A letter to my younger self—A blog by JR Sam Mendelsohn

Well Sam, here you are. Beginning the second semester of your junior year being a student athlete at the place you have learned to call your second home. Did you ever think you would make it this far? Absolutely not. But are you incredibly happy with your decision to continue to play the sport you fell in love with at the mere age of 10? Absolutely. Let me tell you, the journey has not been easy and you have most definitely struggled, but the opportunities and people that this sport has brought into your life have made it all worth it.

Let me begin by saying thank you. Thank you, 10-year-old Sam, for taking the chance and trying out a new sport that was completely foreign to you. After multiple years of being on a strict softball and basketball regimen, you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried out volleyball at a summer camp. You were terrified, unsure, and timid, but you did it and became captivated from the moment that ball bounced off of your forearms. Granted it was a simple free-ball pass and probably did not look all that great, but you felt eager to learn and ready to improve. You knew it would be a challenge, as you witnessed girls only slightly older than you master the skills that you hadn’t even tried yet. But you stayed confident and focused.

Your love for the game became so strong that you chose to let softball and basketball go in exchange for trying out for a club volleyball team. That choice definitely was not an easy one for you to make, but you will soon come to realize that letting go of the good in your life can sometimes lead to great, new opportunities.

Trying out for a club team is something that I also admire you for. You knew it would be nerve-wracking and scary, but you worked hard and took in all of the feedback you were given to make the team that you wanted. Upon meeting your new teammates and coaches and working with other players, you will come to realize that you will be, without a doubt, the shortest person on all of your teams. High school, travel, summer leagues, and college—yep, you will be the smallest one on the floor. You will get constant comments, in abundance, about how small you are and how “interesting” it is that you chose to play a sport “only for tall people”. But, you will come to laugh them off and use them to fuel your fire. It took a while for you to get used to them and brush them off, but once you were able to take what people said and put it behind you, amazing things happened. You almost enjoyed hearing people doubt you because of your size, whether to your face or behind your back. It made you only that much more eager to lace up your shoes and get out on the floor to compete. This will become a part of your life as a volleyball player and you will begin to live by the quote, “I love it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder to prove them wrong” by your all-time favorite athlete Derek Jeter.

Once high school hit you will be stressed most of the time, it is just the person you are. You try to squeeze everything into your schedule and struggle to say “no” to anything, ever. These 4 years will put you to the test, and even though in the moment you think you cannot handle it, you do, and come out a better person than you were when you started out. Juggling varsity practice at school, club practice, AP and honors courses, SAT/ACT prep, drivers ed., and making time for friends and family will definitely take a toll on you. Your busy schedule makes you question your love for the game and if it is all worth it. I remember these moments like they were yesterday—you in tears over how stressed out you are on that 30-minute drive to club practice. But, the second you stepped on that sport court, the pure liberation you felt became like an addiction for you and is something you look forward to constantly. The hours you put in in the gym and the endless nights you stayed up late studying will make you the person you are today—so keep up the hard work.

Oh Sam, if only you knew how perfect Geneseo is for you. A few years ago, when this decision seemed like the hardest one of your life and you could not decide where to go, you felt completely lost. You couldn’t decide if you wanted to play in college, what your major was to be, or how close/ far you wanted to be from home. The nights spent tossing and turning over what decision would be the right one for you would wear you thin. However, once that choice was made to play volleyball at Geneseo, you became the happiest girl on the face of the planet. If you knew what you did now, there wouldn’t be any questions asked about where you wanted to go to school—it would be Geneseo 120%.

Once your decision was made you were on cloud 9, but just you wait Sam—it is most definitely not all rainbows and butterflies. You took your time in adjusting and feeling comfortable with being yourself, but trust me, once you let your guard down you begin to bond with the people who will become your friends for life. Quickly you learn that you will need to push yourself 10x harder than you thought you ever could. In the classroom, weight room, on the court—every aspect of your life will require you to work that much harder. But, once again you found a way to enjoy every experience and face every challenge head on—ready to adjust and eager to do what it takes to succeed.

These past 3 years have been a true testament to your character as not only an athlete, but as an overall human-being as well. The responsibilities that you have been granted and your drive to be a supportive, competitive, and caring teammate, continuously put your physical and mental strengths to the test. Some days you have failed, some days you have succeeded, but you always enjoy every opportunity and continue to feel blessed that you are able to call yourself a member of the GSUVB family. This program has changed your life forever and the people you have grown to call your family influence your life every single day.

It most definitely has not been the smoothest ride, but every decision you have made has led you to this moment, exactly where you need to be. Thank you for trusting your heart and believing in yourself.

Oh, and one more thing. I know you think the whole “sparkly headband side ponytail” look is super cute, but I think you’ll be fine without it.

old vb pic

 

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Summer ’18

Hi everyone!! I hope you all are enjoying your summer vacations thus far, I know I am! Well, for those of you that don’t know, my name is Sam Mendelsohn and I am going to be a junior this upcoming fall. A junior that is 5 feet tall and doesn’t look her age, but yes, a junior. This summer has been pretty amazing so far and I still have so much more to look forward to which is pretty exciting!

After the craziness that is finals week at Geneseo, I was so amped to be able to come home and do nothing but relax for a while. The first few weeks of summer consisted of me sitting by my pool with friends and family just enjoying each other’s company and the beautiful weather (Buffalo has its moments– I promise). My friends and I have also gone to the beach, had countless movie nights, and have just been hanging out and catching up. I missed my friends from home so much and it has been so awesome to reconnect with everyone! Of course, I missed my family a bunch too, but that’s always implied.

Then in early June I celebrated by 20th birthday! I had dinner with my mom, dad, and grandma at home. Normally my brother Jack would be home to celebrate as well, but he is currently working at KeyBank in Ohio so he couldn’t be there. However, he did promise me a make-up birthday dinner when he comes home next, so I will definitely be holding him to that (Jack, if you’re reading this, I hope you didn’t forget!).

I then found my summer job–a camp counselor for my town! By the time this blog has been posted it will have just been my first few days. I am super excited because I absolutely love working with kids and I get to be active 24/7 which is a huge plus. As a camp, we get to go on so many awesome field trips to amusement parks, beaches, and escape rooms (just to name a few). This summer I have also been babysitting and, starting in a few weeks, I will be coaching soccer for 3-4 year olds as I have done for the past 5 or 6 years—it is hilarious to watch and they are adorable!! I am also going to be coaching a few volleyball camps at local high schools as well, which I have also done for the past few summers.

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Babysitting fun (:

Speaking of volleyball, I have been playing as much as I can with friends and old teammates. I have done a few open gyms with some old club teammates and plan to continue to do so throughout the rest of the summer. I was also able to get some touches when I was ON (not in—don’t say in, you’ll get yelled at lol) Long Island visiting some teammates! Kat, Abby May, and I drove up to Long Island to visit our fellow classmates Shea and Grace. We also had a plan to surprise the upcoming sophomores- as they were visiting the same weekend- but sadly that surprise did not work out as well as we thought it would (shout out Grace Cergol—just kidding we still love ya). Regardless, it was so much fun to see everyone again and catch up.

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Pool day!!!

 

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Me at one of my open gyms from home!
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A little 2 v 2 game in Grace’s back yard! (Look at her dog Enzo)

While on Long Island we went to the beach, tanned out by the pool, and ate wayyyyyyy too many bagels and slices of pizza. But yes, the bacon, egg, and cheeses are 100% worth the hype and I would highly recommend trying them.

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Bacon, egg and cheese!!

Being with almost all of my teammates again made me realize how excited I am to get back into Schrader gym for preseason and spend time with this amazing group of girls—I can’t wait!

Another hobby of mine this summer has been trying to come up with different healthy food options that I can make at home. For example, something I have really enjoyed doing is making a different smoothie bowl each day for breakfast! I change up what goes in the actual smoothie as well as what goes on top! They are soooo yummy and are super good for you as well—everyone should try it out!!

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In the smoothie: frozen strawberries, banana, soy milk, vanilla yogurt. On top: strawberries, coconut shavings, chocolate granola, chia seeds, blackberries.
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In the smoothie: spinach, frozen mango, soy milk, banana. On top: almond butter, vanilla granola, coconut shavings, chia seeds, blueberries, chocolate granola and strawberries.

 

So, as the countdown to preseason begins I just want to leave some messages for the returners as well as the new incoming freshmen!

To my returners,

It has truly been a blessing to be able to get to know all of you both on and off the court and I cannot wait to spend another season with you guys by my side. There is no doubt that we are hungry for more wins and are ready to work incredibly hard to see results. Let’s do it boysssss- love ya!

To my incoming froshies,

Enjoy this summer as it will fly by faster than you could ever imagine. Spend as much time with your friends and family and appreciate the moments you have with them! I know I can speak for the entire team when I say that we cannot wait to welcome you into our GSUVB family. It is amazing how fast we will all click and you will be comfortable in no time. I can’t wait to see you guys in August!

Well that has been my summer so far and I hope you are all enjoying yours as well!

Wishing you ALL the best,

Sam Mendelsohn

My “why”

Every athlete has a reason of why he or she plays the game. Every athlete has a reason of why they carry themselves the way they do. Every athlete has certain things that they keep in the back of their minds that are their constant reminder to push themselves to be the absolute best they can be. That “why” for me is 100%, without a doubt, my family.

They are my motivators, supporters, and everything in between. They are the reason that I am the athlete I am today and they are the reason why I constantly push myself to be the best I can be.

Throughout my entire athletic career, my family has been my rock. When I am struggling they are the first people I turn to, and when I succeed, they are the first people I want to tell. My mom, dad, and brother have been my constant supply of unconditional support and love throughout the entire course of my life, and for that I will always be grateful.

HTSY8918All three of them have taught me very important life lessons, which have undoubtedly had an Impact on how I play the game of volleyball and how I carry myself as an athlete.

Here are just a few of these lessons that I would like to share with you all.

Number 1: Never take anything too seriously and always remember to have fun.

No matter how much the game means you to or how much pressure you may put on yourself, it is so important to enjoy the time you have with your team and to have fun. The joy the game brings you and how happy you are when you play is the reason you fell in love with it, right?

Number 2: Stay humble, you will gain the respect of so many people if you do so.

Humble athletes are the best athletes. Never let successes go to your head and always remember that the game is temporary, but the reputation you obtain as a person can have a lasting impact on your life.

Number 3: Failure is a part of life. Learn from your failures and turn them into your motivators.

No one wants to lose, trust me I hate it more than anything. But, I have come to  know that you learn so much more from your failures than you do your successes, and it is your failures that make you a stronger, more persistent athlete. Take these negative experiences and flip them to mean something that can positively influence your game.

Number 4:  Appreciate and value every single opportunity you are given, no matter how small they may be.

It is truly a blessing to be a student athlete and to be able to play the game you love at the collegiate level. The opportunities you are given are ones that you should never take for granted. I guarantee that any athlete knows that you would not be where you are today without the support and guidance from family, friends, coaches, and trainers, so never forget to tell these people how much they mean to you.

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These lessons, along with many more, have made me into the player I am today. I come into the gym everyday knowing how blessed I am to be there and how important it is for me to never take that for granted. I know how important it is to be respectful and that I should never let my actions reflect otherwise. I also never forget to have fun and smile, whether it is during a lift, practice, game, or tournament.

I would not be where I am today without my family guiding me in the right direction and showing me the ropes. So, Mom, Dad, and Jack, thank you for all that you do and continue to do for me. You are and always will be my “why”.IMG_0493

Summer ’17

Hello everyone! My name is Sam Mendelsohn and I am a sophomore (ahh!!) Libero/ DS on the Geneseo Women’s Volleyball Team! I can’t believe my first year of college is over already! My freshman year was filled with so many fun memories and I truly loved every second of it. The friendships I made throughout my first year will definitely last a lifetime (especially the ones I made with my wonderful teammates who have become like sisters to me).IMG_3478

Speaking of those lovely ladies.. I MISS YOU ALL SO MUCH!! From spending every waking moment with you guys to just being able to catch up over the phone has been something I haven’t necessarily liked getting used to. You guys have become my best friends over this past year and my college experience thus far would not have been the same without you guys by my side! Love you girliesss (:

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Just my best friends and I (:
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All of the freshmen at our first banquet!

This summer has already been one of the best ones yet and I still have a good chunk of it left to go, which is super exciting. In late May, my family headed up to Cleveland Ohio to attend my brothers graduation from John Carroll University. The few days we spent there were super fun and all of the graduation festivities were a blast! On the final day in Ohio, we moved my brother into his apartment in downtown Cleveland where he will be working for Key Bank this upcoming year. I am super proud of all of his accomplishments thus far but I sure will miss having him at home!

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Family selfies are the best selfies (:
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My brother Jack and I after the ceremony.

The rest of my summer has been super fun as well. In early June, I celebrated my 19th birthday! It was super cool to be able to spend the day with my close friends and family and just hang out with the people I love!

One of my favorite things to do is just lay around by the pool with my friends and family, so of course I have been doing a TON of that these first few weeks of summer. Whether it is playing pool volleyball and basketball, or just lounging around listening to music, we always have such fun times together. I have also been attending some concerts at a local outdoor theatre with my friends as well as taking advantage of everything else Buffalo has to offer! I recently attended an art festival in Allentown (an area about 30 minutes from my house) with some of my closest friends. There were tents of artwork and jewelry everywhere as well as SO many tents with different food options, it was awesome!

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Allentown Artfest!!

I also have been working for a company called Digital Instruments which is an electronics manufacturing company. I mostly do busy work which includes cutting and stripping wires and unloading boxes of supplies, but I don’t mind it. Also, to make some more money this summer I am working two volleyball camps at local high schools as well as coaching a kids soccer program at a local elementary school once a week. I really love working with kids and look forward to the time I get to spend with them.

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These are some of the kids I coach in soccer! They’re the best!

And of course I am playing some volleyball this summer as well! A lot of my friends from my old travel team are playing in an indoor summer league together. It has been so fun to be able to compete with them again playing the sport we all love!

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These are my friends Claire and Carly! I have been playing volleyball with them since I was 13 and they have become some of my closest friends!

 

For the rest of my time at home this summer I’m planning to attend a few more concerts (one of them being Zac Brown Band which I am SUPER excited for— Abby May and I sure do love our country music!) as well as just continuing to spend more time with my friends and family.

To the incoming freshmen, congrats on making the BEST decision by committing to Geneseo! You guys have no idea how excited our team is to welcome you into our Geneseo Volleyball family! I promise you that you will begin to feel right at home within the first day or so of preseason and from that point on you will begin to have the best time of your life! Enjoy this summer as it will go by quicker than you could ever imagine and spend as much time with your friends and family as possible! See you all so soon!

To my returning teammates, I truly cannot wait to spend another volleyball season with you guys. We have come so far and grown so much this past year and I am very excited to continue to do so this season!

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I miss you guys so much!!

I truly can’t wait to head back to Geneseo in August to be reunited with my new and returning teammates! I’m definitely looking forward to starting another amazing season playing for this program!

I hope you all have an amazing summer!!

– Sam Mendelsohn- DS/L

Summer ’16

Summer has always been my favorite time of the year. Hanging out by the pool with friends, spending time with family, going on hikes, and attending concerts. What more could anyone ask for? I honestly feel the happiest during the summertime (well except for when I’m playing volleyball of course) and wish it could last forever.

This summer has been the best one yet. To start off, I graduated from high school! The ceremony was so special and I enjoyed every second of it. It really hit me that kids I have spent my entire life with would all be heading their separate ways and I wouldn’t see them everyday. I was pretty sad about it at first, but now I am so excited to see what Geneseo has in store for me!

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Some of my closest friends and I on graduation day! (Jimmy, Me, Jeff, Emily, and Aaron)

 

Following graduation and coming to realize how little time I had before I headed off to school, I really wanted to make this a summer to remember. I promised myself that I would try to make as many memories as I possibly could.

I really enjoy the outdoors and hiking. All past summers I was always so busy and could never find the time to get a group of friends together and go hiking. But this summer, I knew I had to make it happen. I hiked to the eternal flame (which is about 30 minutes from my house in Williamsville), as well as a place called Zoar Valley (which is about an hour and 30 minutes from where I live). Both of these places were so fun to adventure through and I would go back to either of them in a heartbeat.

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My friend Calista and I at the Eternal Flame
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This is Zoar Valley. There were so many cool waterfalls and areas to swim! (Sam, Me, Emily, Natalie, Liv)

 

I also really enjoy spending my time at concerts! This summer I have gone to a total of 3: Zac Brown Band (one of my favorites), Justin Bieber, and G-eazy. I don’t have one specific genre of music that I really love so I will honestly listen to any type. Spending time with my friends at concerts is one of my favorite things to do and those memories will be with me forever.

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Calista, Emily, and I at the Justin Bieber concert. This show was so amazing, we sang the entire time!

 

Although I love doing exciting things with my friends, I always make time for my family. Whether it is tanning out by our pool, watching a movie, or having a nice family dinner, we always have the best of times together. My brother is going into his senior year of college and with me leaving in a few short weeks, I want to spend as much time with my parents as I can before they become empty nesters!

Throughout the summer I have also coached two volleyball camps at a high school , and a soccer camp called Little Champs at a middle school. I thoroughly enjoy being a coach and love seeing kids find a love for a sport. I played soccer a very long time ago and don’t know much about it, but I only coach 3-4 year olds so I don’t need to know very much! I teach them the basic skills (shooting the ball, trapping the ball, etc..) but my main goal is to keep them active and make sure they have fun. At the volleyball camps I have coached I worked with older kids about 12-13 years old. I really took it in my hands to improve their skills and get them prepared for their upcoming tryouts for their schools. By the time the camps were over I definitely felt like I prepared the players for their future careers in volleyball.

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Two of the girls I coach Addy and Syenna. How cute are they?!

 

Safe to say this summer has brought me so much joy! I can’t believe how fast it flew by and how close move in day is. As each day passes I get more and more excited to start my freshman year!

I hope everyone had an amazing summer as well. See you all soon!

-Sam Mendelsohn, Freshman