A Narrative by Kalynn Evans

My Love for Volleyball

My sport journey started when I was 5, playing softball at Oaks Dad’s Club, I loved. It, I loved everything about it from the fun competition to the cheers would we scream from the dugout. Sports had this association between being active, having fun with friends and being a part of community.

In the 4th grade, I had to stay after school and watch the 8th grade varsity volleyball practices, because my sister was on the team and my mom was the coach. I would spend hours passing, setting and hitting against the wall. I’m pretty sure this is where I learned control, because I couldn’t let the ball interrupt practice.

In the 5th grade I was able to try out for sports at my school so I played on the JV volleyball and basketball team.

By 6th grade I was still playing JV volleyball and Varsity basketball (only because I was tall, the skills were lacking in that sport. I just looked intimidating) and club volleyball with Club Texas, as Alicia Irvin was my coach. She was a former Rice Volleyball player & coach. She taught me how to pass perfectly as tall girl who typically was told that we were too tall to pass.

7th and 8th grade were filled with fun, exciting practices, games and tournaments and two back to back state championships! My mom, a 4 time all American in volleyball at University of Houston coached me 5th – 8th grade at my school. These were pivotal years to have such an awesome, inspiring, “no mercy” type of role model in my life, both on and off the court. We had to “hustle” every morning to get ready for school and sodas did not exist in our house (except in the back fridge for my dad).

I hit two growth spurts both in the summer going into 8th and 9th grade, both 4 inches. So as a high school freshman, I was 6’ tall, I had a lot of people make comments towards my height and it really has never stopped. I would say it was pretty awkward in 8th grade at some of the school dances to be extremely taller than every person in the room (even some parents) but I always loved it. My mom taught me self-confidence through various techniques and love so I was never embarrassed of my height. I actually loved it, because it made me better at my sport.

I went to Bellaire High School, mainly because they had a good volleyball team and a good volleyball coach. The academics were really great too, so that paid off when I got to college. The summer before I started high school volleyball I got a stress fracture in my lower back from either power lifting at a summer workout camp or rollerblading in the house and falling on my tailbone. I like to say it came from the powerlifting, but to be honest I’m pretty sure it was from falling directly on my tailbone on the hard wood floors in our house. I had to sit out the first 3 weeks of season as a new freshman on the varsity team because of that injury. After I “healed” I immediately started playing again and didn’t stop. I was taking anti-inflammatory’s and muscle relaxers already at the age of 14.

During high school, I played volleyball every day whether it was school ball or club ball. I had tournaments at least every other weekend. I had volleyballs at home and in my room I would play with if I wasn’t at practice. I loved it to say the least, it defined me. Everyone knew I was good and everyone always asked me about it. I was popular because of my sport. I had friends because of volleyball and I had good ones at that. It kept me motivated and driven and kept me on the right track. I was extremely happy and loved all the positive attention I was getting.

Dealing with Pain and Injury

I remember having a lot of back pain throughout high school and just thinking it was normal. I became immune to the pain and would power through it. Taking ibuprofen here and there and just accepting the fact that I had a bad back. I couldn’t take a break and let it heal though, because I would have had to stop playing to do that, and to me, taking a break didn’t really seem like an option. Even though, it should have been required of me to slow down and give my back a rest.

Throughout high school, I pulled my groin, had turf toe and had back pain. When I got to college, the intensity increased. Practices were longer, off season lifting was harder, and conditioning was more demanding. My body was slowly shutting down. I had tonsillitis, but was unable to take a break from practice or games. I developed many staph infections, but didn’t have time to let my body recover, and my back pain was increasing more and more each day. The trainers thought I was just complaining and the coach didn’t seem to care. I had to be on the court every day and I had to give my all. Over time, my all slowly decreased, I didn’t have the energy or the stamina to make it through an entire practice. I begged for X-rays, and was never given them.

I finally came home the summer after my sophomore year in tears to my mom about my back pain and she took me immediately to get an MRI. The MRI showed 2 bulging discs, a slipped vertebrae, bone spurs and arthritis. I felt a sense of relief because my trainers and coach had convinced me that I was making it up in my head. I finally felt like my pain was for a reason and that I wasn’t crazy. I took the MRI results back to my coach the first day of pre-season. She yelled at me and told me I broke school policy and I was not allowed to go to any other doctor while I was on the team. She also called me out in front of my whole team, saying that I broke policy. She never once said, I’m sorry you are injured, I’m sorry we didn’t listen to you sooner or I’m sorry that you are dealing with these major injuries. What she did tell me was that I had to practice and do 2 a days until the doctor at the university saw me and confirmed my results.

So I went on to do 6 more days of the most intense conditioning practices of my life. I ran miles, stadiums, and did sprints all the while my back was literally unable to support my body. My leg would give out on me while I was running. I actually fell to the ground at one point, because I had shooting pain going from my back, down my leg to my foot. It completely just stopped working for me. No one would let me sit out. No one would stand up for me.

Lessons Learned

As a college athlete, sometimes you can’t even stand up for yourself, but I say to hell with that and do it anyways. I now have to live with constant pain each and every day. My biggest take away from that experience was to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY and STAND UP FOR YOURSELF.

I am not trying to throw a pity party or get sympathy from that experience, I just learned a lot from it and do not want any athlete to go through that. I believe that:

  • Your body is a temple, treat it with care
  • No one, I mean no one can understand what your body feels like to you
  • You are in control of your life no matter what age you are
  • You are not controlled by any coach or any school just because they are paying for you to get a degree

The Healing Power of Yoga

Because of my back injuries, I was suggested by friends, family, and many doctors to do yoga. I figured since everything else brought me pain, I might as well try it out. I went to a class and hated it, but the instructor told me I wouldn’t receive any benefits unless I came back the very next day. So the stubborn athlete in me, came back for more.

After that day I literally had at least half of my back pain gone. So, naturally I went back the day after and the day after that and the day after that. I was hooked. How could something like yoga take ALL of my pain away? I didn’t know and I didn’t care at the time. I was just feeling so good that I just kept going. After about 2 years of going consistently, I noticed a huge shift in my body, I was leaning out, eating way less and feeling amazing.

I was so upset that I had not found this earlier. I wanted to tell everyone about yoga, and I wanted everyone to do it. I was consumed by how it made me feel and how good my body finally felt. I wanted to share it with everyone I knew and loved, I wanted everyone to love their body the way I finally loved mine, for the first time in a long time.

So, in October of 2013 I went to a yoga teacher training. I got my 200 hour registered yoga teacher training completed and began teaching it to friends for free immediately. I wanted to share this incredible free gift as much as I could.

I then thought, would I have been able to play pain free and finish out my college volleyball career if I would have been doing yoga? All of these emotions consumed me and thought if I could prevent ONE girl or guy from having to deal with all the heartbreak of an injury, I would do everything in my power to make that happen.

My Mission to Help Other Athletes

I co-created Yoga Athletex with that one intention; to help prevent and rehabilitate injuries through yoga for young athletes so that they could enjoy and finish their sports career and live long and healthy lives. My passion for yoga and sports keeps growing. The more I find out about yoga the more I love it. The more I see young athletes getting injured at such a young age, the more heartbreak I feel. I want to make a change in youth sports. I don’t believe you have to stop playing, because I would have NEVER stopped. I just want to help keep their bodies healthy and strong and flexible so no one breaks. Heart breaks and body breaks are tough, the more bodies I can help to bend and not break, the more hearts I will save.

Playing sports is not just about getting a scholarship, it’s not just about how good you are, it’s a true love. It fuels your soul; it gives you life and helps you be a part of something bigger than yourself. I want people to be able to experience playing sports their entire lives. I think that through yoga, our bodies can maintain competitive play.

When I was 21 I was told that I would no longer be able to play volleyball and that if I wasn’t careful I wouldn’t be able to walk in 10 years. Through yoga, I have been able to play in adult volleyball leagues with little to no pain, and I walk at least 2 miles a day.

It is a blessing from God that yoga was put into my life, and I believe that I am supposed to empower young athletes with the knowledge I have today. And that maybe, just maybe, everything I went through was for a reason.

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