers. I have lots of help with the recruitment process - I’ve mainly been looking at colleges in the US. I do want to play sports in college, but my priority is academics. I want to go into forensic science, but my backup is dermatology. I just want to go to an institution where I can focus on that but also play volleyball.