Q: First of all, congratulations on winning the Gold in Sitting Volleyball! What led you to pursue the sport and how does it feel to bring home a gold medal?
A: I found out about Sitting Volleyball in early 2006 when the Women’s National team came and trained at Cal State Northridge where I was playing college basketball. I was introduced briefly to the coaching staff during one of their training sessions and had no idea what the sport was. They eventually invited me to a training camp in March of 2006 in Atlanta after my basketball season had ended. I tried out and immediately realized how challenging it was to play an adaptive sport. But loved the challenge. Both my basketball coaching staff and volleyball agreed to have me try out for the National Sitting Team and play with them while I wasn’t in-season for basketball. I ended up playing the last two years of my basketball career.
Winning gold has been incredibly emotional and fulfilling. People often don’t understand how heart-wrenching losing the gold medal is for over 8 years of your career. Each time we have competed against China we have lost until this year. And each Paralympics bringing home the silver has been extremely depressing. You definitely “lose the gold” not “win the silver.” So finally winning gold has made me so happy and I feel very accomplished. The final match we played truly felt exactly how it should have gone. We took them down as hard as we ever have and it felt so good.
Q: How did you train and prepare for the Rio games?
A: Training for this Games was probably the hardest lesson in time management and motivation I have ever learned. After the 2012 Games in London I moved to the Bay Area to start my full-time career as a Recreation Therapist and away from my training site in Oklahoma where we had everything there for us. But I had to find creative ways to build a training structure and continue to play at my best. So in 2014 I set out to start building out the things I needed to practice appropriately. I hired a local coach, found gym space at the Riekes Center, got a grant for coaching/training as well as equipment, and then recruited people in my spare time to come play Sitting Volleyball with me. So for the last two years I have a schedule that involves Strength & Conditioning, Cardio, and Practices all over the Bay Area. My schedule was typically 6 days a week of some combination of those training environments with travel back and forth to Oklahoma at least once a month to train with the whole team. I also spent a week in June, July and August in Oklahoma to get in extra training for Rio.
Q: What are the most common injuries in Sitting Volleyball?
A: The most common injuries we see are actually wrist damage, shoulder wear and tear, as well as dislocated fingers. Because our sport is played seated, we use our wrists and shoulders to move and push us around the court. And we also have to play the ball overhead using our wrists and shoulders in fast-paced, forceful movements. So shoulders/wrists get most of the action. Our backs break down pretty easily as well since we are constantly throwing our bodies all over the floor and sitting in very awkward positions. It’s a great sport but incredibly torturous on your body over time.
Q: How do you utilize cold and compression therapy in your recovery routine and what other recovery techniques do you implement?
A: Up until this year, I did not have a regular recovery routine built in. I would receive massage occasionally, do some foam rolling and use a lacrosse ball on sore spots, but nothing consistent. This year I have been able to establish a disciplined routine for my recovery. During camps and while I’m at home, I often use my PowerPlay cold and compression on my shoulder. My right shoulder in particular takes a lot more stress than any other part in my body.
Q: Are you going to continue to compete? What goal are you working toward next?
A: Great question! Right now I am taking some time off to recover from Rio and enjoy life outside of volleyball. The next goal I have for myself is to continue to maintain my fitness and begin enjoying my other recreational habits again. I play basketball one night a week with my good friends which I also use the power play on my knee after games. And just keeping my body healthy so if/when I go back to playing Sitting Volleyball, my body is ready for it.
Katie Holloway is a Paralympic Gold Medalist in the sport of Sitting Volleyball and the first female amputee to play Division I NCAA basketball. When Katie was just 10 months old and began walking, her parents noticed something wasn’t right. They found out she had fibular hemimelia, a condition eventually leading to her foot being amputated at just 2 years old.
Katie began playing able-bodied sports at the age of 4 – everything from soccer to basketball. In her junior year of high school, she signed to Cal State Northridge to play Division I basketball. During her Junior season at Northridge, she learned of the Paralympic Sitting Volleyball team and was invited to a training camp to try the sport and she immediately loved it. Since then she has now completed her career in basketball and competed in 3 Paralympic Games for Sitting Volleyball, finishing twice with a Silver and now Gold in Rio.