Over 1,900 athletes, coaches, officials and coaches crammed
into the Hyvee Hall Ball Room for the Opening Ceremonies
DES MOINES, Iowa (July 24, 2012)-The 2012 USA Volleyball
High Performance Championships kicked off on Tuesday with
Opening Ceremonies attended by 1900-plus athletes, coaches,
officials and parents.
The 98 teams at the HPC opened play on Tuesday morning.
That night, the athletes ditched their knee pads and donned
formal attire for the Opening Ceremonies.
The event opened with a special welcome from the Mayor of
Des Moines, Frank Cownie. Other special welcomes were
extended by Iowa Region Commissioner Lynne Updergraff, and
the Greater Des Moines Convention Center and Visitors
Bureau President/CEO Greg Edwards.
USA Volleyball Senior Director Tom Pingel emceed the event.
After the initial welcomes, Pingel released the athletes to
the buffet lines. Teams were ushered out to background
music as photos of their program flashed across the
projectors. The crowd was energetic and people danced along
with the upbeat music.
The Iowa Isiserettes surprised the audience with
entertainment during the meal. Their show featured a drum
line and dancers. They revved up the crowd and before long
the hall had been transformed into a dance party.
After the Isiserettes' routine, an impromptu performance by
the New Zealand Boys' Team had the crowd going wild. Their
traditional Haka dance, which is performed shirtless,
featured war cries and chest beating. The audience's
response was so intense that the boys were ushered on stage
for an encore.
"My favorite part was the band and the New Zealand boys,
said Zahria Graham, player on the Girls' Youth A2 Team.
"That made my night. All the entertainment was sick. I
loved the drum line. We were following them around!
Parents also enjoyed the evening's festivities.
Val (Honolulu, Hawaii), an Aloha High Performance parent,
said, "I loved the music. It was really awesome and the
kids were so hyped up. It is when everyone bonded.
When the crowd finally settled down, Pingel took the stage
to announce the keynote speaker.
Angie Forsett (Lake Mary, Fla.) opened her speech with
background information about her successful career with the
University of California Berkley and then the U.S. Women's
National Volleyball Team. Forsett was training with the
U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team this spring in hopes
of making the 2012 U.S. Women's Olympic Team.
Forsett delivered her speech as if she were a talk show
host. After opening with her background information, she
sat down in an arm chair on the stage, and one by one
welcomed six athletes who had prewritten questions for her.
The athletes, all members of the 2012 USA Volleyball Girls'
Youth National Team, asked Forsett questions about the
characteristics needed to succeed, whether she ever wanted
to give up and how to deal with adversity. The questions
were insightful and allowed Forsett to reflect on her
career and experiences while relating them to the girls on
a personal level.
"I loved hearing the questions, said Kelsey O'Neill
(Chicago, Ill.), member of the Girls' Youth A2 Red Team.
"To me it was inspirational and helped me figure out what I
need to do better and improve on. It gave me perspective
from someone who has been through it.